Florida Administrative Suspension for DUI

A DUI arrest in Florida carries more than just the threat of jail, fines, and community service if you are convicted. The most immediate consequence of your DUI arrest is the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. The law in Florida gives any driver arrested for DUI only ten (10) days in which to demand a hearing at which you and your DUI defense lawyer can fight the DHSMV’s suspension of your license. 


Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa have extensive experience representing Florida drivers whose license is in jeopardy following a DUI arrest. We take full advantage of the opportunity the DHSMV administrative hearing offers to protect our client’s license and to use the hearing to gather valuable insight into the evidence the prosecution will try to use in the criminal trial. If you are arrested and charged with either DUI or DUBAL in Hillsborough County or Pinellas County, contact the Stechschulte Nell Law Firm for skilled DUI legal defense.  


This article explains how the Florida DHSMV’s DUI administrative suspension hearing process. Understanding what the hearing involves is essential for any Florida DUI defendant wanting to avoid suffering either the loss of their license or a criminal conviction. 



Florida DUI Administrative License Suspension 


The experience of being pulled over, arrested, and criminally charged with DUI in Florida must be confusing for any driver, especially if they have consumed a little too much alcohol.  


What they might miss in this fast-paced process is the immediate suspension of their driver’s license and the short period of time (only 10 days) they have to file a request for a DHSMV administrative hearing to protect their driver’s license.  


Drivers arrested and charged with DUI in Florida should contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer immediately upon their release from police custody. Defending the charge successfully depends on how much time a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer has to prepare for the criminal case and the administrative hearing. 


What Is the DHSMV Administrative Review Hearing? 


The Florida Bureau of Administrative Review (BAR) is a state agency that conducts administrative hearings to adjudicate the legality and validity of the pretrial license suspension ordered as part of a driver’s DUI charges. This is a civil proceeding and is separate and apart from the criminal case, which will be handled in court. 


Drivers do not have a right to drive; a driver’s license is a privilege granted by the state and is restricted by certain conditions.  


However, the state is obliged to allow you to contest the suspension of your license during a limited hearing at which a hearing officer reviews the evidence to determine if sufficient admissible evidence exists to support the order of suspension.  


Why Demand a Hearing? 


The Bureau of Review’s administrative hearing is not part of the criminal case. If a driver prevails at the administrative hearing and invalidates their license suspension, the criminal prosecution of the Dui is unaffected.  


However, your right to examine and contest the evidence at the administrative hearing often develops effective defense arguments that strongly influence a prosecutor’s decision to negotiate an amendment of the charge to a lesser offense. 


On the other hand, if a DHSMV Bureau of Review administrative hearing officer rules against the driver and upholds the license suspension, that decision will not be changed if you are later found not guilty of the criminal DUI charge.  


What Happens at the DUI Administrative Suspension Hearing? 


The administrative review hearing is a formal procedure during which the hearing officer examines the documents submitted by the police in support of the DUI charge to determine if the “preponderance of the evidence” supports the DUI charge. Unlike a criminal trial at which the state must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a civil administrative hearing requires only that the evidence shows the driver is “more likely guilty than not guilty.” 


The hearing officer does not simply look at the paperwork and issue a decision. The rules require that the police witnesses must appear at the hearing if notified to give testimony and be cross-examined by the driver’s lawyer.  


The most common reason a driver wins the DUI administrative license suspension hearing is the failure of necessary witnesses to appear. However, when the police do attend the hearing and testify about the events leading up to pulling a driver over, investigating, and conducting field sobriety tests, an experienced DUI defense lawyer can extract extremely valuable information from the officer. 


A DUI Defense Lawyer Can Save Your License at an Administrative Suspension Hearing 


When you are arrested for DUI, it is important to contact a skilled DUI defense lawyer immediately. The preparation for your DHSMV administrative hearing includes ensuring that you request a formal hearing in writing at which witnesses must testify. If you only have an informal hearing, then the review officer will only review documents before issuing a decision to suspend or not suspend your license. 


At a formal hearing, if the police officer attends the hearing, they will need to testify about the facts of the traffic stop, their personal interaction with the driver, their decision to administer field sobriety tests, and precisely how they conducted those tests. 


Remember that the police have the burden of proof at the hearing. The evidence they offer must include how they complied with the procedural requirements necessary to make a DUI arrest: 


  • Did the police have reasonable suspicion of a violation of the law before stopping the driver? 
  • What specific, articulable facts can the officer report that led him to believe the driver was DUI? 
  • Which Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) did the officer administer? 
  • Were the ground, lighting, and weather conditions suitable for such tests? 
  • Did the officer follow the strict protocols for each field sobriety test? 
  • Did the officer recite the instructions for each test properly? 
  • Did the officer demonstrate what the driver was supposed to do for each test? 
  • Did the officer properly score the driver’s performance or double score clues? 
  • Does the dashcam and bodycam video support the testimony of the police? 
  • Was the driver advised of their legal rights at arrest and pre-breathalyzer? 
  • Was the driver continuously observed for 20 minutes before the breathalyzer? 


These are but a few of the issues that the police must explain to support the DUI arrest and the grounds to suspend the driver’s license. 


Years of courtroom practice empower the best DUI defense lawyers to perform this questioning expertly, with a full understanding of the legal requirements and the protocols that are essential for the appropriate SFSTs approved by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA). 


Read More > The Role of the DMV Hearing in Your DUI Case  


Tampa DUI Defense 


Don’t waive your right to a Florida DUI administrative license suspension hearing. Contact Tampa’s DUI Defense Law Firm Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law for a case review today at 813-280-1244.  

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