In California you face two kinds of license suspension for drunk driving: one from the DMV, and one from the courts. The DMV’s license suspension, known as admin per se or administrative suspension, is the first one you face, even before your trial. You can find administrative suspension explained in detail here. But it’s equally important to understand the suspension you’ll serve if convicted, handed down by the court. This suspension is often much longer than administrative suspension, and can seriously affect your life and career.
How a Court-Ordered Suspension Works
Once you are convicted for any kind of DUI charge, your license will be suspended as part of the penalties. This is often referred to as a court-ordered suspension, but more accurately it’s “court triggered.” The court merely reports your conviction to the DMV, which then proceeds to handle the license suspension on its own.
But there are differences between this court-triggered suspension and the DMV’s “administrative” suspension:
- Administrative suspension can start within 30 days of arrest, even if you’re not convicted. Court triggered suspension only happens if you’re convicted.
- You can appeal administrative suspension in a DMV hearing. There is no way to appeal court triggered suspension.
- Court triggered suspension tends to be much longer than administrative suspension.
The exact length of your court triggered suspension depends on whether this is your first DUI or a subsequent DUI.
How Long Will My License Be Suspended for a First Time DUI
The short answer is six months for a first time DUI. But California’s license suspension rules are complicated. There are several factors that may affect how long your suspension lasts.
The first is whether you already served an administrative suspension. Administrative suspension can last up to four months for a DUI. The amount of time you served administrative suspension will be deducted from the length of your court-triggered suspension. So if you served the full four months, your license is suspended only two more months after your conviction. But the total time suspended is still six months.
A second factor is how much jail time you serve. A first offense DUI normally carries a two day (48 hour) minimum jail sentence. But this can be waived if you accept a longer license suspension. In effect you have a choice between:
- Six months no driving, plus two days in jail; or
- Nine months no driving, but no jail time
Last, you can usually qualify for restricted driving privileges. This lets you drive to and from work (and court ordered programs) during your suspension period. You cannot get restricted driving privileges during the first 30 days, the “hard suspension” period. But for most first-time misdemeanor DUIs, you should be able to get restricted privileges during the rest of the six to nine month suspension.
Note that these are minimum penalties. There are circumstances where you could be given a longer suspension. You should speak to an LA DUI lawyer to know exactly what you face.
How Long is License Suspension for Second and Third DUIs?
Repeat DUI offenses carry tougher penalties. Under California law, all DUI convictions within the past 10 years (based on the arrest date) count as prior offenses. The more prior offenses you have, the longer your license suspension will be:
- 2nd DUI: Two years suspension
- 3rd DUI: Three years suspension
- 4th DUI: Four years suspension, but you may also receive “habitual traffic offender” status and could even have your license revoked permanently
Other Circumstances affecting Your DUI License Suspension
All the numbers above are minimum penalties, and they all assume you’re convicted of a normal misdemeanor DUI. There are complicating factors that can make a suspension last longer. These include:
- If you are under 21 when arrested for DUI, you automatically face at least one year of suspension
- Similarly, if you were already on probation for a previous DUI when arrested for the new DUI, you’ll get an extra one year suspension.
- If you refused the chemical test you will get an extra one year, two years, or three years of suspension for first, second and third offenses.
- Felony DUI, and DUIs involving a death or serious injury, may result in a longer license suspension or even permanent license suspension.
Talk to a Los Angeles DUI Attorney for Free
The best way to keep your license is to fight the DUI charge from the start. For that you should have a good lawyer—and we can help. Let us connect you with a Los Angeles DUI attorney who has the right experience for your case. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.