When it comes to a DUI there's a number of different concerns that apply in most cases. One of the biggest concerns is what's going to happen to your driver's license. Usually, this is controlled by the Department of Motor Vehicles. In other words, they have command of the license and the court has command of what actually 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 a period of time, but I rarely see that.
Usually, they don't have the authority to do that. They would be usurping the authority of the DMV if they started messing around with people licenses and then there would be a lot of confusion related to that.
DMV Administrative Hearing
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.
A lot 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 a thirty day period of real suspension, as long as you comply with a number of different things. Obviously, 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 a period of time, again after you jump through some hoops with the DMV.
This is another thing you should coordinate 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 worse cases that I've seen and usually the worse punishment a person can receive in a DUI case, because losing your license for a year in Los Angeles is a huge problem because of how difficult it is to get around, how things can be so far away. Without a driver's license it creates a huge burden on you, both financially and practically.
So, when it comes to license 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 record 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 actually had cases where we beat the DMV. The driver's license suspension was set aside by the DMV, but then you run into a problem.
Pleading Guilty to Driving Under the Influence
If you end up pleading guilty to a charge that affects your driver's license — for example, a DUI — that's automatically going to be transmitted to the court and 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 definitely 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 exactly 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 of time. All of these things need to be stayed on top of so you don't end up with the worse punishment.
I've seen people not realize that their driver's license was suspended by the DMV, 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 good 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.