California law requires automatic suspension of your license if you are caught driving with a BAC over the legal limit… but you can fight back.
California DUI arrests can result in two distinct legal proceedings:
- A criminal trial before a court, and
- An adminstrative hearing by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The following information applies to the California DMV administrative hearing.
1. Automatic Suspension of Your California Driver's License
The overwhelming majority of California DUI arrests include an allegation that the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) was at or above the legal limit of .08%. This is known as a “per se” DUI.
The DMV is required to suspend or revoke your driving privilege if, at the time you were arrested for a per se DUI:
- You refused to take a DUI blood or breath test, or
- Your chemical test results showed a BAC of 0.08% or greater (.01% if you were under 21).
The suspension of a license after a "per se" DUI arrest is known as an "Administrative Per Se" (APS) suspension.
The APS action is an automatic suspension by the DMV. It is entirely separate from your criminal case.
2. How Long Does a DMV Suspension Last?
If you are over 21 and your blood test showed a BAC of .08% or greater:
- A first offense will result in a 4-month suspension, with the possibility of a restricted license after 30 days.
- A second or subsequent offense within 10 years will result in a 1-year suspension, with the possibility of a restricted license after 90 days.
If you refused to take a chemical test, or you are under 21:
- 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.
3. How Do I Contest My DMV License Suspension?
When the police arrest you for a per se DUI, they take away your driver's license. They will then issue you a temporary license on a pink piece of paper. This temporary license is good for 30 days.
Upon expiration of your temporary license, your regular driving privileges will be suspended if:
- You do not timely request a DMV hearing,
- You fail to attend a scheduled DMV hearing, or
- You lose your DMV hearing.
You have just 10 days to request a DMV hearing to contest the suspension of your license.
Provided you request a hearing within the 10-day period, the suspension of your license will be postponed until after the hearing... even if this exceeds the original 30-day period.
4. How Do I Schedule a DMV Hearing?
You can schedule a license suspension hearing by calling the DMV directly. Or, if you retain an attorney in time, he or she can do it for you.
5. What Happens at a California DMV Hearing?
California DMV hearings take place by phone, or – provided you request an in-person hearing -- at one of the DMV's regional driver safety offices.
Typically, if you've hired an attorney to handle the criminal DUI charge, he or she will handle the hearing as well.
At your California DMV hearing, a hearing officer will decide three issues:
- Were you driving?
- Were you lawfully arrested?
- Did you wrongfully refuse a chemical test or was your BAC above the legal limit at the time you drove?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no," the hearing will be decided in your favor. The suspension of your license will be set aside.
If, however, the hearing officer finds against you, suspension of your license will go into effect soon after.
You may appeal the hearing officer's decision within 15 days. The fee for the appeal is $120.
6. How Do I Get My Driver's License Back After a DMV Hearing?
If you prevail at the DMV hearing, your license will be returned to you right away.
If you lose the hearing, your driver license will be returned at the end of the period of suspension, but only after you:
- pay a $125 reissue fee to the DMV ($100 if you were under 21), and
- file proof of financial responsibility (such as insurance).
7. How is a DMV Suspension Different Than a Court-Imposed Suspension?
The DMV has authority to suspend or revoke your driving privilege only. The DMV does not issue:
- jail sentences,
- probation, or
- other criminal penalties.
A favorable DMV hearing has no bearing on your court case. And while a criminal acquittal can often be used to convince the DMV to reverse its findings, it is usually something that takes place after the fact. DMV hearings take place very quickly. Criminal cases, by contrast, proceed a much slower pace.
Our Southern California DUI lawyers understand just how devastating the loss of your driver's license can be. We have years of experience defending our clients' right to drive in both criminal and DMV administrative hearings.
We defend clients throughout Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and Ventura Counties.
Remember -- you have just 10 days after a DUI arrest to request a DMV hearing.
Contact us right away for a free consultation. You don't have to face the loss of your license alone.