The Steps in a DUI License Suspension Hearing

A Florida DUI arrest can lead to severe consequences, including the suspension of your driver’s license. While fines and possible jail time are significant penalties, a license suspension can have far-reaching effects on a driver’s life after a DUI conviction. 


Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa takes DUI license suspensions very seriously. You have the right to challenge the suspension at a DUI license suspension hearing. We have extensive experience successfully representing drivers at their suspension hearings at the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).  


This blog article explains the steps in a Florida DUI license suspension hearing and how a skilled defense lawyer’s help can give you the best chance to keep your license. 




The DUI Arrest – Step One 


The process begins with your arrest for DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in Florida. Law enforcement officers may arrest you if they have probable cause to believe you were driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Your license may be taken from you at the time of your arrest, and you will typically receive a notice of suspension. 


Implied Consent Warning – Step Two 


In Florida, there is an implied consent law. This law provides that by applying for a driver’s license or by driving on Florida roads, you have already consented to take a breath, blood, or urine test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) if you are lawfully arrested for DUI.  


Refusing to take the test can result in an additional charge of refusing a lawful request for a chemical test which results in an automatic license suspension. 


Notice of Suspension – Step Three 


After the end of your arrest process, the officer will confiscate your license and give you a notice of suspension which outlines the length of your suspension and informs you of your right to request a formal or an informal hearing within 10 days from your arrest 


The notice is accompanied by a temporary driving permit valid for the next 10 days. If you refuse a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine), you are not eligible to receive the 10-day temporary driver’s permit.  


Requesting a DUI License Suspension Hearing – Step Four 


You should speak with an experienced Florida DUI defense lawyer near you immediately. Do not wait until the 10-day hearing request period is almost up before contacting a defense lawyer. In Hillsborough County and Pinellas County, Attorneys Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell will guide fight for you in the license suspension hearing and in the DUI criminal prosecution.  


Either you or your defense lawyer must request a DUI license suspension hearing within the 10-day window following your arrest. The request must be made in writing to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). Failing to request the hearing within this timeframe results in an automatic suspension.  


The DUI License Suspension Hearing Process – Step Five 


The DUI license suspension hearing is a critical stage in the DUI process. The decision of whether to confirm the suspension or invalidate the suspension is independent of the criminal case results. If you are acquitted on the criminal charge or the case is dismissed, the DHSMV administrative hearing license suspension will remain effective. That’s why it is so important to exercise your right to demand a hearing. 


The hearing is presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). It is an administrative proceeding, not a criminal trial, so it is less formal than a court trial. The ALJ’s role is to consider the evidence presented by both sides and decisions based on Florida law.  


The police evidence must meet a lower burden of proof than in a criminal case. While a criminal conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the administrative judge in a license suspension hearing determines whether the police proved their case “by a preponderance of evidence.” 


A preponderance of evidence means that “it is more likely than not that the driver committed the DUI.” It is sometimes explained as having the balance of evidence weigh 51% on one side against 49% on the other.  


What Evidence Can Be Presented in a Florida License Suspension Hearing? 


During the hearing, evidence can be submitted by both the police/state and the driver. The police may submit reports and other documents to support the case but they do not need to be present to testify unless they are subpoenaed by the defense. If the police fail to appear without good cause after the defense subpoenaed them, the suspension will be invalidated.  


If the police request a continuance of the hearing, the driver’s temporary permit can be extended to the new hearing date. 


The defense can also subpoena other witnesses. If those witnesses do not appear, without good cause, then the hearing may be rescheduled in order to compel their appearance.  


Here is what much of the evidence will consist of: 


  • Witness Testimony. Witnesses including the arresting officer, the driver, and any witnesses for the police or the defense may testify.  
  • Documents: Police reports, your driving record, and any documents related to the arrest can be introduced as evidence. The defendant’s statements and any documents supporting their defense can also be presented.  
  • Test Results: If you took a chemical test, the results will be presented, if admitted. 


No statements made by the defendant during the administrative license suspension hearing can be used against them in the criminal DUI prosecution.   



Grounds for Challenging the DUI License Suspension in Florida 


With years of successful experience representing drivers in Florida license suspension hearings, skilled defense lawyers can effectively challenge the suspension on several grounds. Here are some of the legal grounds that can lead to a driver keeping their license: 



Procedural Errors Made by Police / No Probable Cause 


Police officers who stop and arrest drivers for DUI must follow legally mandated procedures. Florida law requires that the police have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver and probable cause to believe they were a) in physical control of a vehicle, and b) under the influence of alcohol (.08 BAC or higher) or that their normal faculties were impaired by alcohol or drugs to an extent that prevented them from operating the vehicle safely.  


They must also follow protocols designed to ensure their roadside field sobriety tests, warnings, and record-keeping meet the required standards. Without facts constituting probable cause to arrest the driver, no breathalyzer test results, or other testimony will support the license suspension at the hearing. Police errors often result in a win for drivers. 


Challenging Unreliable Chemical Test Results  


Challenging the reliability or accuracy of the chemical test results requires your lawyer to have expertise in the science underpinning the breathalyzer equipment, the testing procedure, and the way alcohol is metabolized by the human body. Experienced DUI defense lawyers are very knowledgeable in these areas. 


ALJ’s Decision – Step Six  


After considering all the evidence and arguments, the ALJ will decide whether you will retain your license or suffer a suspension.  


Depending on the circumstances of each case, drivers whose license is suspended at a hearing can petition to obtain a limited work/employment license after either 30 or 90 days.  


Get the Experienced DUI Defense Lawyers for Your Florida DUI License Suspension Hearing 


Ben Stechschulte is a Board-Certified criminal defense lawyer which means he holds credentials fewer than 3% of Florida lawyers possess. With years of experience both prosecuting and defending DUIs in Florida, you can be sure that your case is handled with the highest degree of professionalism and with the most effective strategies. 


If you have a DUI in the Tampa or St. Petersburg area, call us today. We’re here to protect your rights. 


Call Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law at 813-280-1244 

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