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Role of the DMV in a Denver DUI case

They’re coming for your license!

By John Buckley - June 15, 2016

If you are stopped for a DUI in Colorado, you are facing two very different legal processes.  You are facing the criminal charge of Driving Under the Influence as well as an administrative revocation of your Colorado driving privileges by the DMV.  It is this revocation process that often confounds folks.  Let’s face it…nobody likes dealing with the DMV.  And those folks you encounter to get your driver’s license, those are the nice ones!  Just to give you an idea of the level of professionalism at the DMV hearings division, here are some passwords that were discovered to be used by the DMV hearing officers presiding over these DUI cases:  Squeal Like a Pig; Cry Me a River; Man Up Loser; and You are Screwed. 
 
The DMV process looks like this: if you are contacted by a DUI officer and they have probable cause to believe that you were driving drunk, they will invoke the Colorado Expressed Consent Law.  This law basically says that anyone who chooses to drive upon the roads of Colorado has, if arrested for DUI, agreed to provide a sample of their blood or breath for alcohol or drug testing.  There are three possibilities here. 

One – you provide a breath sample and you are either above or below the legal limit.  You will know the result immediately.  If equal to or above 0.08 mg/dl, your license will be taken and you will be served with a Notice of Revocation (NOR) which informs you that you are entitled to a hearing with the DMV.  You must request this hearing in writing within seven days.  This NOR acts as a temporary license for seven days.  If you fail to request the hearing, your driving privileges will be suspended.  When you request the hearing, you fill out a form.  The yellow “carbon copy” of the form will be returned to you and this will act as your temporary driver’s license until the hearing takes place – roughly 45-60 days after the date of the request.

Two – you provide a blood sample and that will be sent away to a lab for testing.  Obviously, it will take some time for the lab to receive, process, and test your blood for alcohol or drugs.  Frankly depending on the lab, this can take weeks or sometimes even months.  The DUI officer shouldn’t take your license.  If your level comes back equal to or above 0.08, the DMV will send you the NOR in the mail.  You must be watching your mailbox like a hawk for this notice and request the hearing within the7 days.  To do this, you must physically go to the DMV and surrender your license.  Again, you fill out the hearing request form and you will be given the yellow copy to serve as your temporary license.

Three – you decline to provide a sample of your blood or breath and you are deemed to have “refused” to cooperate with chemical testing.  In this case, your license will be taken and you will be served with the yellow copy of the NOR.  Again, you have seven days in which to request your hearing with the DMV.

With the hearing requested, or even before, you should consult with a Denver DUI defense attorney to discuss your rights.  These hearings are exceptionally difficult to win.  One of the most important reasons is the low burden of proof required to revoke your driving privileges.  In a criminal case, the burden of proof (the amount of evidence necessary to convict you) is known as “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  The law doesn’t quantify this but for argument’s sake; let’s say that 90% of the evidence needs to be against you in order for a jury to convict you of a DUI in Colorado.  The standard at the DMV is much lower.  It is known as “preponderance of the evidence” or 50.1%...just enough to tilt the scales against you.  The DMV hearing officers rely heavily on this reduced burden of proof.  Even if you are acquitted of DUI by a jury, the DMV can still take your license because of this lower burden.  This doesn’t take into account the level of bias that we’ve already discussed.

If your license is revoked, you will serve a period where you are not allowed to drive at all.  This period will vary based on your driving history but in first offense situations, this period is 1-2 months.  Following the period of no driving, you are entitled to reinstate your license early if you meet certain requirements – most notably that you install an ignition interlock device in your car.  This is essentially a breathalyzer wired into your ignition.  You will be required to keep this in your car from 4-24 months depending on the facts of your case.

If you are contacted by police and arrested for driving under the influence in Denver, please don’t attempt to handle the situation alone.  The law is quite complicated in DUI cases and you need an experienced DUI defense attorney on your side.