DMV in California

The California DMV handles all license suspensions for DUI cases, and can suspend a license before there’s even a conviction.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the agency responsible for registering vehicles, licensing drivers, and suspending driver’s licenses for DUI and other criminal offenses. If you’ve been arrested for DUI, you’ll find yourself having lots of interactions with the DMV. These interactions can be expensive and frustrating.

Normally in California, the courts handle all criminal sentences. Driving-related offenses are different. Driving is not seen as a fundamental right in the United States, but as a privilege—one that can be taken away. It’s the DMV’s job to regulate who can and cannot drive, and they have the power to suspend or revoke driver’s licenses.

This role means that the DMV is involved during your DUI case in many ways:

  • They will suspend your license 30 days after your arrest, regardless of whether you have had your day in court. This is known as admin per se suspension. You may be able to stop the suspension if you request a DMV hearing within 10 days of arrest.
  • Being convicted of DUI in court will also cost you your license, but the court will not carry out the suspension. They will refer it to the DMV.
  • The court assessments (fees) you have to pay if convicted will typically include a license suspension processing fee, because the court has to coordinate with a different government agency—the DMV.

If convicted, you will also likely be involved with the DMV long term. This includes requesting your restricted driver’s license to drive to and from work (if you qualify for one), and eventually reinstating your driver’s license once you have served your suspension and fulfilled the requirements. 

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