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Should a Buffalo, MN DUI Lawyer Represent Me at the ALR Hearing?

by | Jun 27, 2019 | Criminal Defense, DWI, Firm News

Nearly all states, including Minnesota, have implied consent laws. These laws allow authorities to automatically suspend drivers’ licenses of people who fail chemical tests or refuse to provide specimens on demand.

The Administrative License Revocation proceeding is not a criminal law matter. So, there is a lower burden of proof. Furthermore, there’s a limited number of points that Buffalo, MN DUI lawyers can contest. Finally, many of the normal constitutional protections do not apply. For example, the administrative law judge can require defendants to be witnesses against themselves. Incidentally, that administrative law judge is usually a paid DMV employee. There’s no possible bias there, right?

Yet despite all these obstacles, a Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer can still obtain a positive result at ALR hearings. Additionally, win or lose, the ALR hearing has some inherent value. So, failure to contest ALR suspension does not just hand the state an easy win. Your Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer loses a critical advantage in the fight for a favorable outcome in the criminal case.

What’s at Stake

Minnesota has very complex DUI laws, and the license suspension rules are equally complex. The suspension period, and conditions, vary significantly according to the facts of the case.

Most Wright County DUI offenders have no prior drinking and driving convictions, provide a breath sample, and blow a .16 or below (a .16 is twice the legal limit). In these situations, the maximum suspension period is 90 days. However, after fifteen days, drivers can apply for limited licenses. These substitute drivers’ licenses allow people to drive to and from school, to and from work, and in a few other situations.

If the defendant has no priors and refuses to provide a sample, the maximum suspension period catapults to one year. The same limited license option applies. Defendants must serve fifteen days “hard time” and then they can drive on a limited license for the remaining 350 days. Or, defendants who install ignition interlock devices for a year may keep their full licenses.

Special rules apply to people who blow over a .16, have at least one prior conviction, or have a child passenger under 16, whether or not the child is kin to the driver.

After suspension periods end, the state does not automatically reinstate drivers’ licenses. Before that happens, the driver must pay a $700 fee. The driver must also undergo a chemical health assessment and successfully complete a DUI knowledge test.

Procedures at the ALR Hearing

Guilt or innocence is not relevant at this stage. Instead, the ALJ must determine if officers had probable cause to request a chemical sample. Generally, the arresting officer provides the necessary testimony. If the officer does not appear, the ALJ can force the defendant to testify about the arrest. But generally, the ALJ resets the hearing to give the officer another chance to show up.

Probable cause basically means that the officer had a good reason to request a sample. Usually, if the defendant performed at least one field sobriety test and failed it, that’s sufficient. So, Buffalo, MN DUI lawyers often successfully challenge probable cause if the defendant refused to perform field tests or “failed” the test because of a minor technicality.

Possible Outcomes

Given the low standard of proof, narrow issues, and ALJ bias, it may seem like a Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer cannot possibly obtain a positive outcome. For that reason, many drivers do not bother to contest the suspension.

However, if there is a question about the evidence, the ALJ often at least reduces the suspension period or relaxes the restrictions. That’s especially key in refusal cases, because a year is a long time to drive with an ignition interlock device.

Furthermore, there is no risk. Even if the ALJ throws the book at the defendant, the worst thing that could happen is a one-year suspension in a refusal case or a 90-day suspension in a failure case. These things would have happened even if the defendant did not contest the proceeding at all. So, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

How the ALR Hearing Gives Your Buffalo, MN DUI Lawyer an Edge

That gain is not just the potential of a shorter or easier suspension period. At the ALR hearing, your Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer cross-examines the officer under oath. This type of discovery, if it is available at all in a misdemeanor case, usually costs hundreds of dollars.

Credibility is a very fragile thing. That’s especially true for police officers. Jurors do not trust police officers as much as they did even a few years ago. So, the slightest inconsistency between the ALR testimony and the trial testimony often causes at least one juror to discount the officer’s testimony altogether. And, if just one juror has a reasonable doubt as to the evidence, the defendant is not guilty as a matter of law.

Call a Tenacious Attorney

Assertive representation at the ALR hearing is very important. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.