If you are arrested for DUI in California, the license suspension process begins immediately during your arrest. However, California law allows two ways that you can still do some driving while dealing with your license suspension: the temporary drivers license and the restricted license.
- Your temporary license is good for 30 days and allows you to drive until the DMV formally suspends your license.
- A restricted license can allow you to drive to work and court-ordered appointments, even while your license is suspended.
What is a temporary license and how do I get one?
You will be issued a temporary license automatically. Normally, police will confiscate your license during the DUI arrest and inform you that the DMV will suspend it. In other cases, the DMV will notify you by mail of their intention to suspend your license. In either case, you will be issued a sheet of paper that serves as a temporary drivers license. This allows you to drive (anywhere, not just to work) for a short time.
Unfortunately, every temporary license comes with an expiration date. Normally it is good for only 30 days from the date of your arrest, or from the date the DMV issued the notification (this is often less than 30 days by the time you receive it in the mail). At the end of that 30-day period, the DMV will suspend your license and you cannot drive at all, unless you request a DMV hearing to contest it.
You have only 10 days from the date of your arrest to request your DMV hearing. Requesting the hearing could mean that you can get your license suspension stayed (delayed) and extend your temporary license for months. It could also mean you successfully fight the license suspension altogether and get your driving privileges back.
What is a restricted license?
A restricted license is not automatic, and not every DUI suspect will qualify for one. If you do, however, it will allow you to drive to certain obligations even while your license is suspended. This includes:
- Driving to and from work
- Driving to and from DUI School
- Driving to other court-required programs or appointments
Am I eligible to get a restricted drivers license?
You are not eligible if you refused to take a blood, breath or urine test during your DUI arrest. The DMV will not grant a restricted license to anyone with a refusal charge, unless you convince them otherwise. If you request a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest, your lawyer can argue the facts of your “refusal” and potentially get the DMV to stay the suspension. Even then, if you are convicted of the refusal charge in court, you will not be eligible for a restricted license. You must fight the charge.
Otherwise, all DUI defendants should be eligible, but you may have to serve a “hard suspension” period first. Hard suspension means that you cannot drive at all, and you cannot apply for a restricted license until it’s over.
How long is the hard suspension period for DUI in California?
The timelines for hard suspension are typically:
- 30 days hard suspension in most DUI cases
- 90 days hard suspension if your case involves illegal drugs
- No hard suspension if you successfully win your DMV hearing
There are cases where you may face a longer hard suspension, but they are rare.
How do I get my restricted drivers license?
You have to wait until the hard suspension period is over (if any). But you will need some paperwork that you can gather during your hard suspension. The complete steps are:
- Get a special proof of insurance form called an SR-22. You can get this from your insurance company, but there is a fee. More importantly, getting it will involve informing the company of your DUI, which will likely cause your rates to go up.
- You may also need proof that you are fulfilling any court-ordered requirements, such as attending DUI school or addiction treatment. You can ask these programs for proof of enrollment.
- Once the hard suspension period is over, bring the above paperwork to any DMV location and apply for a restricted license. The fee is $125 or $100 if you were under 21 when the arrest happened.
A restricted license can be a godsend when you can’t drive because of a DUI. But it is expensive and it has limits. Where possible, it’s much better to avoid getting a DUI conviction altogether. A good lawyer could help you win your DMV hearing, win your DUI case and potentially keep your license.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.