Counties Served & Courthouse Directions
 



Cameran A. Bahrami
301-762-0303


Cameran A. Bahrami was born and raised in the DC area and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. He received his Juris Doctorate from Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

 

MVA Hearings

A Maryland DUI charge is no laughing matter; it can and will result in serious penalties if not properly defended against. An experienced attorney is an absolute must in these situations, not only because the trial itself can turn on a number of arcane complexities (such as the appropriateness of the traffic stop, or the validity of the arresting officer’s probable cause in subjecting you to the battery of field sobriety tests, or the admissibility of breathalyzer or blood testing in court), but also because if you have been charged with a first-offense DUI you need to take action immediately in order to secure your rights and possibly preserve your driving privileges.

When you are charged with a DUI offense in Maryland, your case proceeds upon two separate tracks. The first one — the one people naturally think of when they think of a DUI arrest — is the actual criminal charge of Driving Under the Influence, which is handled in the Maryland criminal court system of the county you were arrested in. The second track, however is less understood by laymen yet equally as important: the administrative action brought by Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration to determine whether your driving privileges will be suspended or revoked as a result of your per se violation of the state’s DUI laws.

It’s critical to understand the difference between these two types of proceedings! The actual criminal charge of DUI can carry stiff financial penalties as well as the possibility of jailtime and suspension/revocation of driving privileges if you are found guilty, but that court proceeding has no bearing whatsoever on your immediate, pre-trial status as a licensed driver in the State of Maryland. THAT issue is decided by the MVA in what is known as an Administrative Drivers License Hearing.

Time is of the Essence!

When you get arrested on a first-offense DUI charge in Maryland the arresting officer typically confiscates your license and issues you a document known as a Notice of Suspension. This is no mere piece of paper: it is in fact your temporary driver's license for the next 45 days.

However, you cannot simply sit back and fail to act once you have been issued your Notice of Suspension. This is not a passive process; the courts will not ‘come to you,’ so to speak, and if you fail to quickly assert your rights under the law you will automatically have your license suspended without any opportunity to plead your case before the MVA.

The first thing to understand is that you have only 10 days after your Notice of Suspension has been issued to contact the MVA and schedule an administrative hearing. If you fail to contact the Office of Administrative Hearings (or even if you contact them on the eleventh day), your license will be automatically suspended until after the resolution of your criminal trial in the court system.

What to expect at the MVA Hearing.

The purpose of an MVA hearing is for a judge (in this case an administrative law judge) to determine whether your license should be suspended, prior to the final disposition of your criminal case in the state court. The sorts of issues that a defendant can raise in this hearing are far more limited than what he can dispute in criminal court. By law, the judge is only allowed to examine:

1.) Whether the arresting officer followed the proper procedures during the defendant’s arrest;
2.) Whether or not the defendant submitted to a chemical test;
3.) Whether or not the defendant’s BAC level was .08% or greater at the time of arrest.

Again, it needs to be emphasized that the evidentiary burden the State has to meet in an MVA hearing is more limited than when your case is tried in criminal court. In criminal court, the state needs to prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt, since the crime you are accused of could potentially result in a prison sentence. Since a driver’s license is considered an administrative privilege rather than a right, however, the burden the state needs to meet at an MVA hearing is a much more lenient “preponderance of the evidence” standard.

After reviewing all of the evidence for and against you, and hearing testimony from the arresting officer as well as your attorney, the judge makes a final decision as to whether or not your license is suspended (for a first offense, the minimum is 45 days).

Get Help — Fast.

The MVA Administrative Hearing process itself is extremely complex and unforgiving: because driving is considered a privilege and not a right, the MVA does not need to comport to the same rules of evidence and strict burdens of proof as the criminal court system. In order to successfully negotiate it you’re going to need an experienced attorney who understands how the process works. But before you even get to that step, it’s important that you assert your right to a hearing in the first place; even the most brilliant lawyer in the state of Maryland won’t be able to prevent you from receiving an automatic suspension of your driver’s license if you failed to contact the MVA and request a hearing on the matter within 10 days of your arrest.