Under the California Vehicle Code, suspension means that a person’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle is temporarily withdrawn. California implemented the Admin Per Se (APS) program in 1990 and allows a police officer to immediately confiscate your license if you are pulled over for a DUI and you meet any of the following criteria1
- Your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or more while driving a non-commercial vehicle,
- Your BAC is 0.04% or more while driving a commercial vehicle,
- Your BAC is 0.01% or more while you are under 21 years old and driving, or
- You refuse to take the chemical breath or blood test after you are lawfully arrested.2
If you meet the any of the above criteria and your license is confiscated the police will issue you a temporary 30-day license. You will also be advised that you have only 10-days after you receive an Order of Suspension/Revocation from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to contest in writing the suspension of your license before the DMV. If you fail to contest your suspension, your license will be automatically suspended after 30-days for a certain period of time. Unless you request an in-person hearing, the hearing will be held by phone with a DMV officer.
Length of Suspension
The length of your suspension depends on whether you refused chemical testing of your breath or blood (or urine in some cases) and if you have a prior DUI conviction within the past 10-years. If you do contest or challenge your suspension, your temporary license will remain in effect until after the hearing. This is referred to as an Admin Per Se Hearing, which is an administrative proceeding before a DMV officer who will hear testimony and consider other evidence that you or your DUI defense lawyer will offer. The DMV may or may not present testimony from the arresting officer and any possible expert witnesses to rebut your defenses. You or your attorney can subpoena the arresting officer to testify and can present any other documentary evidence obtained during discovery.
Be aware that the license suspension hearing is distinct from the criminal proceeding for the DUI charges. Your Admin Per Se hearing is usually held after your arraignment for the DUI charge, in most cases, but before your criminal charges have been resolved either by a guilty or no-contest plea, or by a verdict rendered by a judge or jury. This means that your license could still be suspended even if you are found not guilty by a judge or jury or you pled to a non-alcohol related offense unless you were successful at the Admin Per Se hearing.
How Long Do You Lose Your License for a DUI in California?
With regard to a suspension for a first DUI offense. Regardless of the outcome of your criminal case, you will face a 4-month administrative suspension and a 6-month suspension imposed by the court if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was at least 0.08%3.
If you had had your license suspended in the past and were still on probation, then your license will be revoked for 2-years.
If you are under 21 when you are arrested for a DUI and your BAC was 0.01% or more, your license will be suspended for one year.
If you did not complete or refused to take a breath, blood, or urine test, then your license will be suspended for one year.
If a passenger in your vehicle, other vehicle or pedestrian was injured as a result of driving under the influence the license suspension will be one year.
In addition to the immediate confiscation of your drivers’ license you may face an additional suspension from the court. The court will likely suspend your license for six months and will not reissue it until you have proof of financial responsibility and that you successfully completed your driving under the influence program required by the court.
This APS program has served successfully as a large deterrent for driving under the influence because of the immediate loss of your license that you will face if arrested for a DUI.
Second DUI Offense
If a second license suspension is imposed that is within 10-years of your initial suspension, you will lose your license for 2-years from the criminal court, and given a 12-month administrative suspension from the DMV for having a BAC of 0.08% or higher. The suspension periods are allowed to overlap.
A third license suspension within a 10-year period will result in loss of your driving privileges for 3-years.
Should your license be suspended for a 4th time for DUI, it will be revoked instead of suspended for 4-years. You will have to apply for a new license before you may drive again.
When you are arrested for a DUI, the arresting officer will give you an Order of Suspension or Revocation when they confiscated your license at the scene. If the officer did not provide you with an Order of Suspension or Revocation upon arrest, the DMV will mail you one. The order will include a temporary drivers’ license. This temporary license is valid for 30 days from the issue date. The license suspension or revocation period will begin at the end of the 30 days. It is at that time that you are permitted to apply for a restricted license at any DMV office.
Can You Get a Restricted License for a DUI?
