If you have been arrested, pled guilty or been convicted of a certain crime in Alabama, there may be automatic consequences you will face, such as having your driver’s license suspended. It is not uncommon for people to receive notices of intended suspensions or suspensions that are erroneous in some way; perhaps the start date of the suspension or the length of the suspension is incorrect, or that there has not been final adjudication of the case. Challenging a suspended license is very complex, but below is a basic framework for challenging a suspended license, though you will need to speak with an attorney to determine whether you have a valid case.
First, the notice of suspension or intended suspension must state certain details, so be sure to bring a copy of the notice to the consult with your attorney. The notice must “clearly specify the reason and statutory grounds for suspension, the effective date of the suspension, the right of the person to request an administrative review and a hearing, the procedure for requesting an administrative review and a hearing, and the date by which a request for an administrative review is required to be made in order to receive a determination prior to the effective date of the suspension.” Code of Alabama §32-5A-302(c)
Second, the 10-day mark from the date of the notice of suspension or intended suspension is critical. You only have 10 days to request a hearing to challenge the suspension. If you receive a notice of intended suspension, you only have 10 days to request an administrative review of the suspension if you desire to get a ruling prior to the date the suspension will go into effect. In the event you do not challenge your suspended license within 10 days by requesting a hearing or review prior to the suspension date, you still have 90 days to request a review only (no hearing).
If a hearing is granted, it must be set within 30 days of the request and will typically be held at the local branch of the Department of Public Safety. The sole issues at the hearing will be whether the defendant was lawfully arrested for DUI and given a breathalyzer test. Further, whether the defendant blew a .08 blood alcohol level or above or the defendant refused the test. Should any of these issues not be proven with a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), then the suspension cannot be upheld. For instance, if the arrest was for a controlled substance DUI and no test was offered, there can be no suspension prior to a guilty plea or conviction. If it is determined that your license shall be suspended at the hearing, you have 30 days to challenge that decision by filing a lawsuit in Circuit Court, naming the Director of the Public Safety, in his official capacity as a defendant.
If your license is suspended prior to an adjudication of your case, for instance if you refused a breathalyzer test, and you are later convicted or plea guilty to DUI, the Department of Public Safety may attempt to “stack” your suspensions, one for refusal and one for conviction, though this is not permitted. Of course, if you are convicted of a crime, particularly a DUI or drug offense, expect for your license to be automatically suspended for some period of time, usually 6 months for the first conviction. Consulting with an attorney will help you determine whether the length of suspension is lawful.
If you are arrested for a DUI, a drug offense, or any crime that may result in the automatic suspension of your license, be sure to cover those issues with your attorney so that he or she may be prepared to draft the appropriate challenges to your license suspension. It is also important to act swiftly if you have received a notice of suspension or notice of intended suspension to avoid missing the important 10-day deadline.