Standard of proof in DMV Hearings
The standard of proof at DMV hearings is the preponderance of the evidence standard. This level of proof is required in most civil cases, which DMV hearings can be likened to, as opposed to the criminal court trial where the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. The preponderance of the evidence standard merely requires that there be more evidence in support of a defendant’s guilt than not. For example, in bare numbers alone, this could mean that 51 percent of the evidence supports a defendant’s guilt, while 49 percent of the evidence supports his innocence. Thus, at a DMV hearing, the DMV will win by a preponderance of the evidence if their evidence only tips the scales in their favor by the smallest amount.
The burden of proof at a DMV hearing is placed on the DMV by state law. The DMV must show that the resulting suspension of the defendant’s license is justified by the law and the facts of the case. The DMV Administrative Per Se hearing is concerned with only three issues, which they must find to be true by a preponderance of the evidence:
1. Did the officer have reasonable cause to believe the individual was driving a vehicle in violation of California Vehicle Code Sections 23152 or 23153?
2. Was the defendant lawfully arrested?
3. Was the defendant driving a vehicle with a BAC of .08 percent or over?
The DMV relies on the paperwork submitted by the police officer who arrested the defendant. It is this paperwork which supports the 3 findings cited above.
Another issue that comes up is if whether there has been a refusal by the defendant in taking a chemical test when requested to do so by police officers. The police officers make a report, signed under penalty of perjury, detailing the refusal and the probable cause to stop, detain, and request the chemical test. The DMV utilizes the report to prove that there has been a refusal, thus justifying a one-year license suspension for a first-time offender.
The DMV normally relies on the paperwork alone. Live witnesses are not usually called in to support the paperwork. One of the key ways of winning the DMV hearing is this: the paperwork is often defective. If the defendant shows that the paperwork is defective, then the DMV cannot rely on it, and there goes the scales of proof, right into the defendant’s favor. In many cases, there are legal questions concerning the procedure of the arrest that can be challenged, to which the DMV must prove was legally carried out in order to suspend a driver’s license. Finally, if the accuracy of the chemical test is successfully brought into question, then there is less of a likelihood of the DMV hearing officer making a finding of the defendant being guilty of having a .08 percent or above blood alcohol content at the time of driving.