DUI License questions
Browse these FAQs for important information about your Drivers License and the DMV.
DMV & License
You have only 10 days to call the DMV after your DUI arrest date to obtain a STAYand a HEARING – otherwise your license is subject to automatic license suspension 30 days after your DUI arrest date.
You must call specific DMV offices and not your local DMV office where you are likely to be misinformed.
These 10 days include weekends. For example if you were arrested on January 5 you only have until January 15 to make a DMV hearing request. If you like you can contact our office (310) 285-1516 and we will obtain a stay and a DMV hearing for you.
Method 1: Get and win a DMV Hearing
You must request a Stay and a DMV Hearing within 10 days of your DUI arrest. If you win your hearing, the DMV will not take any action against your license. However, you must be aware that the court still has the power to restrict, suspend or revoke your license depending on your case and if you have prior DUI’s.
The terrible thing about a DUI is the court and DMV have separate and independent powers over your license. This can be very confusing; so be aware of this fact in determining what can happen to your license.
DUI law in california is so convoluted and the DMV will do everything possible to have you lose the DMV hearing. DMV hearings are very difficult to win and if you are convicted in court of a DUI, the DMV will then usually impose a suspension resulting from what happens in court. So they try and get you both ways.
Read more in How to win a DMV Hearing.
Method 2: The Jury at your jury trial finds you not guilty
The other way to avoid a license suspension is if you have a jury trial in court:-
- and the Jury finds you not guilty of all the DUI charges
- and you did not refuse to take a chemical test (breath or blood)
then the DMV will return your license without suspending your license.
Read more about the benefits of Plea Bargain versus Jury Trial
To get a restricted license you will need to go to your local DMV office. The DMV will then look at your driver’s record to see if you have:-
- Enrolled in the approved DUI class
- Filed an SR-22 proof of insurance
- Served the appropriate suspension time
- Complied with all Ignition Interlock Requirements
If you meet all of these DMV requirements and are eligible for a restricted license, they will then issue you a restricted license after you pay them a DMV reissue fee of $125.
To see if you are eligible for a restricted license, see Restricted License
If the California DMV wants to suspend your license for being a negligent operator:-
- You are still entitled to a DMV hearing
- And you might be able to get a restricted drivers license if you drive a lot for work
So make sure you have a DMV hearing in these situations. You must request a DMV Hearing within 10 days of your DUI arrest.
SR-22 – Proof of car insurance
If your license gets suspended after your DUI arrest, at some point you are going to have to obtain an SR-22 from your insurance company to get your license back from the DMV.
An SR-22 is the only document that the California DMV will accept as proof you have car insurance.
You have to ask your insurance company for the SR-22 document, and it usually tips them off that you have a DUI, and your insurance company will do one of three things to you:
- Cancel you
- Increase your premiums
- Or do nothing.
Higher Insurance Rates
A DUI on your driver’s license record in California can lead to much higher insurance rates.
- A misdemeanor DUI is on your criminal record and California DMV record for 10 years.
- The ten year time period begins on your arrest date (and not on your conviction date).
- After 10 years, the courts and DMV cannot use that DUI against you.
- A felony DUI is on your record for 10 years.
California is ridiculously tough on people who get a DUI within 10 years of another DUI.
You must realize that, on a second DUI, California Law wants to :-
- Put you in jail for 96 hours
- And SUSPEND your license for one year without driving at all; no driving, not even to work, on a second DUI.
See also DUI Penalties and Laws FAQ
If you get a total of:-
- 4 points in a year
- 6 points in 2 years
- or 8 points in 3 years
– then the DMV will try to suspend your license for 6 months for being a negligent operator, a driver with too many points.
