DUI Formal Review Hearing
When a person is arrested for Driving Under the Influence in West Palm Beach, their driver’s license is automatically suspended by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). However, Florida Statute 322.2615(6) now gives a person charged with Driving Under the Influence two options to deal with this automatic suspension:
- The person facing the suspended driver’s license can challenge the suspension by requesting a “Formal Review Hearing;” or
- The person facing the suspension can waive the right to challenge the driver’s license suspension with a Formal Review Hearing, and receive a hardship license right away, which would permit driving for Business Purposes Only (work, school, church, and medical purposes).
A Formal Review Hearing is the first opportunity you will have to challenge your West Palm Beach DUI case. During a formal review hearing, you will have the opportunity to cross-examine the police officers in your case in front of a hearing officer. Hearing Officers aren’t judges or magistrates, they are DMV employees that have been trained in some respect to the law as applicable to Formal Review Hearings. After the evidence is presented, a hearing officer will determine by a “preponderance of the evidence” (or, “more likely than not”) presented at the hearing whether sufficient cause exists to sustain the suspension. If the hearing officer thinks the evidence was sufficient to establish that it was more likely than not that you were over the legal limit of .08, your faculties were impaired, or you refused a BAC test, the license suspension will remain and you will have a 30 day hard suspension (meaning no driving for any reason) before you are eligible for a hardship license. However, if the hearing officer finds that the evidence was not sufficient, your suspension may be invalidated all together. It is important to remember that if you choose a Formal Review Hearing, even if you lose, the officer’s testimony can provide you with valuable information that you would not otherwise have to help defend your criminal case.
The choice to waive the hearing and automatically receive a hardship license, or proceed with the hearing and try to challenge the suspension, is entirely a personal decision. However, the choice must be made within 10 DAYS. The statute requires that you apply for a formal review hearing within 10 days of your arrest, or you will waive the hearing.What the Hearing Officer Looks For
In a West Palm Beach DUI Formal Review Hearing, a hearing officer is charged with determining the following issues:
- Whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause to believe that the person whose license was suspended was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in this state while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or chemical or controlled substances.
- Whether the person whose license was suspended refused to submit to a urine test or a test of his breath-alcohol or blood-alcohol level after being requested to do so by a law enforcement officer.
- Whether the person whose license was suspended was told that if he refused to submit to such test his privilege to operate a motor vehicle would be suspended for a period of 1 year or, in the case of a second or subsequent refusal, for a period of 18 months.
In criminal cases, the standard of proving guilt is “beyond all reasonable doubt.” In a Formal Review Hearing, the standard at the review hearing is only a preponderance of the evidence. This means that during the Formal Review Hearing, if the police officer proves his side of the case 50.1%, the suspension of your driver’s license will stay in effect.
During the Palm Beach County Formal Review Hearing, the police officer, or the police report, only has to convince the hearing officer that it is more likely than not that you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. To do this, the arresting police officer will need to establish that you had actual, physical control of a vehicle (meaning, you had the keys in the ignition or near the ignition) and that either your normal faculties were impaired (your eyes were bloodshot, your face was flushed, he smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage on your breath, you performed poorly on the Field Sobriety Exercises) or you provided a breath sample of .08% Breath Alcohol Content or higher. The officer could also establish that you refused to take a breath test after he requested you to do so, as long as he proves that he had reasonable suspicion you were under the influence. If those elements are proven by at least 50.1%, your license will remain suspended.Does a Formal Review Hearing Affect my Criminal Case?
The Former Review Hearing purely deals with the administrative suspension of your license; it is a separate and distinct issue from your criminal case. However, a Formal Reviewing Hearing can help in defending your criminal case because of the sworn testimony the officers will give during the hearing. The police officer who stopped you or arrested you in Palm Beach for Driving Under the Influence will give sworn testimony during the hearing, which you may be able to use in motion practice or during a trial to impeach the credibility of the officer and weaken the State’s case against you. There could be flaws or contradictions in that testimony that may help your Palm Beach County DUI criminal case later on.Contact the Law Office of Roger P. Foley
If you are facing DUI charges in Florida, contact a criminal defense DUI lawyer from our Palm Beach County Criminal Defense firm to guide you through the process and help you decide if you would like to request a formal review hearing. When the firm accepts a case, we accept it with the ultimate goal of obtaining the best outcome possible. Never accept a plea bargain without the advice of an experienced attorney. With an attorney on your side, you may possibly be acquitted, have your charges dismissed, or be able to complete a diversion program in lieu of criminal proceedings. Mr. Foley may be able to negotiate reduced charges, and, depending on the circumstances, may be able to get the charges dismissed altogether - that is always the goal. If you have been arrested for DUI in the Boca Raton, West Palm Beach or Boynton Beach area, take quick action and contact a Palm Beach County DUI Defense Attorney today.