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Driver License Suspension


If you have been arrested for a DUI, your license may be suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV") as an "administrative sanction" and if convicted by the criminal court, as a "punishment." While this appears to be double jeopardy, our state's "Implied Consent" law makes it possible. Losing your driver's license can mean job loss, the inability to get to medical appointments or to school, and many other restrictions.  DMV sanctions can be as complicated as criminal penalties for license suspension. Suspension times vary according to whether it is a first time DUI, an underage DUI, whether you have hadmultiple DUIs, or whether you refused chemical breath and blood tests. Whatever your particular circumstance, immediately upon your arrest for DUI, your California license will be confiscated by the police and you will be served with a notice indicating that you have 30 days of temporary driving privileges. In small print, the document tells you that you have the right to an administrative hearing to contest the suspension. This hearing will not be scheduled unless you or your attorney contacts the DMV within 10 days after your arrest. Failing to do so means that your license will be automatically suspended in 30 days. For this reason, immediately contacting an attorney after your arrest is one of the smartest moves you can make!


What "penalties" can the DMV impose? The DMV has the power to revoke, suspend or restrict a licensee's privilege to operate a motor vehicle in California after an arrest for DUI. This procedure is separate from the criminal case, and any "penalty" imposed is in addition to any court penalties.  A licensee with no prior convictions for DUI and no prior suspensions for a DUI arrest will typically face a four-month suspension. If the licensee has one or more prior convictions for DUI, or "Wet Reckless," within ten years of the present offense, the DMV will suspend driving privileges for at least one year. If a licensee is under the age of 21, or has refused to submit to a chemical test, there is a mandatory period of suspension for at least one year.


How do I get a restricted license so that I can go to work? A restricted driver's license allows you to drive to and from work, during the course and scope of your employment, and to and from an alcohol rehabilitation program. The DMV hearing will not resolve this issue. You can apply for a restricted license only at a DMV branch office, not where license hearings are held.


How long will my driving privilege be suspended for refusing the chemical test if I did not request or win a hearing? If you were 21 years of older at the time of arrest and you refused or failed to complete a blood or breath test, or a urine test, if applicable:

  • A first offense will result in a 1-year suspension

  • A second offense within 10 years will result in a 2-year revocation

  • A third or subsequent offense within 10 years will result in a 3-year revocation

If you were under 21 years of age at the time of being detained or arrested and you refused or failed to complete a PAS test or other chemical test:

  • A first offense will result in a 1-year suspension.

  • A second offense within 10 years will result in a 2-year revocation.

  • A third or subsequent offense within 10 years will result in a 3-year revocation.

If you are under 21 year of age, took a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test or other chemical test and results showed 0.01% BAC or more, your driving privilege will be suspended for 1 year.


If my license was already suspended by the DMV or it is too late for me to request a hearing, how do I get a license to drive? To reinstate your driving privilege after a suspension or revocation, you must do all of the following:

  • Finish the complete period of suspension or revocation

  • Pay a $125 reissue fee to the DMV

  • File proof of financial responsibility with a California SR-22 Insurance Proof Certificate , or prove that you are self-insured by making a $35,000 cash deposit, or presenting a surety bond, or self-insurer certificate under Vehicle Code Section 16430

  • Submit proof that you have enrolled in a qualified and appropriate level DUI program, and submit proof of completion when finished

  • Continue to maintain proof of financial responsibility for 3 years

If you enroll and fail to participate or do not complete the DUI program, the department will immediately revoke your restricted license and re-impose the suspension for up to 4 months from the day your suspension began.


How long will my license be suspended if I did not request or lost a DMV hearing? If it was established that you took a blood, breath or urine test and the results shown are .08% or more, or .01% or more if under age 21 or on probation for DUI and you had no defenses:

  • First offense: suspended 4 months with restricted eligibility

  • First offense under 21 or on probation for DUI: one year suspension with hardship eligibility

  • One or more prior offenses in 7 years: suspended 1 year

If you refused or failed to complete a blood, breath or urine test and did not have a valid defense:

  • First offense: suspended 1 year

  • Second offense in 7 years: revoked 2 years

  • Three or more offenses in 7 years: revoked 3 years


What can happen to my car insurance? Your insurance company will probably raise your premiums and label you a "high-risk" driver after learning that you have been convicted of DUI. You may have to file proof of insurance with the DMV for a minimum of three years. Your insurance company will also have to provide the DMV with proof of insurance, which removes your license suspension and replaces it with a restriction. The insurance company is also required to notify the DMV if it cancels your insurance for any reason.  Your insurance company may cancel your insurance at any time after your DUI. The company will send you a notice of why your policy was canceled, and you will have to find another insurance carrier who will cover you despite having a cancellation on your insurance history.

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