Learn more about DUI points on your license
If you refused to take a breath test or blood test at the police station when you were arrested for DUI, even if you tried blowing into the breath machine, you face a one-year suspension of your license with absolutely no chance of getting a restricted license to drive to work during this suspension. If you have prior DUIs then you face a longer suspension also with no chance of getting a restricted license:-
- A 2-year revocation is imposed for a second offense (within 10 years)
- A 3-year revocation is imposed for a third or subsequent offense (within 10 years).
You must win your DMV hearing in all refusal cases to get your license back and avoid this strict punishment. The courts have no power over your license in refusal cases which means even if you go to trial and win, it will not affect your license status. You must win your DMV hearing to get your license back.
Implied consent law
California law says that anyone with a California license driving in the state of California has given their implied consent to taking a chemical test if a police officer suspects they have been drinking and driving. If a police officer requests that you take a breath or blood test at the police station to determine your blood alcohol level, then you must take a test.
This means that if you are pulled over by a police officer and he thinks you have been drinking alcohol you get to choose but you must either take a breath test at the police station or submit to a blood test and give a sample of your blood to determine how much alcohol is inside your body. If a breath or blood test is not available, you must provide a urine sample. By having a license you have already consented to take this chemical test. (Unfortunately, no one knows about or understands this implied consent law. See California Veh Code 23612).
Consequences of a refusal
If a police officer pulls you over and suspects you have been drinking and driving, and he says you must take a breath or blood test and you refuse to take a breath or blood test you face some very serious punishment for refusing to take a chemical test. By refusing to take a test, you face:-
- A one-year license suspension of your license with no chance for a restricted license to drive to work. That’s one year of no driving at all!
- In court, you also face greater punishment such as a 9-month DUI class instead of a 3-month DUI class normally ordered for a first-time DUI
- You possibly face 48 hours in jail for not taking a chemical test.
There have been cases where people have tried blowing into the breath machine and when no result is obtained, officers sometimes get impatient, accusing you of not blowing hard enough, and they say that you have refused to take a test without telling you that you face a 1-year license suspension and a minimum of 48 hours in jail from the court for refusing to take a test.
How to save your license
If the officer accuses you of refusing to take a test, the only way to save your license from being suspended for one year is to request a DMV hearing and to win this DMV hearing. You are entitled to a DMV hearing even if you refused to take a test. In a refusal case, the DMV has complete control of your license. This means even if you have a jury trial for your DUI and the jury finds you not guilty of the DUI it will not change the outcome of the DMV hearing concerning your refusal to take a test.
If you are being charged with a Refusal of a test by a police officer, you are facing a one-year suspension of your license and additional punishment in court. It is imperative that you immediately request a DMV hearing to try and save your license from being suspended for one year.
Control of your license
The courts have no power over your license in refusal cases. The DMV hearing completely controls what happens to your license in a refusal case: if you win the DMV hearing your license will be returned and will not be suspended for one year. If you lose the hearing your license will be suspended for one year and you are not eligible for any restricted license that would allow you to drive to work. It is a one-year hard suspension allowing no driving at all not even to work.
So Refusal cases are very serious and you must get a DMV hearing to fight these allegations.
You cannot go to traffic school for a DUI in California nor can you do diversion or deferred entry of judgment for a DUI. (Please note if you are a Military Veteran and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you might be able to do a diversion program for a DUI.) However, you can do traffic school for traffic tickets.
You always want to be conscious of DMV points, as a DUI puts two DMV points on your license record. If you get charged with a DUI and a Hit and Run, or a DUI and Driving on a Suspended License, you are facing four DMV points from these charges – as a Hit and Run is a two DMV point violation. Driving on a Suspended License also puts two DMV points on your record.
If you get four DMV points in a twelve month period, the DMV will send you a letter stating that your license will be suspended for six months for being a Negligent Operator. You always want to avoid additional DMV points going on your record from traffic tickets so it is always a good idea when you get a traffic ticket for a moving violation like speeding to consider fighting the ticket or requesting traffic school. Remember you can do traffic school once every 18 months to keep a DMV point off your record.