A restricted license is one that allows you to drive to and from work, school, or to attend DUI classes, or to drive yourself or a dependent for necessary or critical medical care, after your license has been totally suspended for a certain time. Under no circumstances will you be eligible for a restricted license if you refused a test of your breath or blood. The process for obtaining a restricted license following first, second, and third DUI convictions or suspensions are as follows:
You have to meet certain conditions before applying for and obtaining a restricted license. You will have to be enrolled in a DUI class or any other program imposed by the court; obtain an SR-22, which is proof of financial responsibility from your auto insurer; and pay a $125 reissuance fee. Your 30-day temporary license must have expired before you can apply. Further, if your BAC was at least 0.17%, you will be required to install an ignition interlock system on your auto as a condition of having being granted a restricted license.
For a second DUI offense within 10-years, you may apply for a restricted license after 90-days, provided you are enrolled in a DUI class or other court-imposed programs, obtained an SR-22, paid the $125 fee, and installed an ignition interlock system. Your driving privileges are restricted for 12-months.
If you refused chemical testing, you are not eligible for a restricted license or regular license for 2-years.
SR-22 insurance is a type of insurance that allows you, after conviction of a DUI, to get your license reinstated after the period of suspension ends or a restricted license if permitted. An SR-22 is a document that shows proof of financial responsibility and the insurer files in with your state’s DMV. You must carry this insurance with you until your probation period ends and at that time the SR-22 insurance will expire.
After you receive your Order of Suspension or Revocation, you have 10 days to schedule a DMV hearing to contest the Order.
The timing of the suspension can be a little confusing. If you receive an Order of Suspension or Revocation upon your arrest for a DUI, the suspension starts 30 days from that date. This means that you can continue to drive for 30 days on your temporary license that should be issued with the suspension notice. However, if for some reason the officer does not issue you and Order of Suspension or Revocation upon arrest, the DMV will mail you one. If this happens, remember that your license suspension begins 30 days from the date of issue, which is not necessarily the same date that you receive it in the mail.
Before you can get your license back after a DUI conviction or DMV license suspension, you must allow a certain time to pass. As indicated above, for a first DUI you must wait 30-days for your temporary license to expire before you can apply for a restricted license. You can generally get your full license privileges back earlier once you complete DUI school or after 4-6 months has passed for a first DUI, or 12-months for a second and increasingly longer for a third and fourth.
You will have to present an SR-22, or certificate of financial responsibility, that most auto insurers can provide. If not, the DMV has a list of companies where you can obtain it. For a first DUI where your BAC was at least 0.07%, and for all subsequent DUI convictions, you are required to install in any vehicle you own an ignition interlock system to be kept for a certain time, usually for at least one year. There is a reissuance fee of $125 that must be paid and you must present proof of at least enrollment in, if not completion of, a DUI class or other court-imposed program.
Is Your License Suspended Immediately After a DUI?
If you had a valid driver’s license when arrested for DUI, your regular license will be taken from you and you will be handed a 30-day license. After receiving Notice of Suspension/Revocation from the DMV, you have 10-days to request an Admin Per Se Hearing. If you do not, your license will be automatically suspended after the 30-days.
Can a Revoked License be Reinstated?
A license revocation means that your license or driving privileges have been canceled or terminated for an indefinite period of time. To have it reinstated, you will need to apply to the Secretary of State’s office. You will have to demonstrate proof that you have taken positive steps to treat an alcohol problem, if that was the reason for the termination, or other treatment or counseling to change the negative behavior that led to the revocation, and a showing of good character. Usually, it will take a certain number of years before your license will be reinstated. Also, since your license was canceled, you will have to re-take the written and driving test and pay all other fees.
If I plead to a lesser charge in court that does not require my license to be suspended, can I get it back?
This all depends on which charge you plea to. In some circumstances, the DMV can still uphold its suspension of your license for the four-month period.
It is important to consult an attorney immediately because you only have an initial 10 days from the issue of an order of suspension or revocation to contest the decision to automatically suspend your license. Also, the timing of the suspension requirements can be rather confusing and if your license is suspended its very important to have the timing of your suspension coordinated properly. We want to prevent any extra days of suspension by coordinating your court case and dmv matter to minimize the total days of suspension.
Contact us for a free confidential consultation at: (818) 351-9555.