Criminal Law

Accessing Driving Records and DMV Records

Driving records are maintained by state departments of motor vehicles. If you need a copy of your driving record, you or your attorney may contact your state department of motor vehicles (DMV) and ask that a copy be sent to you or your attorney.

DMVs Maintain Hearing Transcripts

The DMV of your state makes and keeps transcripts of hearings on cases where drivers refused to take an alcohol test.

All states have some form of an implied consent statute. These statutes require that any person who is suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol must submit to a chemical test of the blood, breath, or urine to determine alcohol content. If the driver refuses to submit to one of the available tests, his or her driving privilege can be suspended or revoked for a period of time, usually from six months to one year. Once a person refuses to take a blood alcohol test, he cannot later retract that refusal.

If driving under the influence is suspected when the defendant is stopped by a police officer, or when the defendant is in an accident and is questioned by a police officer, and the defendant refuses to take the chemical test, the defendant will receive a notice from the DMV of a pending suspension. In accordance with general principles of due process, the state will grant the driver a hearing prior to suspending his or her license.

At the suspension hearing, the defendant is entitled to an attorney, to a transcript of the proceedings, and to confront and cross-examine the police officer. This hearing usually focuses on a few critical issues:

  • Whether the defendant was driving;
  • Whether the defendant was reasonably suspected of driving under the influence;
  • Whether the defendant was properly advised of the requirements of the statute and the consequences of refusal to submit; and
  • Whether the defendant did, in fact, refuse the test.

Although it is rare for a defendant's attorney to successfully defend his or her client's license at a DMV refusal to submit suspension hearing, the hearing is a significant event because of the opportunity to question the police officer who charged the driver with driving under the influence. Inconsistent statements of the arresting officer at the DMV hearing can be used to question his credibility in subsequent cases. Therefore, it is important to obtain an attorney to defend you in the suspension hearing.

If the arresting officer's testimony at the suspension hearing differs from his testimony at the trial for the substantive offense, such as vehicular manslaughter, the defense attorney can point out the differences at trial and ask for an explanation from the officer while he is on the witness stand. Thus, the defense attorney will be able to show that the officer's testimony is not accurate or credible.

You or your attorney should let the hearing officer at the DMV hearing know that you want a transcript made at the hearing and that you want a copy of that transcript provided to you or your attorney. You will probably be charged a fee for the transcript, but it is worth the cost.

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