Most lawyer TV shows and movies feature tense courtroom showdowns. In the real world, such confrontations are rare. In fact, less than 2 percent of all criminal cases go to trial. The Administrative License Revocation hearing is an often overlooked component of this process in a Ramsey County DWI case.
Despite its importance, only a handful of DWI defendants request an ALR hearing. Some people miss the request deadline, so the full suspension period automatically takes effect. Others assume that since ALR procedure is so one-sided, there is no way to win.
The best St. Paul DWI lawyer pays close attention to details and is not fatalistic about the outcome. That’s why aggressive representation at the license suspension hearing is often key to a successful resolution.
For a first-time infraction, the license suspension period usually depends on the defendant’s BAC level, or lack thereof. The revocation periods are:
In many cases, the state also impounds license plates and forces the defendant to buy DWI offender plates, or “whiskey plates.” These license plate numbers always begin with W. Do not ask us what the W really stands for because we do not know.
Any vehicle the defendant drives must have a whiskey plate. So, if Rick sometimes drives his wife’s car, her vehicle must also have a whiskey plate.
But wait. Didn’t you just say that a DWI arrest included a mandatory license suspension? Technically yes. However, a St. Paul DWI lawyer might be able to obtain a limited drivers’ license. These limited licenses usually allow defendants to drive to and from work, to and from school, and in some other situations. Generally, these defendants must also obtain Ignition Interlock Devices.
IIDs are essentially portable Breathalyzers which are connected to the ignition. The vehicle will not start if the driver’s BAC is above a certain level, usually .04. Additionally, while the car is moving, the driver must submit rolling samples. If there are too many rolling refusals, or a rolling failure, the vehicle will not re-start after it is stopped.
Whiskey plates cost $57. IIDs usually cost about $75 to install and uninstall. Monitoring fees are usually about $40 a month. The defendant is responsible for all these costs.
These penalties are administrative penalties. Therefore, the state does not need to convict the defendant to impose them. However, the state generally must show probable cause. More on that below.
So, defendants have no Constitutional argument that the penalties are invalid. But what about people like Rick’s wife? Must she drive a vehicle with a whiskey plate and an IID? W license plates encourage police officer scrutiny, and IIDs are embarrassing, especially if she uses the car for work.
Despite these concerns, the penalties usually hold up in court. But a good St. Paul DWI lawyer might be able to at least get them reduced.
As mentioned, prosecutors must establish that officers had probable cause to demand a chemical sample. Otherwise, the administrative law judge cannot impose license suspension or any other administrative penalty.
Probable cause is not a very high evidentiary standard. However, it’s more than a hunch. It’s probably also more than physical drinking symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes or an odor of alcohol. At best, these symptoms only prove the defendant was drinking. They do not prove impairment.
In DWI arrests, the field sobriety tests usually provide probable cause. Sometimes, hurried officers do not administer these tests. Other times, the defendant refuses to perform them.
Situations like these enable St. Paul DWI lawyers to argue there was no probable cause. Such arguments are often successful, even though the administrative law judge is the prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner in ALR matters. If nothing else, if the evidence is weak, an attorney can often get the revocation period reduced and/or the conditions modified.
Even if the ALJ imposes the maximum penalty, the ALR hearing gives St. Paul DWI lawyers a chance to question the arresting officer under oath. If the officer later changes his or her story, even in a subtle way, an attorney can challenge the officer’s credibility. Police officers have a rather low approval rating, so any question as to their credibility could invalidate their testimony in the eyes of some jurors.
The ALR hearing is an important part of a solid defense. For a free consultation with an experienced St. Paul DWI lawyer, contact Capitol City Law Group, LLC. Go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.