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What is a Zero-Tolerance Hearing?


 !!!This contact MUST be made within the first 10 days following the police contact!!!

What is a Zero-Tolerance Hearing?

As we have discussed in other articles, the California State Legislature has empowered the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), with a variety of means by which they can suspend or revoke a person’s driving privilege.  One of the simplest ways for the DMV to suspend or revoke your driver license is for a violation of the “Zero-Tolerance” laws.  Frequently referred to as “Under 21 Hearings,” and “Probation Violation Hearings,” these laws permit a person’s driving privilege to be taken away based on very little evidence.

In the State of California, there are two groups of people who fall under the control of these “Zero-Tolerance” laws.  You are subject to these laws if you:

  • Are under the age of 21, or;
  • Are currently on court-ordered probation for a previous DUI.

California Vehicle Code Section  23136:

“….it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 who has a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01                               percent or greater, as measured by a preliminary alcohol screening test, or other chemical test,                                 drive a vehicle.”

 California Vehicle Code Section 23154 (a):

                “It is unlawful for a person who is on probation for a violation of Section 23152 or 23153 to                          operate a motor vehicle at any time with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or                                greater, as measured by a preliminary alcohol screening test or other chemical test.

 In most instances, this arises when a person is involved in a traffic collision or is stopped by a police officer for a moving violation.  During that contact, the officer may learn that the involved driver falls into one of the categories listed above.  If the officer also has reason to believe the involved driver has also consumed ANY alcohol, he can require the driver to submit to a test of his or her blood or breath.  As a condition of being on probation, the involved driver is not permitted to decline the officer’s request for a test.  If the officer’s investigation reveals the person was driving a motor vehicle with 0.01% blood/alcohol concentration, that person has violated the law and is subject to a minimum one-year loss of their driving privilege.  Remember, an arrest for DUI is not required to violate this section of the law.

Why do I need a Zero-Tolerance hearing?

If you are under the age of 21 or, if you are on DUI probation; and a police officer believes you have been driving with a blood/alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater the DMV has already begun the process to suspend or revoke your driving privilege.  If you are like many other Californians who simply cannot afford to lose their driving privilege for an extended period of time, you must schedule and conduct a “Zero-Tolerance” hearing before the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

When the DMV receives the reports from the involved Law Enforcement Officer, they will presume that every aspect of the case is correct and that the officer performed his duties correctly.  Essentially, you are considered guilty and the DMV challenges you to prove them wrong.  This is what the Zero-Tolerance hearing is all about.

Properly scheduled, investigated, and argued, a Zero-Tolerance suspension/revocation can be attacked at many different levels.  Questions regarding the lawfulness of the officer’s contact with you; the lawfulness of the detention and; the accuracy of the blood or breath test, all play critical roles in deciding your driving future. Just because the DMV presumes you are guilty, does not mean that you are.  Just because the DMV presumes that the officer performed his duty correctly does not mean that he did.  The Zero Tolerance Hearing is the forum in which you present your case.
If you fail to schedule and conduct the Zero-Tolerance hearing, the suspension or revocation of your driving privilege is virtually assured.  Remember, the suspension of your driving privilege is automatic; defending yourself is not.

Call the experts at California Drivers Advocates.  We have been challenging and winning Zero Tolerance hearings for years.  We can help you.

How do I get a Zero-Tolerance Hearing?

If a police officer believes that a person who is under the age of 21, or a person who is on DUI probation, has driven with a blood/alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater, the driver’s license will be seized and the driver shall be issued a “Notice of Suspension.” When this occurs, the only recourse the driver has to prevent the one-year suspension of his or her driving privilege is to argue their case at a “Zero-Tolerance” hearing.

Similar to the Administrative Per Se hearings following a DUI arrest, the “Zero-Tolerance” hearing is the driver’s opportunity to “rebut” (disprove) the DMV’s belief they violated the law.

Once a driver receives notification from a Law Enforcement Officer of a license suspension, he or she must act quickly or suffer an automatic “One-Year” suspension of their driving privilege.  (If this is combined with other violations, the period may be longer).  To protect his or her driving privilege, the affected driver, or their representative, must contact the local Driver Safety Office to set up a Zero-Tolerance hearing.

 !!!This contact MUST be made within the first 10 days following the police contact!!!

If this initial contact is not made within the first 10 days following the event, the driver forfeits his right to a hearing and the suspension or revocation is automatic.  You must not miss the 10 day window or you will suffer the consequence.

When the contact is made, the DMV MUST grant the request for a “Zero-Tolerance” hearing and must extend the person’s driving privilege until the outcome of the hearing.  With this critical step taken, it is now time to prepare for the Zero-Tolerance Hearing.

What is the outcome of a Zero-Tolerance Hearing?

 To be blunt, the outcome of the Zero-Tolerance Hearing is simply “win or lose.”  The DMV does not permit a driver to negotiate or to plea to a lesser charge.  If the DMV rules against you, the hearing officer is mandated by the Vehicle Code to suspend or revoke the driver’s license.

If you win:

The DMV Hearing Officer will issue an order of “Set Aside.”  This means you or your representative have convinced the hearing officer that some element of the case is not admissible or trustworthy and the DMV sets aside any further action against your driving privilege.  Remember this is entirely independent of anything else that may be going on in a court.

If you lose:

The DMV Hearing Officer will issue a “Notice of Findings and Decision” in which he or she suspends or revokes the driving privilege.  The suspension or revocation order will range from a minimum of 1 year and can last for as long as 2 to 3 years depending upon a variety of factors such as prior DUI suspensions.

If the DMV suspends or revokes a driving privilege, this will terminate any provision for  “restricted” license and essentially the driver MUST NOT DRIVE……………..PERIOD!!  Again, this DMV action is entirely independent of anything going on in a court.

We can help you schedule and win your Zero-Tolerance Hearing.

With literally decades of experience representing drivers before the Department of Motor Vehicles, we are highly experienced and well respected by the DMV Hearing Officers.

The moment you learn you are being accused of a Zero-Tolerance violation, call California Drivers Advocates.  We will:

  • Take immediate steps to schedule your Zero-Tolerance hearing and to extend your driving privilege.
  • Take immediate steps to order any police reports, lab reports or other documents the DMV intends to use as evidence against you.
  • Issue subpoenas for additional pieces of evidence that shine a light on truth of the case.
  • Interview witnesses or collect other evidence to strengthen your case.
  • Conduct the appropriate research into applicable case law to prepare for your hearing.
  • Conduct your hearing like a mini-trial.  We can present our own evidence and witnesses.  We can attack the admissibility of the evidence against you including police reports and chemical tests.

The privilege to drive in California is a critical right that must be protected.  Your ability to work and provide for your family may hang in the balance.  California Drivers Advocates understands what it means to lose a driving privilege.  Call us, we can help.

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