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Name: Petrus v. DMV
Case #: D057523
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/07/2011
Summary

A driver is deprived of due process when, at an administrative Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) hearing for suspension of license, he is denied a continuance following receipt of blood analysis tests just before the hearing. An off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer observed Petrus hit a parked car, back up and almost hit it again. He contacted Petrus and saw symptoms indicative of alcohol consumption and arrested him for driving under the influence. A sample of Petrus’ blood was taken for analysis. When arrested, Petrus was served with the interim administrative per se order of suspension of his privilege to drive and later requested a hearing before the DMV. The DMV bears the burden of determining whether evidence establishes the person was driving, was arrested, and drove with a blood-alcohol content of .08% or greater. Despite requesting the results of the blood test well in advance, counsel for Petrus was not provided them until the morning of the hearing. The administrative officer denied counsel’s objection and admitted the results (.18 blood alcohol concentration), and then denied counsel’s request for a continuance, and re-imposed the license suspension. In this action, Petrus appealed the trial court’s denial of his writ of mandate seeking to set aside the suspension. Government Code section 11507.6 provides that in an administrative hearing, a party is entitled to discovery of blood examinations prior to the hearing. Interpreting the statute, the appellate court concluded that “prior to the hearing” does not equate to receiving discovery moments before the hearing. Even if it did, because the blood alcohol content was an element DMV was required to prove at the hearing, Petrus was deprived of due process because he was not provided the full and fair opportunity to present a meaningful case by rebutting the blood tests.