The DMV and Automatic License Suspensions
One of the most dreaded California DUI penalties is a driver’s license suspension. A first-time DUI arrest in California doesn’t necessarily mean your license will be suspended. In fact, a license suspension after a DUI arrest is far from automatic and you can often challenge it successfully if you hire a good DUI lawyer in Orange County. Specifically, after your first-time California DUI arrest, you must do two things in order to prevent the suspension of your California driver’s license: avoid a DUI conviction in court, and avoid losing (or failing to request within 10 days of your arrest) a DMV hearing.
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After being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) in California, your driver’s license will be subject to an automatic suspension from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This suspension does not take place immediately.
You generally do not lose your driver’s license immediately after a DUI arrest. This happens, rather, if you fail to request a DMV hearing or if you lose your DMV hearing. When facing a first offense DUI in California, you must also be aware that the California DMV will attempt to have your license suspended due to an admin per se violation (APS). Immediately after being arrested on a first-time DUI offense, you will be given just ten days in which to request a DMV hearing from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and therefore, put a temporary hold/stay on the suspension of your license.
However, if no hearing is requested, the DMV may then be able to automatically proceed with the suspension of your driver’s license. Significantly, only individuals arrested for DUI with a BAC of .08 or higher face such an administrative driver’s license suspension. See Vehicle Code 13353.2.2 Hence, if you submitted to a chemical test and the results eventually show a blood alcohol concentration level below .08, the California DMV will NOT suspend your license per an APS violation.
If your BAC comes back .08 or above, however, you will need to request and prepare for a DMV hearing. While the chances of being successful at a DMV hearing are typically slim, they certainly improve if you are represented at the hearing by an attorney who knows what they are doing.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is required to suspend or revoke the driving privilege of any person arrested for DUI of alcohol or a combination of alcohol and drugs, who: takes a chemical test (blood or breath) that shows a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or more while driving a noncommercial vehicle, 0.04% while driving a commercial vehicle, and/or a 0.01% while on DUI probation, OR refuses to take or fails to complete a chemical test (blood or breath) to determine their BAC level.
A court conviction for a first-time DUI in California automatically triggers a six-month license suspension pursuant to Vehicle Code 13352(a)(1).1 A judge, however, does not impose this suspension. Instead, upon your conviction, the court notifies the DMV and the DMV imposes the suspension.
It is important to consider that if you get the DUI charge reduced to reckless driving or to an offense other than driving under the influence, then there is no court-triggered license suspension. The California DMV usually allows defendants to continue driving anywhere during their license suspension if they agree to install an ignition interlock device in their cars. (California Senate Bill 1046 (2018)). In the event that you decide to take your DUI case to trial and it results in a mistrial, hung jury or “not guilty” verdict, then no court-triggered license suspension will take place.
Once you have served your 4-month suspension period, or, if you opted to apply for a restricted license and have maintained the restriction for the applicable amount of time, you will be eligible to reinstate your driving privilege with no restrictions. Note: Any court convictions/ sanctions subsequent to your arrest may be in effect. You must clear all outstanding suspensions or revocations on your record in order to fully reinstate your driving privilege.
If you were arrested less than 10 days ago for DUI, call our offices now to discuss representation at the DMV administrative hearing. In some cases, we may be able to help you avoid a suspension.