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How Does a DMV Hearing Differ from a Court Hearing?


The hearing up at the Division of Motor Vehicles is different than the trial in the district court in several respects. First of all, the burden of proof is different. When you go to court, the prosecution has to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. At Motor Vehicles, the government has to demonstrate by preponderance of the evidence, basically 50% plus a fraction, so 51% if you will.

The Rules of Evidence Differ at the DMV Hearing

With respect to the rules in the district court, when the DWI goes to court, the rules of evidence apply. Up at Motor Vehicles, the rules of evidence don’t apply. Here is a basic principle: Documents are admissible if they appear genuine.

The hearings officer can basically decide to hear and read whatever evidence he or she thinks is proper. The rules don’t apply to DMV. There is a third issue and this is significant. The premise of the trial is whether the state can prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt with respect to the elements of the offense, which are your driving on a public roadway under the influence of alcohol.

At the DMV Hearing, Guilt Does Not Have to Be Proven beyond a Reasonable Doubt

At the hearing up in Concorde, the administrative hearing, the government doesn’t have to prove that you are actually driving under the influence of alcohol beyond reasonable doubt. All they have to prove is that they police officer had reasonable grounds to believe that you were driving under the influence. The grounds, basically, are more probable than not from the police officer’s point of view. That’s all they’d have to prove.

They also have to prove that they read you your so-called administrative license suspension rights, ALS rights. Also that you actually were arrested and that you underwent the properly conducted test that resulted in an illegal level of alcohol. Currently, this level is .02 or more for a person under age 21 and it’s .08 for more for a person over the age 21.

Like I say, the standard, the short answer to your question, it’s different to some respects. First, the burden of proof is different. Second, what actually has to be proven is different. Third, the rules of evidence don’t apply. It’s substantially easier for the government to win at the administrative hearing then in the courtroom.