All DUIs involve a license suspension in California, even for first time offenders. The process begins immediately when you are arrested for DUI. Your license can be suspended by the DMV before you have a chance to fight the criminal charge in court. This is known as “admin per se” suspension. Police will confiscate your license and give you a temporary one, which leaves you facing two deadlines:
- Your license will be suspended after 30 days unless you take action
- You have only 10 days to request a DMV hearing and fight your case
The license suspension process is complex, and there’s a lot you need to know as a first-time DUI suspect.
How long will my license be suspended for?
The administrative suspension imposed by the DMV is:
- 4 months for most first-time offenders, or
- 1 year if you are a first offender who refused to take a chemical test after your arrest.
If you go on to be convicted of DUI by the court, the judge can choose to give you a license suspension that is longer than 4 months—typically 6 months for a first offender. The suspension time from the DMV counts toward this sentence.
How do I fight the suspension?
You have to request a hearing with the DMV within 10 days of your arrest date. The hearing allows you to argue your case in front of a DMV officer, with a much lower standard of proof than you would need to meet in court. Many DUI suspects win and get to keep their license until their trial.
The best way to win one of these hearings is to have an experienced DUI lawyer represent you. You can also read our complete guide to winning the DMV hearing.
Can I get a restricted license to drive to work?
In most cases, yes, first-time offenders are eligible for a restricted license. You may have to wait to apply for one, however:
- If you lost your DMV hearing or did not request one, you must serve a 30-day “hard suspension” (no driving at all) before you get a restricted license.
- If you won your DMV hearing, you can apply immediately.
- If you have been charged with refusing the chemical test, you cannot get a restricted license at all.
Your restricted license will allow you to drive to work and to court-mandated appointments. To get it, you must pay a $125 fee and show proof of proper insurance, known as SR-22 insurance.
What is SR-22 insurance?
The DMV won’t reinstate a license that was suspended for DUI unless you have insurance. But many insurers will not insure a person with DUI, or will charge higher rates. As a result, the DMV requires a certificate from your insurance company known as an SR-22 form.
Essentially, getting SR-22 insurance means you need to either:
- Get the form from your current car insurance company, which means informing them of your DUI, or
- Get an insurance policy from a provider who will insure you and provide the SR-22
Either way, the rates you will pay for insurance will likely be higher than they would have been if you didn’t have the DUI arrest. The alternative is not to drive at all—you do not need an SR-22 form unless you intend to go to the DMV to reinstate your license.
When does my license suspension start?
Normally it starts 30 days from the date of your arrest, but this only applies if the police gave you the paperwork informing you of your suspension after they processed you. Depending on the specific law enforcement agency that arrests you, sometimes they will not do this. They will still refer your case to the DMV, however. If this is the case, the DMV will mail you notification of your suspension. The suspension will then start 30 days from the date the DMV issued the notice (which may not be the same day you receive it in the mail).
How can I keep my license?
The strategy to keep your license involves two steps:
- Request the DMV hearing and fight the initial suspension
- Win your case in court
If you beat your DUI, or if you bargain down to a charge that does not involve a license suspension, the DMV will often set aside their suspension as well. No case is hopeless—DUI lawyers can and do win cases for their clients all the time.
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.