What Are the Chances of Winning a DMV Hearing?

Updated January 9, 2024
18 min read
What Are the Chances of Winning a DMV Hearing?

Navigating the unfamiliar territory of DUI charges can be daunting. The fear of losing your driving privileges and the looming prospect of a DMV hearing can send the stress levels soaring. 

This article aims to illuminate this critical aspect of post-DUI proceedings — the DMV hearing. So, get ready to delve deep into the nuts and bolts of DMV hearings, the key players involved, and the potentially impactful roles they can play.

What Is a DMV DUI Hearing?

A DMV DUI hearing is akin to a separate legal universe functioning parallel to criminal court proceedings, standing proud and independent in its exclusive purview of DUI or DWI cases. Sparked by the fire of a DUI arrest, its primary mission is administrative, focusing on the nitty-gritty decisions involving your suspended driving license. Unlike criminal court dealings, it's not about deciding guilt or innocence; instead, it reviews the circumstances of your arrest and tests their standing against the backdrop of the law.

At DMV DUI hearings, the evidentiary standards are different, often lower than those of criminal court, so even if your criminal charges are dismissed or reduced, it's still possible to face consequences such as license suspension. 

It's crucial to understand that this hearing is time-sensitive, typically scheduled within days of an arrest, so prompt action and preparation with legal counsel can be instrumental in protecting your driving privileges.

Understanding the Process

Let us illuminate each facet comprehensively. The unfolding of events initiates a DUI arrest that leads to the immediate confiscation of your driving license. You receive a temporary 30-day driving permit, indicating the impending legal challenges you must face. 

The law enforcement officer clarifies that a DMV hearing request is mandatory within a stringent 10-day window if you contest your license's impending suspension. This DMV hearing significantly influences the chances of winning at the DMV hearing, providing a single opportunity to make your case and prevent the suspension of your driving rights.

Enhancing your chances of winning the DMV hearing involves understanding the evidence levied against you, such as breathalyzer results or your performance during the field sobriety tests, which could dramatically tip the outcome in or out of your favor. 

The assistance of a seasoned DUI attorney could notably augment your prospects of preserving your driving privileges, as they can adeptly maneuver through the complex legal procedures, identify potential errors, or bring up mitigating factors that could favorably impact your case.

What Happens at a DMV Hearing?

Busting the bubble of common misconception, a DMV hearing takes place in the confines of a DMV office, a far cry from the stern gravitas of a criminal court. An assigned hearing officer — part investigator, part decision-maker – oversees the proceedings. What's under the DMV court's hammer here? Not possible jail time or probation. Your driving privileges are on the line in this legal arena.

Even though a DMV hearing doesn't carry the same punitive consequences as a criminal court, its results can significantly disrupt daily life. Consequences, like a suspended license, can limit your ability to drive to work or transport your children to school. Given these potential impacts, building a solid defense and considering professional legal help is vital. The hearing officer will examine your case in detail, determine the legitimacy of the charges against your license, and set the terms for any license restrictions or reinstatements.

What Are Some DUI Defense Strategies?

Before we dive into the specific strategies, it's essential to note that successful DUI defense relies heavily on the arrest circumstances and the legal expertise in handling such cases. Now, let's explore some of the most common DUI defense strategies.

1. Demonstrate that the officer did not have probable cause to stop the vehicle

Detaining a motorist who drives while intoxicated requires probable cause.

If the driver’s DUI lawyer can show the arresting officer lacked probable cause, the person arrested for the crime can win at a DMV hearing. A DUI lawyer can argue that an officer lacked probable cause for arrest for several reasons. One such argument might be:

  • Driving was per all traffic and federal laws.

  • The motorist was pulled over due to racial profiling.

2. Your refusal of a blood or breath test was not explained to you

An officer must inform the driver that their license will be automatically suspended for one year if the person refuses to submit to a chemical or breath test (via a breathalyzer).

Officers make numerous drunk driving arrests and sometimes:

  • Please inform people of the consequences of refusal.

  • Deliberately need to provide adequate advice.

