Oregon DMV Hearing FAQs

QUESTION: Do I have to go to my Oregon DMV Hearing?

ANSWER: If you have a lawyer there, no, you do not have to attend your Implied Consent hearing. However, I find it almost always helps to have you there. That’s true because most of my clients have their memory jogged by something the officer says, and sometimes it results in us winning the hearing. Also, it’s your first chance to see your lawyer fight for you — and get a gauge on how they fight. After the hearing, I always like to have a 10-15 minute recap with my client to get their impressions and talk about strategy on the criminal case.

QUESTION: Will they ask me any questions at the DMV Hearing?

ANSWER: No. You’re not a source of evidence, because in the related criminal case you have a right to silence. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may confirm your mailing address with you at the start of the hearing. After the officer testifies, you have the right to testify if you wish. In 99% of my DMV Hearings, my client does not testify. There’s rarely any benefit to it in this type of hearing.

QUESTION: Who is the Judge?

ANSWER: Your case will be adjudicated by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from the Oregon Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). The ALJ will not be in a robe and is not an elected judge. She will be dressed in business casual attire or thereabouts. ALJs are lawyers who simply applied for a state job. Sometimes they are experienced, and sometimes not. They’re generally nice people trying to make the right decision.

QUESTION: How should I dress?

ANSWER: DMV Hearings are meant to be informal administrative hearings. They are not lawsuits, and they are not in court. There is no need to wear a suit and tie or formal attire. On the other hand, you should look like you’re taking this matter seriously. Business casual tends to work best.

QUESTION: Can I drive to the hearing, or will the judge take my license away if we lose — right there?

ANSWER: If you had a valid license at the time of your arrest, you are still able to drive to and from the hearing. That’s true because, on the night of your arrest, the police officer did not issue you a suspension. He issued you a notice of proposed suspension, slated to start on the 30th day after the date of your arrest.

QUESTION: Where will we meet at the hearing?

ANSWER: These hearings are almost always held in some nondescript office building. We’ll meet inside the hearing room or lobby (depending on the office layout), 15 minutes early.

QUESTION: What’s the point of this DMV hearing?

ANSWER: We’re looking for any reason for the proposed suspension to not be imposed. We’re also investigating the case by questioning the state’s star witness. We use that information to make smart decisions about how to handle the criminal case.

Should I Tell My Insurance Company About My DUII?

No one affirmatively notifies your insurance company of your DUII arrest — unless there was a wreck of some sort. If there was a wreck, you should promptly notify your insurer so they start working to pay whoever got their property damaged or was hurt.

But in non-wreck DUII cases, it is in your financial interest (keeping your premiums low) to not affirmatively notify your insurance company. You have no obligation to do so. On the other hand, you also cannot lie — an affirmative lie could nullify your coverage (fraud). Therefore, my advice in this situation is: don’t change your policy. Don’t buy a new car, don’t add a new driver, don’t establish a new primary residence. Those things would all trigger you having contact with your insurance company. They would then set a new rate for you — based on the new car’s value, or the new driver’s driving record, or the new address (address is used in setting rates because some neighborhoods engender more claims than others / are more dangerous than others). Most rate-setting would include a review of your current driving record. Insurance companies generally use a 3-year look-back policy, so if you can make three years from the arrest without the insurance company finding out about your DUII charge, then you should keep your rates as they are. If you are in a situation where you are asked a direct question by your insurance company about the DUII, you must be honest. That is because their obligation to indemnify (pay for claims) is tempered by your duty of cooperation (honesty).

The above is general advice. You should review your policy terms — maybe you have an insurance policy that requires you to notify your insurer of a DUII arrest. I’ve never seen one. However, I have seen employment and professional policies that either require or strongly suggest you notify your employer or your professional licensing board. For instance, as an attorney I would promptly notify the Oregon State Bar if I was arrested for DUII. With professional licensing boards, it seems to always be better to notify early. If things get sticky, or you’re unsure of how to proceed, it’s best to contact an attorney who specializes in this area.

To sum up: if you get a DUII, you don’t have to immediately advertise that fact to your insurance company. If anyone was hurt or if property was damaged, you should open a claim with insurance promptly. And finally, if you occasionally drink and drive (it’s legal, see my blog post here: http://oberlaw.com/uncategorized/not-illegal-to-drink-drive-court-surprised/) you should have policy limits well above the minimum $25,000/$50,000 limits. Hit one Tri-Met or utility box, and you’ll eat that up immediately — and you’ll be personally on the hook for the remainder. There’s not one DUII lawyer I know who is not insured at the $100,000/$300,000 level, often with a $1,000,000 umbrella policy. It is pretty cheap to increase coverage — and much easier than sitting in a debtor’s prison for failure to pay restitution.

What to do if you are stopped for DUII

Perspective from a Portland DUII lawyer:

Let’s say you meet some friends downtown after a long week of hard work. You catch up, and have 2 beers over the course of your time together. On your drive home, you signal 75 feet before making a lane change — the law requires a continuous signal for at least 100 feet. An officer who has been following you turns on overhead lights.

