The DMV does not have the final say on driver’s license revocations in DUI Cases – if you appeal.

In Colorado, getting convicted of DUI can carry <<severe consequences>>.  However, just getting charged with a DUI and having either a .08 BAC or refusing to take a chemical test can result in the Colorado DMV revoking your license.[1]  But what happens if the DMV either makes a mistake in its ruling or didn’t follow the law?  Does the DMV have the final say in the matter?

Thankfully, no.

Colorado Law Helps You.

Pursuant to Colorado statutory law, the rulings of administrative agencies, including the DMV, can be appealed to the courts.[2]  In the case of the DMV, the court which initially has jurisdiction over the appeal is the District Court in the county in which you reside (even if you were charged in another county of the state).[3]  This type of appeal is known as an “appeal by right,” which means the District Court cannot refuse to hear your case.[4]

The Process of Appealing a DMV Revocation of Your License.

A. The Complaint

The first step in appealing the DMV’s decision is to file a “complaint” in the District Court of the county where you live.  A complaint is a document that sets forth the court’s ability to hear the case (known as jurisdiction), your grievance (the issue you want resolved by the court), and your demand for relief (what your asking the court to ultimately do).[5]  As such, the complaint must include, “the facts upon which the plaintiff bases the claim that he or she has been adversely affected or aggrieved, the reasons entitling him or her to relief, and the relief which he or she seeks.”[6]  Additionally, you can request in the complaint that the District Court “stay” (temporarily stop) the DMV’s revocation of your license.  Importantly, the complaint must be filed within 35 days of the DMV issuing the final order in your case.[7]

B.  The Record

When filing the complaint, you or your attorney must also “designate” the record.[8]  This essentially means that you must decide what parts of the record you want the District Court to look at.  In the case of a DMV appeal, the record usually includes the transcript from the hearing, the evidence considered by the DMV hearing officer, and the final order from the DMV.  In preparing for the appeal, your or your attorney must order a copy of the official transcript.  The cost for these transcripts are generally between $80- $175, but can be more or less depending on various factors, such as how long the hearing last.

C.  Filing Briefs

After the complaint has been filed and the record designated (and delivered to the District Court), the court will order briefs to be filed.  This is where you or your attorney more fully drafts the arguments regarding how and why the DMV’s decision is wrong.  The District Court can reverse the DMV decision if the Hearing Officer did one of four things, including whether he or she: (1) exceeded his or her constitutional or statutory authority; (2) erroneously interpreted the law; (3) acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner; or (4) made a determination that is unsupported by the evidence in the record.[9] If you can show any one of these occurred, “then the court shall hold [the DMV decision] unlawful and set aside the agency action.”[10]

But what if the District Court finds against you?  Does the District Court have the final say?

No.

Colorado Court of Appeals

If the District Court finds against you, you can then appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals.  This is also an appeal as of right.  The process for doing so is similar to appealing to the District Court, but with a few additional steps for your attorney to take.  The fee for filing at the Court of Appeals is $223.00.  Like at the District Court, there will also be nominal filing and service fees for the appellate briefs, etc.

The timelines are also similar.  Under the Colorado Appellate Rules, once the District Court sends the record to the Court of Appeals, your attorney will have 42 days to file the opening appellate brief.  The government will then have 35 days to respond.  Following that, your attorney will have 21 days to file a reply to the government’s brief.  Once all the briefs are filed, the Court of Appeals will decide your case, normally within about six months.

Colorado Supreme Court

So, what if the Court of Appeals finds against you?  Is that the end of the road?  No.  You can next appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.  But that process is a little different.  The biggest and most important difference is that the appeal is not “as of right.”  In other words, the Colorado Supreme Court is not required to hear your case like the lower courts were.  Instead, you need to petition the Supreme Court to hear your case and the judges decide whether they want to hear it or not.  But, as with any appeal, a skilled attorney can make all the difference.

If you or someone you know has had their license revoked by the Colorado DMV, give me a call.  As a highly experienced appellate attorney, I welcome the opportunity to discuss your case with you, and all initial consultations are free of charge.

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[1] C.R.S. 42-2-126(3)(a), (c).  There are numerous other situations in which the DMV can also revoke your license.  See C.R.S. 42-2-126 generally.

[2] C.R.S. 42-2-135; 24-4-106.

[3] C.R.S. 42-2-135.

[4] Allison v. Indus. Claim Appeals Office, 884 P.2d 1113, 1119-21 (Colo. 1994).

[5] See WEX Legal Dictionary, “Complaint.”

[6] C.R.S. 24-4-106(4).

[7] C.R.S. 24-4-106(4);42-2-126(9).

[8] C.R.S. 24-4-106(6).

[9] Haney v. Colo. Dep’t of Revenue, 361 P.3d 1093, 1095 (Colo. App. 2015).

[10] C.R.S. 24-4-106(7).


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