  • Recite their interpretation rather than reading the warning.

DMV hearing officers could set aside a license suspension if any of these actions were taken.

3. Prove that your BAC was below .08 %

In the majority of states, the DMV can only suspend a person’s license after an arrest for DUI if they:

  • Have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more, which is over the legal limit.

  • Refused to take a blood or breath test.

If a driver’s blood alcohol concentration is under .08%, it can be used at a DMV hearing.

4. Prove that you weren’t driving a car

Drivers can win DMV hearings if they can prove they were not driving when the police arrested them.

The hearing officer should set aside a license suspension if the officer did not personally observe the arrestee driving, provided that:

  • The DMV does not call witnesses to testify that the arrested person was driving.

  • Other evidence does not support that the motorist was driving.

Consider, for instance, a drunk driver who decides to sleep it off rather than drive. Because the person was not technically going, they are not guilty of driving under the influence. The person’s license shouldn’t be suspended as a result.

5. Provide proof that you agreed to a blood or breath test

At a DMV hearing, drivers will win if they demonstrate they complied with authorities and provided a blood or breath sample. The results of the tests show that the drivers are not drunk.

Drivers can, for example, show:

  • The officer conducted a chemical test. Although they attempted to blow, their breath samples were insufficient.

  • The officer did not offer blood draws in place of breath tests.

  • They simply assumed that the questions about the tests were not severe and interpreted them as a refusal.

The hearing officer should set aside any suspension based on these showings.

What Are the Odds of Winning at the DMV Hearing?

If a person faces charges for driving under the influence, familiarizing themselves with the details and conditions of their arrest may be beneficial to their cause, particularly when understanding how to win a DMV administrative hearing. The importance of this knowledge cannot be overstated in these circumstances. Indeed, the chances of succeeding in such a hearing could appear slim if the police have already built a compelling case. 

However, if there were procedural errors during the arrest, these odds could significantly improve. Enlisting the support of a DUI or criminal defense attorney could further enhance your strategy on how to win a DMV administrative hearing.

So, how do you win a DMV and DUI hearing? A variety of factors can contribute to a successful outcome, including:

  • The officer didn’t have probable cause. 

  • The officer didn’t give clear and concise instructions. 

  • A negative breath test result.

  • The officer didn’t warn the driver about the consequences if he refused a chemical breathalyzer or blood test.

  • The driver’s refusal to take the test.

It is not impossible to win the hearing. Drivers should always consider the right to an administrative hearing. If you take this step, you may challenge an automatic suspension of a driver’s license.

Winning or Losing a DMV Hearing

Celebrate a win and reap the rewards — the DMV reinstates your driving privileges, effectively setting the suspension aside. If you prevail at the hearing, you maintain your license and avoid potential increases in insurance rates and the inconvenience of seeking alternate transportation. A loss, on the other hand, solidifies the suspension decision.

This might necessitate restricted licenses, allowing travel to work or school during the suspension. But remember, this is not a dead end; other legal avenues can be explored, including appealing against the decision in a superior court. 

This process might require a detailed examination of the original DMV hearing, so consult a specialized attorney to assess the grounds for an appeal and strengthen your case.


Deciphering how to win a DMV hearing is vital for a successful outcome. This article provides crucial insights into DMV hearings, their intricacies, and strategic approaches that can lead to a positive result.

Remember the ace up your sleeve —  the expertise of a seasoned DUI attorney, lending the strength and specifics of legal acumen that can robustly aid your cause.

Article by
Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Product Content Manager at Lawrina. Yevheniia creates user interface copies for Lawrina products, writes release notes, and helps customers get the best user experience from all Lawrina products. Also, Yevheniia is in charge of creating helpful content on legal template pages (Lawrina Templates) and up-to-date information on US law (Lawrina Guides). In her spare time, Yevheniia takes up swimming, travels, and goes for a walk in her home city.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the product or UX content for Lawrina, feel free to contact Yevheniia directly at y.savchenko@lawrina.org or connect with her on LinkedIn.