Penalties -License Suspension
If you lose your DMV Hearing and there was not a refusal, you face the following license suspensions:
First Time DUI
– the DMV will suspend your license for a minimum of one month. After this one month suspension of your license, if you:-
- Enroll in an alcohol class
- File proof of insurance (SR-22, proof of financial responsibility)
- And pay a DMV license reissue fee of $125
… then you are eligible to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) and obtain an IID-restricted driver license with unlimited driving privileges. This applies to convictions in the four IID pilot counties of Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare which occurred on or after July 1, 2010.
In summary, on a first time DUI in Los Angeles County, you cannot drive for 30 days if you lose your DMV hearing but after 30 days you can get an IID-restricted license with unlimited driving privileges.
Second Time DUI within 10 years
– the DMV will suspend your license for two years if you lose your DMV hearing. NO DRIVING AT ALL IS ALLOWED FOR THE FIRST 90 DAYS. YOU ARE NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO DRIVE TO WORK.
People cannot believe the DMV will not allow a restricted license during this 90-day period but the law is brutal and merciless on second DUIs and your license will be suspended for two years – WITH NO DRIVING ALLOWED AT ALL for 90 DAYS by the DMV for a second time DUI.
After 90 days of no driving at all and installation of an ignition interlock device, you might be eligible for an IID-restricted license which would allow you to drive for work-related reasons. The DMV will notify you if and when you are eligible to apply for a restricted license.
Note: The 90-day no-driving period applies if you were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol only. If you were convicted of driving under the influence of any drug or the combined influence of any drug and an alcoholic beverage, the period of no driving at all before you might be eligible for a restricted license is 12 months.
Third Time DUI within 10 years
– the DMV and the Court will attempt to revoke your license for three years so you cannot drive at all. After six months of no driving at all, you might be eligible for an IID-restricted license which would allow you to drive for work-related reasons, subject to certain conditions including, among other things:-
- Proof of enrollment in an 18-month or 30-month DUI Education program
- Installation of an ignition interlock device.
Note: The 6-month no-driving period applies if you were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol only. If you were convicted of driving under the influence of any drug or the combined influence of any drug and an alcoholic beverage, the period of no driving at all before you might be eligible for a restricted license is 12 months.
The DMV will notify you if and when you are eligible to apply for an IID-restricted license.
California immediate driver license suspension law
In 1990, California implemented an immediate driver license suspension law for alcohol-impaired drivers, also referred to as an “Administrative Per Se (APS)” or “on-the-spot” license suspension law.
If you have been arrested for one of the following offenses, or you have refused a chemical test, the California Admin Per Se law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend or revoke your license upon arrest.
By DUI laws in California, it is illegal for any person to operate:
- A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
- Any vehicle requiring a commercial driver license (with or without a commercial driver license issued to the driver), with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
- A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher, if the person is under age 21.
- A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher at any age if the person is on DUI probation for a prior DUI.
30-day Temporary License
After your arrest for DUI, your driver’s license is confiscated by the arresting officer, and you are issued with a 30-day temporary license. This 30-day temporary license is intended to provide you with sufficient time to challenge the suspension through a DMV administrative review (DMV Hearing). You only have 10 days after your arrest to ask for a DMV Stay and Hearing to try to save your license.
Independent of the court
This suspension of your license by the DMV is called an “administrative action” and is independent of any court-imposed criminal penalties for conviction of your DUI offense. Be aware that the DMV and the court are two separate institutions and have separate and independent powers over your license.
If your charges are dismissed by the court
APS Dismissal Hearing
If your charges are dismissed by the court for insufficient evidence or if you are, following arrest, never charged by the court for DUI, you may request an APS dismissal hearing to consider setting aside the associated APS suspension of your license.
- DMV Fact sheet on Immediate Driver License Suspension or Revocation Drivers Age 21 and Older
- DMV’s California Administrative Per Se Facts (2016).