Every 52 minutes, drunk driving kills one person. In an effort to discourage drunk driving, California has swift and harsh penalties for anyone convicted of a DUI. However, there is an additional layer of penalties for anyone arrested for a DUI charge.
Due to California’s automatic administrative suspension, you can have your license suspended by the DMV within 30 days of your arrest. This time frame puts the suspension ahead of any criminal trial. In other words, yes, you can lose your license immediately after a DUI.
Losing Your License at the Time of Your Arrest
Police officers in California can take your license from you when they arrest you under suspicion of DUI. They aren’t taking away your driving privileges at this stage. Instead, you will be issued a temporary license that will expire within 30 days.
If the officer does not take your license at the time of the arrest, you may still be issued a temporary permit to drive by the DMV. However, instead of receiving the temporary permit from the officer, the DMV will mail one to you. It will have a 30-day expiration date, though it will be from the date the DMV handles the request rather than the date of your arrest.
The Administrative Suspension Process Explained
When the officer takes your license and issues your temporary one, that notifies the DMV of your pending DUI charge. This triggers the automatic administrative process, known as the “admin per se” process, which will result in your license getting suspended.
The length of the suspension will vary based on your record but can be as much as four months for a first-time offender. The process has two critical deadlines:
- 30 days from the date of your arrest—when the DMV will suspend your license
- 10 days from the date of your arrest—the last day to request a hearing to contest the administrative suspension
Even if you’re unsure of how you intend to handle the criminal aspect of your DUI, acting quickly is an essential step if you’re looking to minimize the potential impact of the arrest.
Your only chance of avoiding this suspension is by requesting a hearing with representatives from the DMV within 10 days of your arrest. You can use the time between the request and the hearing to speak with a DUI lawyer about the unique facts of your case.
How the DMV Hearing Works
An administrative officer’s hearing will get held by the DMV rather than a judge or other judicial branch employee. While it is a formal procedure, it is not a strictly legal one. The DMV will be looking to see if there is sufficient reason for the administrative suspension. It will handle evidence the same way a trial will.
However, a DMV hearing can be a vital part of building your DUI defense. On top of potentially allowing you to keep your license before the official judicial proceedings, the DMV hearing is an opportunity for you to examine the case against you. In addition, you can have an attorney represent you for the hearing, which can be a substantial factor in your favor.
License Suspension Upon a DUI Conviction
In addition to the administrative suspension, the DMV issues, you can also lose your license from a DUI conviction. Two factors will determine the length of time you lose your license:
- Your history of DUI convictions
- Other aggravating factors
For first-time offenders 21 and over, you will have your license suspended for four months if you submitted to a urine or chemical test. Repeat offenses will come with longer suspensions and can result in a revocation of your driving privileges altogether.
You can also have your license suspended separately from the DUI offense. Refusing a blood, urine, or chemical test after your arrest, for example, can result in a more severe license suspension. You can still have your license suspended for refusing a chemical test, even if you don’t get convicted of the DUI offense.
Timing Is Key to Avoid License Suspension
You have 10 days from your arrest to request a hearing. It’s absolutely essential that you get strong legal representation within that time. License suspension is mandatory in California, and the only way out of it is through this hearing. You don’t want to waste any time building a strong case against suspension.
Don’t Lose Your License Without a Fight
Getting arrested for a DUI doesn’t mean you have to lose your license immediately. There are many alternatives you have to consider, especially if you’re a first-time offender. Even though the law isn’t on your side, that doesn’t mean that you should give up on your case.
How Can I Fight Back to Keep My License?
The best way you can fight back to keep your license is to quickly get your DUI charges dropped or significantly reduced. A lawyer can help you do this by examining your arrest record and other critical pieces of evidence pertinent to your case.
After careful examination, you can fight for your license by showing various flaws in the prosecution’s argument, such as:
- Improper field sobriety tests or faulty testing equipment
- No probable cause for a police officer to have pulled you over
- Lack of any evidence you were operating the vehicle
In these situations, once the court decides your innocence, the DMV will reinstate your license back to you.
Alternatives to License Suspension
There are alternative measures that you can take in place of a license suspension. One way is to get a restricted license that allows you to travel to and from work. To get this, you need to have spent at least 30 days of your four-month suspension first and enroll in a DUI program.
Additionally, you can also obtain a restricted license with an ignition interlock device (IID). An IID prevents you from starting your car if you’re intoxicated. As long as you prove to the DMV the device is installed and you have enrolled in a DUI program, you can drive your car as you please.
Both of these alternatives require a $125 fee. These restricted license options are only available for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders will most likely get denied a restricted license should they apply.
Should I Speak With a Lawyer About My License Suspension?
Even if you don’t think a lawyer is necessary, you should still get a free consultation first to see your legal options. A good DUI lawyer can help you fight back against any unfair charges and help you avoid other serious penalties like jail or prison time. It’s best to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.