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Driver’s License Issues in California DUI Cases

DMV Administrative Hearing

When it comes to a DUI, several different concerns apply in most cases.  One of the biggest concerns is what will happen to your driver's license. Usually, this is controlled by the Department of Motor Vehicles.  In other words, they have command of the right, and the court knows what has to your record and what happens to you, punishment-wise.

That's dictated to a degree by the police and the prosecutors — how the police write the police report up, how the prosecutors view things.

There are occasions where prosecutors and judges will get involved with somebody's driver's license.  In other words, they might make it part of the terms and conditions of probation that a person gets their license suspended for some time, but I rarely see that.

Usually, they don't have the authority to do that.  They would be usurping the power of the DMV if they started messing around with people's licenses, and then there would be a lot of confusion related to that.

Usually, what you'll see in a DUI, the DMV will have what is called an Administrative Hearing where they're going to decide whether to suspend a driver's license and for how long.

Driver's License Issues in California DUI Cases

Much of this is dictated by statute, depending on what a person was convicted for.  For example, if it's a first-time DUI, usually you're going to lose your license for six months. See CALCRIM 2110 Jury Instructions – Driving Under the Influence and CALCRIM 2111 Jury Instructions – Driving With 0.08 Percent Blood Alcohol.

You'll be able to get a restricted license after thirty days of actual suspension, as long as you comply with several different things.  You need to coordinate with your DUI attorney in doing that.

On a second offense, the suspension is much longer.  You'll probably lose your license for a year, but you will be able to get a restricted license after some time, again after you jump through some hoops with the DMV. 

You should coordinate this with the Department of Motor Vehicles and your attorney.

DUI Refusal and Loss of Driver's License

If you have a refusal DUI, you lose your license for one year with no restricted license.  These are the worst cases that I've seen and usually the worse punishment a person can receive in a DUI case because losing your request for a year in Los Angeles is a massive problem because of how difficult it is to get around and how things can be so far away.  Without a driver's license, it creates a significant burden on you, both financially and practically.

So, when it comes to licensing revocations, that's usually when someone is getting a third or fourth-time DUI.  The DMV sees it, and a lot of times, they'll revoke someone's license for two, three, or even four years, depending on what their criminal record looks like, depending on how many points they have on their history, and depending on what they end up pleading guilty or no contest to.

Another way in addition to an Administrative Hearing to lose your license or have your license suspended related to a DUI case is if you plead guilty in court.  I've had instances where we beat the DMV.  The DMV set the driver's license suspension, but then you run into a problem.

Pleading Guilty to Driving Under the Influence

Suppose you end up pleading guilty to a charge that affects your driver's license — for example, a DUI — that will automatically be transmitted to the court. Then you're usually going to end up with a driver's license suspension.  Not based on an Administrative Hearing by the DMV but based on a conviction in a criminal court.

This is a tricky area of the law.  This is something that you have to be proactive about.  Not just consulting with your DUI defense attorney, but also going to the DMV yourself and finding out precisely what you need — what documentation you need.

Whether it's an SR22 proof of insurance, whether you have to pay a certain amount of money, whether you have to wait a certain period, these things need to stay on top so you don't end up with the worse punishment.

I've seen people not realize that the DMV suspended their driver's license, then they get pulled over by the police and arrested and end up in criminal court, and now they're trying to argue that they did not have notice that their license was suspended.

You don't even want to go down that road.  So, take care of business in the first place.  Hire a reasonable DUI defense attorney.  Coordinate with them.  Coordinate with the Department of Motor Vehicles if you want to end up with the best result related to any license issues.

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