Navigating a DMV Hearing in a Colorado DUI Case

Facing a DUI charge in Denver is a stressful proposition. Part of the anxiety many face in this situation comes from not knowing what will happen with their driver’s license.

When accused of driving under the influence, one of the most urgent tasks is requesting a DMV hearing. In order to preserve your privilege to drive, a hearing must be properly requested within seven days if the police officer alleged that you refused to take a test or you took a breath test with a result of .08 or more. If you elected a blood test, the results usually take about 3 to 6 weeks for a forensic laboratory to perform the test and send the result back to the arresting officer. If your blood test comes back at .08 or more, you will receive a letter in the mail from the Department of Revenue and must respond to it within 10 days of the date that it was sent to you.

A DMV hearing is an administrative hearing held at the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Hearings Office. At this hearing, a hearing officer will review the police reports and listen to testimony from police officers and any other witnesses subpoenaed to testify. After the evidence portion is done, the hearing officer will make a determination by the legal standard of a preponderance of the evidence as to the following elements:

  1. Was there a reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop or police contact. This determination regards whether or not the police officer’s conduct was constitutional in pulling over a driver or otherwise contacting an individual alleged to have committed a crime;
  2. Was there probable cause to believe that the driver was impaired, even to the slightest degree. The hearing officer will look at the totality of the circumstances in making this decision, such as any poor driving, statements made by the driver, indicia of intoxication observed by the officer, and performance on the field sobriety tests;
  3. Did the officer give a proper advisement pursuant to Colorado’s express consent law. The express consent law regards the implied consent that a driver gives by operating a vehicle in the state of Colorado to give a sample of breath, blood, or other bodily fluid to test for the presence of alcohol or any controlled substances;
  4. Did the driver refused a test, or if the driver took a test, was the result for alcohol .08 or more within two hours of operating the motor vehicle. This looks at the reliability of the test and the timeframe that it was taken.

The legal standard at the DMV hearing is much lower then it would be for court. In the criminal trial, your guilt must be proven by the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest legal standard to overcome. At the DMV hearing, however, the preponderance of the evidence standard is used which is the legal burden in a civil case. A preponderance of the evidence essentially means “more likely than not.”

What is not admissible at this DMV hearing is evidence of good character or the hardship that would be faced if you were not able to drive. The DMV hearing in a DUI case focuses solely on the events that occurred before, during and after the DUI stop, and does not take an individual’s personal circumstances into account.

If a motorist is revoked at a DMV hearing, there usually are options available to reinstate driving privileges after the first or after the second month of no driving. Colorado DUI law does not allow for a red license or hardship license for persons under a revocation for an alcohol or drug-related driving offense. There is, however, the ability to reinstate early with a restricted license that requires the use of an ignition interlock device while operating a motor vehicle.

Any experienced DUI attorney in Colorado will tell you that the relationship between the court case and the DMV is the most complex area of DUI law. There are many traps to avoid when negotiating the criminal justice system as it relates to your driving privilege. The purpose of this article is just to provide a brief outline of the DMV hearing in a driving under the influence case.