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. They 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. They 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: Should I chit-chat with the officer while waiting for the hearing? Should I pace in the lobby?
ANSWER: No. The officer is trained to listen to how you talk, and watch how you walk, so he can testify, “It’s much different than on the night in question.” Don’t give him that opportunity. Get a magazine from the rack, get seated, stay seated.
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.