What Happens To Your Driver’s License If You Are Charged With DUI?

DUI in Tucson Arizona usually means a suspended license

One thing that people sometimes overlook when dealing with a DUI case is the effect of the DUI charge on their driver's license.  So what happens to your driver's license if you are charged with DUI?  There are two types of license suspension that can occur in an Arizona DUI case: (1) an Admin-Per-Se suspension and (2) a suspension resulting from conviction.  Both types of suspension last for at least 90 days, although you can usually get a restricted driving permit after the first 30 days.  If you refuse to take a chemical test, your license will be suspended for an entire year (2 years if you have a prior refusal).

Admin-Per-Se Suspension

In Arizona, just being charged with a DUI usually results in the MVD attempting to suspend your license.  This is called an Admin-Per-Se Suspension.  This type of license suspension is an administrative proceeding that is completely separate from the criminal case.  So even if you win your DUI case, your license can still be suspended by the MVD.  Usually, the suspension will be automatically imposed unless you request a hearing.  If you do request a hearing, the MVD has its own judges, called hearing officers, who determine whether a license suspension should be imposed.

A common question people have is "how can they suspend my license if I haven't been convicted?"  The answer is a bit confusing, but I'll try to explain.  In Arizona, driving is considered a privilege rather than a right.  When the state of Arizona grants you the privilege of driving by giving you a driver's license, you implicitly agree that this driving privilege will be suspended if you are arrested for DUI and have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is over the legal limit.  You also implicitly agree that you will take a chemical test if you are suspected of DUI, which is why refusal to take a chemical test results in a one-year suspension.  This is called the Admin Per Se / Implied Consent agreement and it's basically a contract (although not written, just implied) that you have made with the state in order to enjoy the privilege of driving.

Challenging the Admin-Per-Se Suspension

Usually, when an officer charges you with a DUI and has a breath test result showing that you are over the legal limit, he will serve you with a Notice of Admin-Per-Se Suspension at the scene.  When a blood sample is taken instead of a breath test, the officer may not serve you with the notice of suspension at the scene.  If the crime lab tests the blood and finds that your BAC is over the legal limit, you will get a Notice of Admin-Per-Se Suspension in the mail (at the address you have on record with MVD).  In either case, the suspension will begin automatically unless you request a hearing within 15 days of receiving the notice.

If you request a hearing, the license suspension with be stayed (it won't be imposed) until the hearing occurs.  It won't be implemented unless you lose the hearing.  The MVD hearing is limited to the following issues:

  • Whether the officer had a reasonable belief that you were DUI.
  • Whether you were placed under arrest for a DUI.
  • Whether you refused to take a chemical test (in cases where the officer claims you refused).
  • Whether you were informed of the consequences of refusal (again, in refusal cases only).
  • Whether a chemical test showed that your BAC was over the legal limit.
  • Whether the testing method used was valid and reliable.

The state's burden of proof at this hearing is very low; the state must only prove these things by a preponderance of the evidence (more than 50% likely), which is a much lower burden than in a criminal case where the state must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Suspension Resulting From Conviction

Even if you are successful in challenging your administrative license suspension, you license will still be suspended if you are eventually convicted of DUI.  When your license is suspended as a result of conviction, you will have to obtain an expensive SR22 insurance policy in order to get your license back after the suspension.  The Admin-Per-Se suspension, on the other hand, only requires that you pay reinstatement fees to get your license back after the suspension.  Fortunately, if you end up being subject to both types of license suspension, the MVD will usually only take action based the Admin-Per-Se suspension.  Thus, in most of these cases your license will not be suspended twice, nor will you be required to purchase SR22 insurance.

* This blog is published by Tucson criminal defense and DUI lawyer Nathan D. Leonardo. Nothing on this website is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein does not constitute legal advice, but is for general information purposes only. If you have a legal question, you can contact us online or call (520) 314-4125.

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