At first blush, attorney representation at the Administrative License Revocation hearing seems like a waste of time. The deck is stacked against the defendant. The administrative law judge, who is a paid DMV employee, is not just the judge. This person is also the prosecutor, the jury, and the executioner. Additionally, since the ALR hearing is not a criminal matter, many Constitutional rights do not apply. For example, the ALJ can require defendants to be witnesses against themselves.
However, there are some good reasons a St. Paul DWI lawyer should stand up for you at this hearing. Granted, it is not easy to prevent drivers’ license suspension altogether. But there is more than one way to “win” this hearing, as outlined below.
Minnesota, like most other states, has an implied consent law. When people sign their drivers’ licenses, they agree to provide chemical samples upon proper request. The ALR hearing is a defendant’s only opportunity to contest the “proper” portion. Unless the defendant requests a hearing within a couple of weeks, the full license revocation period automatically takes effect.
If it were not for the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees due process of law, there would probably be no hearing at all. So, as in other criminal matters, our St. Paul DWI lawyers see the ALR hearing not as a formality but a way to protect your Constitutional rights. If we do not draw the line, the state will almost certainly become more willing to infringe on your rights.
As a preliminary matter, there is a difference between a suspended license and a revoked license. Many states suspend drivers’ licenses after a DWI arrest. Once the suspension period ends, the state normally reinstates the license once the defendant pays a small reinstatement fee.
However, a revoked license is different. The driver must go through the entire process again and jump through some other hoops. In Minnesota, drivers must pay a $680 reinstatement fee, obtain a new license, and pass both a chemical health assessment and a DWI knowledge test.
The minimum revocation period varies according to the nature of the offense, as follows:
Drivers’ license revocation periods increase significantly for the third DWI and subsequent infractions. Truthfully, however, if you have that many DWIs, license revocation might be the least of your worries.
Limited drivers’ licenses allow people to drive to and from work, to and from school, and in a few other essential circumstances. IIDs, or Ignition Interlock Devices, are portable Breathalyzers attached to a vehicle’s ignition. If the driver’s BAC level is above a certain threshold, usually .04, the vehicle will not start.
In many respects, simply requesting an ALR hearing is a win. Aggressive representation from a St. Paul DWI lawyer shows the state that it cannot push you around. That’s a strong statement to send.
Additionally, probable cause is sometimes difficult to show. Typically, officers use field sobriety test results to establish probable cause. If the officer did not administer tests like the one-leg stand, or if the defendant refused to perform them, the state must rely on flimsy circumstantial evidence, like bloodshot eyes. If the evidence is questionable, the ALJ might at least reduce the revocation period.
Finally, regardless of the final outcome, St. Paul DWI lawyers can question police officers under oath at the ALR hearing. This kind of discovery usually costs hundreds of dollars, if it is available at all. Discovery is especially critical in one of the many closed file jurisdictions in Minnesota. In these counties, prosecutors only give St. Paul DWI lawyers limited access to the state’s evidence.
Contesting administrative suspension is also a no-risk proposition. The worst possible outcome is imposition of the entire revocation period, and that would have happened anyway.
Representation at the ALR hearing is an important component of an overall 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.