Make DMV Pay Your Attorney's Fees

DMV would almost always rather give your license back than pay attorney's fees

Make DMV Pay Your Attorney’s Fees

If there is one bright side to the DMV litigation scenario, it is the availability of attorneys’ fees after a motorist wins their case. This availability plays out two ways. First and obviously, it means that DMV has to pay for the costs of a motorist’s lawyer in getting the writ. But more subtly, it means that we have a weapon in our arsenal to help beat DMV—namely negotiation to return your driver license). In this time of tightening state budgets, DMV would almost always rather give you your license back than pay our attorneys’ fees.

It is hard to imagine any other branch of government treating citizens as poorly as does DMV. The “hearing officers” at Driver Safety who decide your fate are often promoted from the ranks of drive test examiner. They usually have no legal training whatsoever, and they serve as both prosecutor and judge on your case.

As prosecutor they introduce evidence against you and then as judge, rule on your objections to that evidence. They often have an inadequate understanding of the law and have no incentive to treat you fairly because their supervisors review only the cases where they return somebody’s license. That’s right: so long as the hearing officer suspends your license, their performance is never reviewed. Not surprisingly, the confluence of these factors lead many hearing officers to make arbitrary and capricious decisions, and that’s where the attorneys’ fee provision comes into play.

Government Code Section 800 provides for fee shifting in the event a government official behaves in an arbitrary and capricious manner. That means if you have to get a writ to overturn an arbitrary and capricious decision by a DMV hearing officer, DMV will have to reimburse you for your attorneys’ fees in the case. We can seek the fees award either at the writ hearing or in a post-trial motion after we’ve won.

We cannot overstate the value of this attorneys’ fees provision to coercing a settlement with DMV. In a close case, the deputy attorney general handling the case (and the DMV staff attorney to whom they report) do not want to be responsible for DMV having to pay an attorneys’ fees award. In many ways, such an award is viewed as mismanaged litigation because the case should have been settled prior to the hearing. We capitalize on this dynamic early and often.

Do you believe you were treated arbitrarily and capriciously by DMV? Call us and see if we can help you not only beat DMV but also make DMV pay our attorneys’ fees.

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