What to Expect During a Utah License Revocation Hearing

We are a nation of drivers and government statistics bear this out. The average driver puts over 13,000 miles on his/her car per year. That works out to over 35 miles per day. Why do we drive so much? As it turns out, we really don’t have much of a choice.

Our infrastructure is designed to make vehicle use a daily necessity. For most of us, food, employment, and shelter are only available through the use of a motor vehicle. This makes losing your driver’s license much more than an inconvenience.

If you’ve been arrested for a DUI in the State of Utah, one of the most potentially devastating penalties that you are facing is the suspension of your driving privileges. In this article we’re going to discuss the suspension process, specifically focusing on the license revocation hearing conducted by the Driver License Division. Given the circumstances of your case, this hearing can offer you the only chance to keep your license and keep you driving legally.

What is a License Revocation Hearing?

In Utah, the average DUI consists of a criminal proceeding and a civil proceeding. The criminal proceeding is governed by the Utah statutes that make it a crime to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level (BAC) in excess of the legal limit.

The civil proceeding is governed by an entirely different set of laws that have nothing to do with criminal behavior. Under these laws, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended by the Drivers License Division on the 30th day after your arrest, if you fail to request a hearing within 10 days, or lose that hearing.

There is only one way to fight this automatic suspension: you must request a License Revocation Hearing from the DLD within 10 days of your arrest. If you fail to request a hearing within this 10-day window, it becomes nearly impossible to fight the automatic suspension of your driver’s license administratively.

What Happens at a License Revocation Hearing?

The revocation hearing is an administrative process. This means that the rules governing the hearing are different and more relaxed than the rules which will govern your criminal trial. Because of this, the issues before the hearing are limited to two very specific areas of inquiry:

  1. Did the arresting officer have reasonable grounds to believe that you were operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated?
  2. Did you refuse chemical testing that would have established your BAC?

All license revocation hearings take place at a DLD facility in the county where you were arrested for DUI, not at the courthouse. This will likely be the same place where you got your current driver’s license in the first place.

If you’ve hired an attorney (and you should have, given the serious nature of the consequences), he or she will be present to represent your interests. A DLD hearing officer will preside over the hearing and the police officer who conducted your arrest will also be in attendance, usually by phone.

The police officer will testify first, giving their version of why you were pulled over, your behavior after being stopped, and the tests that were administered to establish intoxication, including a personal breath test, or PBT. Your attorney will then cross-examine the police officer in order to establish that he or she did not have reasonable grounds to believe that you were intoxicated.

For example, if the field sobriety tests administered to you were inconclusive or actually indicated that you were not impaired, it can be argued that no PBT testing should have been done. If the PBT test was nonetheless administered and showed a BAC over the legal limit, it may be possible to establish that the arresting officer did not adequately observe you prior to the testing to eliminate behaviors such as burping or chewing which can lead to inaccurate results.

Following testimony, the DLD will issue a decision regarding your license suspension. If the hearing officer finds that the arresting officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that you were driving under the influence, your driving privileges will be not be suspended.

However, the judge in your criminal case is still able to order a license suspension depending on the outcome of your criminal case.

How Long Will My License Be Suspended?

If you did not request a License Revocation Hearing within 10 days of your arrest, or if you did request a hearing but lost, the suspension period will depend on the facts of your case.

If you were arrested for DUI, didn’t refuse chemical testing and this is your first DUI charge in 10 years, your license will be suspended for 120 days. If this is your second offense in 10 years and you didn’t refuse testing, your license will be suspended for 2 years.

If you were arrested for DUI, refused to be chemically tested and this is your first offense in 10 years, your license will be suspended for 18 months. If this is your second offense in 10 years and you refused testing, your license will be suspended for 36 months. It is not a good idea to refuse to be chemically tested when arrested for a DUI.

How Does My License Revocation Hearing Affect My Criminal Case?

As discussed above, your revocation hearing is a separate matter from your criminal case. The decision of the DLD hearing officer has no real direct effect on the outcome of that case. You can win at the administrative hearing and still be found guilty at trial.

However, the revocation hearing does give your attorney an opportunity to “test drive” your criminal case and gather information that can be used to your benefit. He or she will get a feel for the arresting officer’s demeanor and how they will respond to questions at trial. This type of information is invaluable when it comes to fine-tuning a defense so as to maximize the chances of a positive outcome.

If you are found guilty of the lesser charge of Impaired Driving, the period of suspension will be shortened unless it was a refusal. You can learn more about DUI vs. Impaired Driving here.