California Driver's License Suspension and DUI
If you have been charged with DUI in California, you may be worried about losing your ability to drive. This is a real concern. There are several ways that a DUI arrest and conviction can result in license suspension.
In order for a DUI license suspension to occur, you must first be charged with a DUI crime. These charges are as follows:
- Section 23152 VC: Operating a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol
- Section 23153 VC: Operating a vehicle and causing an accident that leads to injury while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol
Administrative License Suspension
As soon as you are arrested for DUI in California, under Vehicle Code 13352.2, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) begins a process to suspend your license. You only have 10 days to take action or else you will lose your driving privileges 30 days after your arrest. You can request a DMV hearing and argue your case for the DMV. This is not related to your criminal trial; this process is a separate administrative charge and the outcome of your DMV hearing will not affect your criminal charge. It will, however, affect whether or not you will legally be allowed to drive in California.
The more DUI convictions you have on your record, the longer the administrative license suspension period will be. A first time offender will lose their license for 4 months and repeat offenders can lose their license for up to one year.
DUI License Suspension Penalties
If you lose your DUI case, you will also face license suspension under California's Vehicle Code section 13352(a)(1). This is law that states that anyone convicted of DUI will face license suspension regardless of their other sentencing. Unlike jail time or fines, a judge does not sentence this suspension. It is done automatically by the DMV when a person is convicted of DUI or a speeding offense.
The length of time that your license will be suspended after a conviction depends on how many prior DUI or wet reckless convictions you have had in the past ten years:
- First offense: 6 months
- Second offense: 1 year
- Third offense: 3 years
If you have more than 3 prior convictions, you will be what is referred to as a habitual violator. Habitual violators will have their license revoked for three years or more.
License Suspension and Implied Consent
If you are asked by a police officer to take a chemical sobriety test to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and you decline, you will be violating the implied consent agreement that you had with the DMV. When you get your driver's license, you give your implied consent that you will take a chemical sobriety test when asked by the police. If you refuse, your license will become suspended for a period of time. It is important to note that a field sobriety test as well as some breath tests like the PAS device are not part of implied consent and you can decline taking them without a penalty.
For every refusal you have on your record, you will face a year of license suspension. For example, a first refusal leads to one year of license suspension and a second refusal leads to 2 years, etc. If you can prove that you were not informed of California's implied consent law after you refused to take a chemical sobriety test, you can avoid license suspension on the grounds that you were never informed.
Fighting DUI License Suspension
If your license is suspended due to DUI, there is some hope. In some cases, a lawyer can help get you get your license returned sooner or get you a limited driving permit. A limited driving permit allows you to drive with a suspended license as long as you are going to and from previously agreed upon locations. These are commonly work, school and medical appointments but can also include church and community service. You will lose a lot of the freedom you once had, but you will still be able to drive when needed.
An experienced DUI attorney may also help you get your license returned sooner by helping you get an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in your car. An IID is a device that you must blow in before starting your vehicle. It measures the BAC in your breath and will not allow you to start your car if you have alcohol in your system. In most cases, if you have a license suspension over one year in, length, you can get your license returned after one year if you install an IID.