Like most states, California has two separate systems to penalize DUI. One system is the courts and the criminal penalties you face if convicted. The other system is the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV is the agency that issues and revokes driving privileges. If you are arrested for DUI it will issue its own license suspension. This suspension is known as Admin Per Se suspension (APS) or simply administrative suspension.
Administrative suspension is the first penalty you’ll face in your DUI case, long before you go to trial. It’s important that you understand the APS system and fight it from the beginning. This is important for three reasons:
- You will automatically lose your driving privileges if you do not fight APS
- APS takes effect regardless of your criminal case. You can lose your license to the DMV without even being found guilty of drunk driving.
- The APS process gives you valuable opportunities that can build your defense in court as well.
To help you prepare, we’ve put together this complete guide to administrative suspension and how to fight it.
Note: you have only 10 days from your arrest to fight your administrative suspension. To protect your driver’s license, speak to a DUI attorney immediately.
How the Administrative Suspension Process Works in California
The APS process is triggered as soon as you’re arrested for any DUI charge—including refusing a blood or breath test. Normally, the arresting officer will take away your driver’s license on the spot. The license is sent to the DMV, who will destroy it. The officer also gives you a temporary license on a pink sheet of paper. This temporary license is only good for 30 days.
Sometimes the officer does not take away your license or notify you of the suspension process. Nonetheless, the APS is still coming. The DMV will send you notification of the suspension by mail. In theory, your 10 day deadline to fight the suspension begins when you receive notification. In practice, you should assume the 10 days starts from the date of your arrest. If you miss the deadline, it’s very hard to go back and get a second chance.
Within the 10 day timeframe, you have the option to request a hearing to fight the suspension. You should always request this hearing. Even in the most unlikely cases, there are benefits to fighting APS.
If you miss the deadline, or if you lose at the hearing, your license suspension will begin 30 days after your arrest.
How to Win an APS Hearing in Los Angeles
Your DMV hearing is not a trial. It’s not even held at a courthouse. It can be held in person or over the phone, and a single DMV hearing officer will be present.
To maximize your chances of winning your hearing, we recommend you do two things:
- Request that the hearing be done in person
- Have your DUI lawyer represent you at the hearing
There are specific things the DMV is looking to hear from you, and your lawyer knows how to build a strong case. The arguments they can use may include:
- That officers did not have probable cause to arrest your or that your arrest was illegal
- That there is reason to believe your blood alcohol level was not over the legal limit of .08% (note that this legal limit is different or does not apply to some charges)
- That officers did not warn you that refusing a blood or breath test is a crime (if you refused)
- That you were not driving the car
Your lawyer will know how to present evidence for any argument they use. The DMV will not rule in your favor without evidence. This is why having a lawyer makes such a big difference.
What Happens If the DMV Suspends My License in California?
If you lose the DMV hearing, or you don’t request one, your license will be suspended. The length of the suspension depends on the DUI offense:
- First DUI: 4 month suspension
- Repeat DUIs in a 10 year period: 1 year suspension
- Refusing a Chemical Test (first offense): 1 year suspension
- Refusing a Test (second offense): 2 year suspension
- Refusing a Test (third or subsequent offense): 3 year suspension
All of these terms will be longer if the new charge happens during probation for a previous DUI.
APS suspensions include a period of “hard” suspension. You cannot apply for restricted driving privileges until the hard suspension is over. The length of the hard suspension ranges from 30 days to the entire suspension period (a year or more). First time DUI offenses do not include a hard suspension unless you refused a chemical test.
How the DMV Hearing Can Help Your Los Angeles DUI Case
At a DMV hearing, you have the option to call the arresting officer as a witness. (The DMV also has this option, but almost never uses it). This can be incredibly helpful to your case as a whole. A DMV hearing is typically 30 days or more after the arrest. By this time, the officer may have changed their story or simply not remember all the details. Anything they say at the DMV hearing can be used against them if your case later goes to trial.
For example, imagine that the arresting officer said in their initial report that they suspected you of drunk driving because you swerved. At the DMV hearing, however, they also claim you smelled of alcohol. They never said this in their original report, and as it turns out, they’re mixing you up with a different arrest. Your lawyer now has it on record that their testimony is confused and mistaken. This calls their statements into question. By discovering this at the DMV hearing, you might have weeks or longer to build a case around it, instead of discovering it “on the fly” at trial.
Do Not Face License Suspension without a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer
As you can see, the APS suspension system is complex. It is riddled with obscure rules and in many ways it simply doubles the penalties that you face for a DUI. However, it can be fought and can even become a useful tool in defending yourself. But doing this successfully depends largely on having a good lawyer.
We can connect you with a top Los Angeles DUI lawyer who will give you a FREE consultation on your case. Don’t risk your driver’s license—or your future. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your FREE consultation today.