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Important Details About Your Driver’s License Administrative Hearing

by | Feb 26, 2024 | Criminal Defense | 0 comments

Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys note that there are nearly 400,000 active driver’s license suspensions a year. More than 90% of these suspensions are for a non-driving-related offense, such as failure to appear in court or failure to pay child support. The vast majority of these suspensions are temporary and range from 155 to 230 days.  Call our office to schedule a free 30 minute consultation about the process of getting your driver’s license back through a driver’s license administration hearing.

What Is a Driver’s License Administrative Hearing?

A driver’s license administrative hearing is a process offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation through which people can get their driving privileges restored. The information provided here is specific to PennDOT. While all states have a similar process in place, the procedures vary. The infrastructure differs as well. While the term “DMV” is used here at times, everything is handled by PennDOT, and it has Driver and Photo License Centers as opposed to the Department of Motor Vehicles offices found in many other states.

There are six core reasons PennDOT will hold an administrative hearing:

  • Review a driving record for the purposes of updating it
  • Appeal the denial or cancellation of a Probationary License
  • Request credit toward use of an ignition interlock device
  • Request credit toward a suspension, revocation or disqualification
  • Appeal the denial or cancellation of an Occupational Limited License
  • Appeal the denial or cancellation of an Ignition Interlock Limited license

These reasons do not provide a guarantee that PennDOT will grant your hearing. Depending on the context of the case, it often does reject requests where the purpose is to:

  • Make a correction to the driving record
  • Dispute an ignition interlock requirement
  • Reduce the period of a revocation or suspension
  • Determine validity of a suspension or revocation

Denial of Driving Privileges

There are three primary ways through which PennDOT denies driving privileges:

  • Suspension
  • Revocation
  • Disqualification

Driver’s license suspensions in Pennsylvania are inherently temporary. You must wait the allotted time and meet any other conditions made by the court. A revocation, on the other hand, voids your license to drive. Revocations are rarely permanent, but upon conclusion of the revocation period, you must begin the driver’s license process from the beginning. This is true even if PennDOT shortens your revocation period.

Disqualification is similar to suspension but applies to driving privileges for commercial motor vehicles. The suspension ranges from 60 days to as long as a lifetime. A driver with a suspended CDL can still operate a non-commercial vehicle with a valid driver’s license. A person who has their non-commercial driver’s license suspended or revoked cannot operate a CMV.

Acknowledgement of Suspension

Before you request an administrative hearing, you must officially recognize your suspension or revocation. There is an official form through which you do this. You do not receive credit either until the acknowledgement. Unlike in some states, credit in Pennsylvania does not begin to accrue because you:

  • Stopped driving
  • Surrendered your license to another state
  • Had your license seized by out-of-state police

How to Request an Administrative Hearing

To request an administrative hearing through PennDOT, you must do so in writing and send it to the Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation via U.S. Mail. If you choose to be represented by an attorney, your attorney will prepare and file this request for you. There are seven items that you must include. If they are not included, the request will be rejected. These items include:

  • Petitioner’s name
  • Signature of petitioner or petitioner’s counsel
  • Driver’s license number
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • Current mailing address
  • $100 non-refundable filing fee as a money order or check

Response to Your Request

You will receive a response within 30 days of your request being received. If the request was rejected, the reasons will be included. The filing fee is not returned. If the request is accepted, you will be provided a date, time and location for your hearing. Note that if you have a strong argument that you have prepared properly, PennDOT may grant the petition without a hearing. This is another reason lawyers who specialize in license restoration highly recommend representation.

PennDOT strives to schedule administrative hearings within 30 days of the request being approved. It does not guarantee this time frame, however. In fact, at the time of writing, administrative hearing volume was high, and scheduling was running longer than 30 days.

Administrative Hearing Location

PennDOT holds all driver’s license administrative hearings at the Administrative Hearings Office in Harrisburg without exception. The AHO does not conduct hearings in absentia. Even if you have representation, you must be present alongside your attorney.

Administrative Hearing Format

An administrative hearing is not as formal as a court hearing. There are not many rules to be aware of and adhere to. A hearing officer will oversee the process and direct you as needed. A Bureau of Driver Licensing representative or counsel will be present. You or your lawyer will present evidence. The BDL representative will present evidence and may ask you questions under oath. The hearing will conclude without the hearing officer providing you a final decision.

Tips to Navigate the Hearing

Attorneys familiar with these hearings recommend:

  • Seeking counsel beforehand
  • Gathering and organizing all evidence
  • Following the direction of the hearing officer
  • Not describing personal hardships and the like

While the hearing officer will direct you through the process, the officer will not assist you in making your case. Your ability to do this in a concise and compelling manner will be key to your success. The officer cannot consider personal hardships. If you bog your time down in this way, your likelihood of success is much less likely and you may have less time in which to make your case.

Final Order

Following the hearing, the hearing officer will issue a proposed report. The driver and BDL both have 30 days from the issuance of that report to file any exceptions. If there are no exceptions, the proposed report becomes a final order. If there are exceptions, the hearing officer will consider them and perhaps revise the proposed report or make it a final order.

Right to Appeal

If the final order denies your request, you have the right to appeal within 30 days. Any submitted appeal must include the following items to be considered:

  • Clear and concise explanation of the claim with facts
  • Specific list of the legal issues and the remedy desired
  • Copy of all documents related to the rejection
  • Address to serve any documents or pleadings
  • Daytime telephone number for the petitioner

Assistance With Your Administrative Hearing

If you have had your driver’s license suspended or revoked or have been disqualified, Bauer, Scanlon & Wigginton would like to help. Our law firm has extensive experience navigating this process and helping clients get their driving privileges restored. While representation isn’t required for an administrative hearing, it is highly recommended. To have your case reviewed by a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, call our office at 610-590-5092, or contact us online.