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What Happens at DMV Restoration Hearings

License Restoration Lawyer Even as legal counsel, “conditional hearings” and DMV restoration hearings tend to be a bit unnerving. In part that’s because a tremendous amount of discretion has been ceded to the NCDMV Hearing Officer.

Given the implications of not being able to drive (legally) due to a revocation or suspension or because of multiple convictions for DWI charges in North Carolina, one might expect DMV restoration hearings to be conducted in court.

While that makes sense, it’s not how things operate under N.C.G.S. 20-19 and the NC restoration law: § 20-17.8 “Restoration of a license after certain driving while impaired convictions”

“It can be an extraordinarily frustrating process at times. Prior to even the DMV hearing itself there is a lot of work to be done.”

– Bill Powers, License Restoration Lawyer

What are the Steps to Get Your License Back?

Potential clients call our law firm, regularly asking questions like:

  • How do I get my license back?
  • Is there some sort of hardship license I can get?
  • What should I do if I’m suspended?
  • What’s the difference between a revoked and suspended license?

Those are all great, reasonable questions to ask.

Until you lose your license and your ability to drive legally in North Carolina, sometimes people don’t realize the value of a driver license.

We use that term, “legally,” understanding people often do drive as a matter of perceived necessity even when their license is revoked.

We don’t recommend that, as it will only cause more problems and may cause further issues with DMV in the long run. In certain circumstances, it might even get you arrested.

Even in big cities like Charlotte and Raleigh, where there are some forms of mass transit available, not having a license is at best a hassle.

UBER and Lyft add up over time and pretty much no one enjoys standing on the side of the road, waiting for a CATS bus.

Light rail is great in Charlotte, if you can afford live right on the line and even then, you may still need a license to get to work.

As such, the first step to getting your license back is to figure out with some level of specificity the status of licensure.

“The first question most criminal defense lawyers will ask is this: Why is your license revoked?”

– Bill Powers, Criminal Defense Lawyer

That often elicits a wide range of responses. It’s normal to want to explain the various twists and turns associated with a license revocation.

As attorneys who regularly help people with DMV restoration hearings in Mecklenburg County, Iredell, Union, Gaston, and Rowan counties (the “Charlotte-Metro DMV region), we believe it important to first gather information about eligibility.

To answer almost any legal question about suspension and revocation issues, we will ordinarily ask a series of questions.

Nothing about the inquiry is intended to be pressing into your personal life. We don’t seek to embarrass anyone or to give you a hard time.

Indeed, there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Our goal is to fully understand the “whys” and “wherefores” of a license revocation and see what we can do, if anything, to help.

If you have that information in advance, our attorneys will be exponentially more efficient in answering your legal questions.

Related Legal Issues
  1. DWI Driving Privileges North Carolina
  2. Do I Need a Lawyer for a DMV Hearing?
  3. NC DMV Hearings
  4. Conditional Restoration Agreement
What Defense Lawyers Need to Know

Here is a list of beginning questions you might reasonably expect from traffic lawyers (attorneys who help people with NC DMV legal issues):

  1. When did you first get your license?
    1. What year?
    2. What state?
  2. Have you ever had a driver license anywhere else?
  3. What caused your license to be suspended?
    1. What caused the suspension?
    2. What is the status of the revocation?
    3. Is there a “date of eligibility” for restoration?
  4. Is your license revoked?
    1. Why?
    2. Have you received a Notice of Revocation?
    3. Have you received a Notice of Suspension?
    4. What other formal correspondence have you received from NCDMV?
  5. When was your license suspended or revoked?
    1. What as the effective date?
    2. Was it an “indefinite suspension?”
  6. How do you know you can’t drive legally?
  7. Do you have any unpaid tickets or unresolved criminal charges?
  8. Do you have Community Service hours left to perform?
  9. Did you pay your Court Costs?
  10. Did you pay your Restoration Fees?
  11. Did you pay your Fines?
  12. Did you obtain an Alcohol Assessment?
  13. Did you comply with all recommendations of the Alcohol Assessment?
  14. Was a Form 508 sent to DMV?
  15. Do you know how long the suspension is supposed to last?
  16. Have you received any formal notice or letters from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) / Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV)?

The point is to determine eligibility for reinstatement. Figuring out why the license is revoked and what can be done to fix that is how lawyers help.

As you might imagine, there is more than one way to have your license revoked or suspended.

And while there are technical differences between a “suspension” and “revocation,” attorneys (and the good folks up at DMV) tend to use the terms interchangeably.

If you’ve ever been pulled over for driving while your license is revoked, the ticket is for Driving While License Revoked.

People within the legal system often refer to that as “DWLR charges.”

The Legislature has amended the statute to delineate between DWLR Impaired Revocation, which is a license revocation or suspension related to DWI charges or a conviction for DWI in North Carolina, and simple “DWLR,” with no designation, punishment, or suspension for DWI charges.

The differences between those two types of criminal charges are remarkable and therefore important.

Driving While License Revoked for Impaired Driving (DWLR Impaired Revocation) is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and carries a maximum possible punishment of up to 120 days in jail (incarceration) under N.C.G.S. 20-28(a1).

Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) is when, “any person whose drivers license is revoked” who operates a motor vehicle as defined under N.C.G.S. 20-4.01. It is a much less serious as a Class 3 Misdemeanor.

It’s important to note, a conviction for either can have substantial additional consequences at the DMV level and may result in extended periods of revocation or suspension, which could adversely affect any chance of success (or eligibility) at DMV restoration hearings.