“The reason I pulled you over is for not signalling at least 100 feet before your lane change. License, registration and insurance, please. I can smell some alcohol, how much have you had to drink tonight?”

The best answer would be, “I don’t answer questions.” The officer may make light of the answer, suggest you’re not under arrest, and ask again. “I don’t answer questions,” is a good response to repeated questions. The simple word, “lawyer,” works too.

If you admit to drinking any alcohol, the officer will later call it “the admission of drinking” and use it to hurt you. This does not mean you should lie. Lying is wrong. Just invoke your right to not answer police questions.

“Well, I’m just trying to keep the streets safe tonight. Where are you coming from?”

“I don’t answer questions.” Don’t SAY you know your rights, SHOW you know your rights.

Now the officer is stuck. You’ve made it clear that you are not a source of evidence against yourself, and he has to decide if he has seen enough to justify arresting you for a crime. If he hasn’t, he’ll send you on your way. If he has, he’ll arrest you. There will also be a request for field sobriety testing, but the Oregon Constitution says we’re not required to reveal our thoughts, beliefs, or state of mind — so consider that. In my experience, if you’re not a particularly athletic person you will probably fail the field tests. If you respectfully decline, the officer will tell you he might use it against you at a later hearing. If you’re arrested, don’t freak out — the officer made that decision a long time ago. Now you’ve got to figure out what to do about the breath test.

For most people looking at a first-time DUII arrest, it’s a good idea to blow. First, you might blow well under the legal limit. Second, even if you blow over the limit, the license suspension penalties are much gentler for a failed breath test, rather than a refusal. Third, as a Portland DUII lawyer, I see more officers getting warrants for blood draws if a driver refuses. Nobody wants a cop, or cop-friendly paramedic, sticking a needle in their arm. In any event, if you have any doubts, ask the officer to let you call a lawyer in privacy before making the breath test decision. They’re supposed to give you at least 15 minutes to do this.

If you blow under the legal limit, great! But keep your mouth shut. Some officers can’t believe they got it wrong, and will call in another officer to consider whether you are under the influence of drugs. They do this primarily by asking you, “What drugs have you taken?”

Remember, we have a Bill of Rights that says we don’t have to answer police questions. “I don’t answer questions,” or “I invoke my right to silence and counsel” works, as does, “I don’t answer questions. I want my lawyer here during any questions.” As a practical matter, this cuts-off (and is intended to cut-off) all police questioning.

If you blow over the legal limit, keep your cool, keep a poker face. Continue not making any statements (silence is never supposed to be used against you). Call a good Portland DUI lawyer the next morning! Important timelines come up very quickly.

You might ask why you would call a Portland DUII lawyer instead of someone local to your community. By all means, if there’s a good DUII lawyer in your town, go with that person. However, we’re becoming a bit of a rare breed in parts of Oregon. If you can’t find a DUII attorney to help you, consider calling someone in Portland. Because we live and work in an area with a large population, and many police agencies, it means we deal with a lot of DUII arrests — and incredibly well-trained, experienced, battle-hardened officers. Sometimes your local doctor can handle all your needs, but sometimes you want a specialist — who handles nothing but your kind of problem. Like doctors, lawyers tend to specialize if we can — and we can in a high-density area. Call the best DUII lawyer you can find.

Note: DUI and DUII and DWI are acronyms that describe various state crimes — in Oregon, it’s DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants). Remember that it is NOT illegal to drive after having consumed intoxicants — like beer, or marijuana / cannabis / THC, or prescription medication — but it is illegal if your mental or physical faculties are adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree because of the alcohol, or drug. Like much in life, it comes down to moderation. It’s not illegal to drink and drive — it is if you’ve had too much. Be careful out there, and get a good DUII lawyer on your side!

IID Employer Exemption

If you’re required to have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) by the Oregon DMV, there’s an exception that permits you to drive employer-owned vehicles without an IID if: (1) you tell your employer as referenced below; and (2) you have proof you’ve told your employer on you when you drive. Here’s the law as amended by HB 2116 (2013): Continue reading

SR-22 & IID after DUII Conviction — Oregon License Reinstatement

There’s been some confusion here. For Oregon license reinstatement after a DUII conviction, you must first wait out the suspension period, and then:

(a) file a SR-22 insurance certificate with DMV for 3 years, ORS 806.075; and

(b) install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for 1 year for a first conviction; 2 years for second, ORS 813.602(1); 5 years for third or subsequent, ORS 813.602(2). Continue reading

Lifetime License Revocation — Petition for Reinstatement after 10 years

January 1, 2004, marked the beginning of Oregon’s experiment with “lifetime license revocation” for a third DUII conviction. Some people are mistakenly told that it’s a “10-year suspension.” It’s not, it’s a lifetime revocation — with a possibility of petitioning for your license back after 10 years. January 1, 2014, is long past — meaning we’ve now helped a fair amount of folks get their driver license back! Continue reading