How Will the Defense Attorney Approach the DMV Case?
Interviewer: What are some of the challenges that differ in a DMV case and in a regular trial case?
Steve Tomeo: I think the challenge is in the DMV case is such that there are only four issues that the administrative hearing officer can look at. Whoever’s presenting the case on behalf of the DMV has four issues that they focus on. In accordance with CGSA Sec. 14-227b(g) the issues are as follows:
The hearing shall be limited to a determination of the following issues:
(1) Did the police officer have probable cause to arrest the person for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or both;
(2) was such person placed under arrest;
(3) did such person refuse to submit to such test or analysis or did such person submit to such test or analysis, commenced within two hours of the time of operation, and the results of such test or analysis indicated that such person had an elevated blood alcohol content; and
(4) was such person operating the motor vehicle. In the hearing, the results of the test or analysis shall be sufficient to indicate the ratio of alcohol in the blood of such person at the time of operation, provided such test was commenced within two hours of the time of operation.
If the hearing officer must find “yes” on all 4 issues. However, if he finds in the negative on any one issues then you win.
DMV Hearings Are Winnable but Can Be Difficult to Defend
Numerically speaking, it sounds like it’d be easy. The DMV is conservative in its ruling. The supporting case laws that interpret those issues have been decided rather carefully and narrowly and in favor of the DMV. Statistically speaking, 10 to 15% of people contesting the suspension win their cases. Yes, they are winnable but in low percentages.
The Consequences Are Severe and Have Long-term Effects After a DUI Conviction
If you drink and drive, you have severe laws that include jail, fine, fees, costs and probation. These laws are generally interpreted very narrowly and it’s difficult to beat them. If you do not try to beat them and you suffer the consequences, those consequences can be severe. They include a loss of license in the DMV case, jail in the criminal matter, and a criminal history on your record. That could have long term effects on your job or getting a job, depending on what type of work you do. You can’t treat it lightly because if you’re a sales person, companies generally do not want you if you have a DUI on your history. It increases their insurance and if you get in an accident, the insurance company’s going to say, and “Well, you got this employee on your books that had a prior DUI.”
Do Some Drivers Take the Potential Consequences of Losing the DMV Hearing Too Lightly?
Steve Tomeo: Most people charged with a DUI do not understand the DMV process. Their lack of understanding creates problems and they make the wrong decision by not challenging the suspension.
The DMV-issued Suspension Remains on a Driving Record for 10 Years
They feel they do not need a lawyer. They just make application for the alcohol education program and they do nothing on the Department of Motor Vehicle matter. They draw a suspension and that notation remains on your driver history for ten years. So, a DUI attorney could have explained this to them.
An Attorney Can Make the Difference in Prevailing at the DMV Case
I remember a man who was going to represent himself and then his father said, “Do not do this on your own. I know you do not have the money. I’ll pay for it.” When we got all of the evidence in on the case, I said, “He’s has a really difficult case.” We went to the DMV hearing anyway. Low and behold at the DMV hearing, the hearing officer looked through the file and there was evidence missing—no breath test results– so he ruled in favor of my client. The individual didn’t get a license suspension and he was able to take the alcohol education program and have the DUI dismissed and erased from his criminal record. He came out okay.
I get cases where the client previously had a DUI and qualified for the Alcohol Education Program (AEP). Now he picks up another DUI and is considered a first offender, with the possibility of going to jail. The prosecutor says, “Well, I won’t ask for any jail time, but you’ll lose your license for 45-days and then you’ll have to drive with an ignition interlock device.” They do not want to contest it because they are avoiding jail. Then, they find out that it remains on their driving history for ten years and on their criminal history for life. I think a lot of people feel that they can’t afford the services of an attorney and do not appreciate the impact that it’ll have on their lives and on their jobs.
Is a Public Defender a Viable Option?
Interviewer: I know for the court case, people can qualify for a public defender. Can the public defender represent them at the DMV case?
Steve Tomeo: In my opinion, the public defenders in Connecticut are very knowledgeable. So, if you qualify you will be well served.