McCamley & Branchaud, P.C.

Vermont Civil License Suspension vs. Criminal DWI/DUI

The Vermont Civil License Suspension law is a separate charge from the criminal offense of DWI / DUI. If you are arrested for DWI and you provide a breath or blood alcohol sample which shows that your blood alcohol level was .08%, the officer will also issue you a Notice of Intent to Suspend. This document must be mailed to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles within 7 days from when you receive it or your license or non-resident driving privilege in Vermont will automatically be suspended for a minimum of 90 days. This suspension will be longer if you refused a breath or blood test, or you had prior DWI convictions.

If you had a prior DWI or Civil License suspension, or both, you will automatically go under suspension 11 days after the officer gives you the Notice of Intent to Suspend. This is true even if you have requested a hearing within 7 days. It is essential that you mail in the request for a Civil Suspension Hearing within 7 days, even if you have had a previous license suspension for DWI convictions, so that you can contest your license suspension.

The preliminary Civil Suspension hearing takes place at your arraignment, or first court appearance. The State must turn over any police reports, records and other materials which it will use at the Final Civil Suspension Hearing, which is normally held 30 to 60 days later. If you had a prior civil license suspension, you have the right to a Final Civil Suspension Hearing in your new case within 42 days from the date of your arrest. If the hearing is not held within 42 days for a second civil suspension, and the delay is not your fault, the judge may dismiss the civil suspension proceeding outright.

The final Civil Suspension hearing is held in front of a judge. The State must prove each of the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence (which simply means more likely than not):

  • Whether the officer was legally justified in stopping you and/or your vehicle;
  • Whether the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to believe that you were driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor;
  • Whether the officer complied with Vermont law in telling the operator of their rights and the consequences of taking and refusing the breath or blood test;
  • Whether the officer fully complied with the driver’s right to speak to an attorney before deciding whether to provide a breath or blood sample;
  • Whether the driver refused to permit a breath or blood sample;
  • If the sample was taken, did the driver have a blood alcohol concentration of at least .08% at the time when the State claims the person was driving;
  • Whether the testing methods used were valid and reliable and whether the test results were accurate and accurately evaluated.

The police officer usually will testify at this hearing. He is not required to do so. The State may submit the arresting officer’s affidavit, the testimony of a Department of Health Chemist to prove the accuracy and reliability of the breath or blood test. The defense can call its own witnesses, including a chemist (who may testify live or by affidavit) to prove that the breath or blood test results were not accurate.

If the judge decides in favor of the State, either ruling from the bench at the end of the hearing or in a later written decision, your Vermont license or non-resident right to drive will be suspended for at least 90 days. If the judge found that you refused the test, your suspension will be at least 6 months. You will also be required to complete an alcohol and driving education program, be evaluated by a licensed alcohol counselor, provide proof of financial responsibility insurance (SR22) and pay $100.00 in surcharges in order to be reinstated.

If the judge rules in your favor at the civil suspension hearing, you will be able to continue driving until your DWI case is resolved. If this is your second license suspension or greater, and you win the civil suspension case, your license or non-resident driving privileges will immediately be given back to you.

Any license suspension imposed under the civil suspension law runs concurrently (at the same time) as any license suspension from a DWI conviction. This means that if you first suffer a civil license suspension, and then are convicted of DWI, you will receive a credit from Vermont D.M.V. on your DWI suspension for any time for however long you were suspended from the civil suspension.

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