What is a Notice of Findings and Decision following an Admin Per Se Hearing?
One of the most common Administrative Hearings convened by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is a license suspension hearing following an arrest for DUI. Under California’s Administrative Per Se Law (APS), a driver is presumed to be “per se” guilty of the offense of drunk driving if the DMV can establish three elements:
Normally the Notice of Findings and Decision means that the Admin Per Se process has been conducted and that the hearing officer has reached a decision on those three issues. The Notice of Finding and Decision is meant to document the results of the process.
Why does the DMV send a Notice of Findings and Decision to a driver?
The California Vehicle Code specifically mandates that the DMV notify an accused driver of the findings made by a Hearing Officer at the conclusion of the Admin Per Se Process. Whether the decision was reached by a Departmental Review or through a full Admin Per Se Hearing, the decisions made by the hearing officer must be conveyed to the accused driver in writing.
California Vehicle Code Section 14105(a) determines…… “Upon the conclusion of a hearing, the hearing officer or hearing board shall make findings and render a decision on behalf of the department and shall notify the person involved. Notice of the decision shall include a statement of the person’s right to a review. The decision shall take effect as stated in the notice, but not less than four nor more than 15 days after the notice is mailed.”
California Law mandates that the Hearing Officer articulate a nexus from the evidence to the decision that is ultimately set forth in each case. In 1974, the Supreme Court of California ruled in Topanga Association for Scenic Community v. County of Los Angeles, that decisions by Hearing Officers in administrative hearings must be based on evidence AND that a nexus from the evidence to the decision must be articulated. Specifically, the Supreme Court said that Hearing Officers must “bridge the analytical gap between raw evidence and the ultimate decision or order, and must “keep from speculating as to the basis for the decision.”
The court further stated “among other functions, the findings requirement serves to conduce the
administrative agency (in this case, the Hearing Officer), to draw legally relevant sub-conclusions supportive of its ultimate decision: the intended effect is to facilitate orderly analysis and minimize the likelihood the agency will randomly leap from evidence to conclusions.” If the Hearing Officer cannot establish a logical nexus between the evidence and a decision to suspend pursuant to Topanga, then the Hearing Officer must set aside the suspension.
The first paragraph of the Notice cuts right to the chase. Here is where the hearing officer indicates that a driver has won or lost the hearing. If the hearing officer re-imposes the suspension of the driving privilege, the driver lost their hearing and must be prepared to terminate driving. On the other hand, if the Hearing Officer issues an order which “Sets Aside” the suspension, that means the driver has won the hearing and the action is ended.
In the section entitled “Findings of Fact,” the hearing officer will address the following elements of the case and identify issues discussed:
The Hearing Officer will then make a final determination on the three primary issues. Finally, the hearing officer’s final decision is documented.
As the Notice comes to an end, it will advise the accused that the department’s action is taken entirely independent of any action taken by a court. It will also advise the driver of their right to departmental review and appeal.