When you think of a legal hearing, what do you picture? A scene out of To Kill a Mockingbird or Legally Blonde? Perhaps you envision a grand courtroom with wooden tables, regal judges, and a full audience.

In Colorado, a Department of Motor Vehicle or “DMV” Hearing related to a DUI or alcohol or drug-related driving offense is none of those things.

What Happens at a DMV Hearing?

These days, most DMV Hearings occur virtually over Zoom. The DMV provides information about Zoom virtual hearings on its website in the event of issues with the software.

A Department of Revenue “hearing officer,” probably not an actual judge, presides over the proceeding.[1] After hearing evidence and arguments, they will determine whether or not your license should be revoked.

A Colorado DMV hearing following a DUI might be short and may be quicker than one half-hour.

Colorado DMV DUI Hearings Explained

Many people facing DUI charges are interested to know the purpose of a DMV hearing and what type of information they ask about during these proceedings or even what a person should say.

Some of our clients feel the DMV rules are unfairly tilted in favor of the police, and they aren’t wrong. Because the government doesn’t see the revocation of a driver’s license as a substantial deprivation of liberty, DMV Hearings are void of the proper structure and gatekeeping you often see in Colorado criminal court.

We have provided the following information about what to expect during a Motor Vehicle Hearing related to a DUI below:

It must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence (a.k.a. “more likely than not”) that your driver’s license is or should be lawfully revoked.

  • There is no prosecutor or district attorney present. It will just be an officer testifying in narrative form to what they believe happened (if the officer testifies at all – see below for details). The hearing guide may ask further questions.
  • It may or may not be the “main” officer testifying (i.e., the officer who did the most investigation and/or interviews at the scene). Most likely, the officer who wrote and issued your “Notice of Driver’s License Revocation” is the one who will testify, even if he wasn’t heavily involved in the rest of your case.
  • If you don’t request a hearing within seven days after revocation; you forfeit the right to have one. [2]
  • Under most circumstances, you will be given a temporary driving permit that will last until the hearing. If you lose the hearing that permit is no longer valid. If you win the hearing, then that permit is no longer valid, but it won’t matter because winning the hearing means you get your driver’s license back.
  • The entire proceeding will be recorded by video, audio, or both. Although it takes jumping through some hoops, your lawyer will know how to retrieve this recording to later use in your criminal case. This is an essential tool to catch any inconsistencies in the officer’s testimony.
  • Just like in criminal court, the driver has a right not to testify if they do not wish to.
  • The driver only has to appear if they wish to testify. That being said, getting a preview of the evidence that may be presented against you at your criminal trial is beneficial.
  • The date you are given for the hearing is set in stone. It is incredibly rare for the defense/driver to be able to reschedule. The officer, however, can easily get the hearing rescheduled even more than once.

How to Win or Appeal a DMV Hearing

The Department of Revenue doesn’t realize how harmful losing a driver’s license can be to your livelihood, family, and well-being. DMV Hearings are not easily won, and it takes a strong, skilled lawyer to persuade a Hearing Officer why you should get to keep your license.

Even if your lawyer is talented enough to win the hearing, that’s not the end of the road. Dismissal of your DMV case doesn’t mean dismissal of your criminal court case. You may still be facing DUI charges and potential jail time. To fully prepare yourself for what’s coming ahead, the best thing you can do is have a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to help navigate these intricacies.


DUI Defense Attorneys

DUIs can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor in Colorado. It is important to consult with an attorney about your DUI criminal case or DMV hearing. Contact McDermott Stuart & Ward LLP’s criminal defense lawyers have years of experience defending DUI charges and helping people keep their driving privileges

[1] Some Department of Revenue Hearing Officers may have law degrees.

[2] § 42-2-126(7)(b), C.R.S.

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