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DMV Hearing Officer Received Bribes in DUI Cases

Posted on in DUI

People accused of a DUI have a right to a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to challenge the automatic suspension of their driving privileges. These are administrative hearings, independent and separate from the criminal case. The hearing officer is responsible for determining several issues: 1) whether there was probable cause for the vehicle stop, 2) whether the motorist was advised of the implied consent laws and submitted to a chemical test, 3) whether the motorist was driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% and 4) Whether there are any defenses. However, one hearing officer took her responsibilities to a new level, by accepting bribes from lawyers in order to set the license suspensions aside.

DUI suspensions are taken very seriously by the DMV. However, Hearing Officer Alva Benavidez recently pleaded guilty in San Diego Federal Court, admitting that she set aside DUI suspensions in exchange for bribes. She pleaded to one count of conspiracy to accept bribes.

Among the items she received in order to look the other way were designer purses, sunglasses and cash, mainly from certain, and so far un-named attorneys. According the UT San Diego News, Benavidez admitted accepting bribes from six attorneys amounting to approximately $5,000 in money and merchandise. Benavidez worked for the DMV since 2000, but recently quit her job in the wake of the bribery investigation. She has not yet been sentenced, but faces up to five years in federal prison. She is set to be sentenced on April 20, 2015.

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