What Happens at DMV Restoration Hearings?

Assuming you quality for a conditional restoration or restoration hearing, the process is likely more formal than you might realize.

That’s especially true involving a conditional restoration associated with an impaired driving revocation or more likely, a conditional hearing predicated on multiple convictions of DWI.

While conducted at a DMV office (in Charlotte that normally takes place at the NCDMV Hearing Office in Huntersville), and not court, witnesses and sworn testimony are required.

Each hearing officer has preferences on how to conduct hearings. There is a general “script” or procedure to ensure compliance with the restoration laws.

We like to make sure clients and their witnesses understand how things proceed prior to and during the hearing.

At the hearing itself, normally the “petitioner” the person seeking restoration of their license is present.

With the help of legal counsel, the petitioner selects three (3) witnesses to testify. Each witness must have a valid form of identification, which may include a NC Driver License, passport, or other form of ID recognized by DMV.

As it applies to DWI restoration hearings, we as defense lawyers focus on some important, primary issues or questions.

We seek to answer questions like:

  1. Have you driven, at all, during your period of revocation?
  2. Have you had any moving violations?
  3. Do you have any tickets pending?
  4. Have you been convicted of any charges during the revocation?
  5. Have you consumed ANY alcohol during your period of suspension/revocation?
  6. Have you taken illegal drugs or impairing substances not prescribed by a doctor?
  7. Is not having a valid NC driver license a hardship?
  8. Have you learned from your experiences?
  9. How has alcohol and/or illegal drugs affected your life?
  10. What have been the costs?
  11. Has it affected your job?
  12. Have you been limited in making a living?
  13. Who helps you?
  14. What burden has it been to them?
  15. How much have you spent on UBER or Lyft?
  16. How do you get around?
  17. How do you get your groceries?
  18. How do you take care of your kids?
  19. How do you get to the doctor?
  20. How did you get to the DMV hearing?

DMV hearing officers normally ask the petitioner and their three witnesses to come into an officer (the hearing room).

Ordinarily that’s just a desk with a computer and the DMV file regarding your case.

It’s NCDMV, so those rooms to be pretty bland if not somewhat uncomfortable.

The hearing officer will introduce him or herself, briefly explain the process, obtain a valid identification from everyone involved, and then ask the witnesses to wait outside in the hallway.

Once that is complete, the DMV restoration hearing begins with the taking of the petitioner’s testimony.

Many, if not most of the questions raised above are asked of the petitioner. It’s important to note, sworn testimony is taken.

One must be honest and tell the truth. Even getting a conditional restoration requires submitting documentation of eligibility and compliance with the NC traffic laws.

Hearing officers will confirm the information. They will make certain you have not been driving. That may be accomplished by pulling updated record checks, looking for pending citations, and even asking the petitioner directly, “Have you been driving?”

Even if you are not convicted of a moving or non-moving violation (a ticket in North Carolina or any other state), driving at all can be determined a violation of the suspension.

Of course, there are certain exceptions authorized under the law. For example, driving a scooter that is under 50cc’s is legal; is riding a bicycle or electric scooter, assuming a NC driver license is not required to do so legally.

Further consumption of alcohol may result in losing the DMV restoration hearing. That’s true too for taking illegal drugs or other medications not legally prescribed.

Call a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Criminal Defense Lawyer Our Charlotte law firm is here to help you. We provide legal assistance involving DMV hearings and license restoration hearings throughout the region, including legal matters in Charlotte, Monroe, Gastonia, Mooresville, Statesville, Salisbury and even Greensboro, NC.

Depending on the nature of the case, the severity of the offense, and our ability considering the calendar, we may be available to travel to help you.

“We have traveled extensively throughout North Carolina, helping people throughout the western part of the Pine State. Even if we can’t help, we’re willing to point you in the right direction.”

– Bill Powers, Criminal Attorney

Our law firm is NOT a lawyer referral service. Bill Powers is an experienced defense attorney and a former President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

If we are able to help, we’ll let you know. If it’s a simple legal matter that you might be able to handle yourself, we’ll let you know that.

And if we aren’t available for legal representation, we don’t mind referring people to other attorneys in North Carolina, assuming we know of someone in a particular jurisdiction.

Give us a ring. We’d love to provide you some hope.

Driving legally in North Carolina is important. If we’re able to provide legal representation, it would be an honor to hear from you.

CALL NOW: 704-342-4357

You may also reach Bill Powers at: Bill@CarolinaAttorneys.com

Client Reviews
I am so fortunate to have had Bill Powers on my case. Upon our first meeting, Bill insisted that through the emotions of anger, sadness, confusion, and betrayal that I remain resilient. He was available to answer questions with researched, logical, truthful answers throughout our two year stretch together... J.R.
Bill Powers and his firm were a true blessing. If anyone is contacting an attorney, it's more than likely not from a positive life experience. If there was a rating for "bedside manner" for lawyers he'd get a 10/10 for that as well. The entire staff were helpful... K.C.
Bill Powers’ staff has handled several traffic citations for me over the years, and they exceeded my expectations each and every time. Would highly recommend anyone faced with a traffic citation or court case contact his office and they will handle it from there. M.C.
Bill and his staff are flat out great. I (unfortunately) was a repeat customer after a string of tickets. These guys not only took care of the initial ticket for me, but went the extra mile and reduced my problems from 3 to just 1 (very minor one) on the same day I called back! I would recommend them to anyone. A.R.