Civil cases in the criminal division include civil suspensions of driver's licenses, cases involving contested fish and wildlife fines, and appeals of decisions involving traffic and municipal ordinance violations.
Under certain circumstances, your right to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Vermont may be suspended without a criminal conviction.
If you are accused of driving under the influence (DUI), your license will be suspended before you have been convicted of the charge. This is called a civil suspension. The DUI charge is a criminal case. They are companion cases and both are heard in the criminal court.
If you are charged with DUI, the law enforcement officer will begin the civil suspension process by giving you a "Notice of Intention to Suspend and/or Disqualify Driver's License or Privilege to Operate". You may receive this notice soon after the stop occurs or through the mail.
If you wish to contest your suspension, you will need to complete the second page of this form. The second page is called "Request for Hearing Regarding Intention to Suspend". It is a written request for a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You must file that request with the DVM within 7 days from the date you received that notice. The DMV then files this request with the court. If you do not file this request, the DMV will automatically suspend your license without a court hearing.
You may receive legal representation from a public defender for the companion criminal DUI case. A public defender will not usually represent you in the civil suspension matter. Most people represent themselves in this type of court case.
The preliminary hearing on the civil suspension must be held within 21 days from the date you were stopped by law enforcement. A final decision must be issued by the court within 42 days from the date you were stopped. This is known as the 42-day rule. At the preliminary hearing, you can waive the 42-day rule and ask to have your civil suspension case combined with your criminal case. Hearings on both matters will then be heard at the same time.
There are laws that govern the protection of fish and wildlife. If you violate any of the laws you may need to pay a fine. If you contest the fine, a case will be opened in the criminal division and a hearing may be set.
If you appeal a decision involving a traffic ticket or a municipal ordinance violation, your appeal goes to the criminal division. The hearing will be on the record (meaning that neither party may present new evidence) or, if you choose, de novo (where evidence is again presented for the court to consider). You may decide which kind of appeal you would prefer when you file the notice of appeal. If you do not indicate which type of appeal you want, the appeal is on the record.
If you wish a trial by jury, you must make your request in writing. While an appeal is pending, the penalty fee is on hold until the judge issues a final decision. However, the points against your license applied by DMV will still be in effect.
Because these violations are civil, you do not have the right to representation by a court appointed public defender.
Find more information on how to appeal a Judicial Bureau decision.