The DUI Defense Attorney is an accomplished law firm serving clients from Van Nuys, California, and neighboring cities. Our attorneys specialize in DUI Defense and can help you to avoid a DMV License Suspension when charged with a drunk driving offense.
What is DUI Under California Law?
Since a DMV License Suspension is likely to emanate from a DUI conviction, it is crucial to understand the definition of DUI.
You are charged with a DUI if you drive while your physical or mental competencies are weakened by alcohol, drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or drive under the influence of drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs. The laws further specify the BAC limits for different categories of drivers. If you are above 21 years and operating a regular or non-commercial vehicle, the limit is 0.08%. For commercial and hired passenger vehicles with travelers inside the vehicle, the maximum allowed BAC is 0.04%. For anyone under 21 or on DUI probation, the BAC limit is 0.01%. These DUI laws also include illegal drugs, prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and other curative drugs containing alcohol like cough syrups.
Understanding License Suspension by the DMV
Having your license suspended means that the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has temporarily withdrawn your driving privileges. Only the DMV has the authority to suspend your driving license. Using the Admin Per Se law, law enforcement officers have authority to impound your driving license if you violate any of the BAC restrictions, or decline to carry out a BAC test. If you are convicted of a DUI criminal offense for which your license must be suspended, the court informs the DMV to impose the suspension. The suspension period is determined by the vehicle or criminal code which you have violated, the number of previous convictions, and whether the violation is a misdemeanor or felony.
Upon your arrest, the arresting officer gives you a citation for a court appearance and a 30-day temporary license. The officer then sends your driver’s license to the DMV where it’s held for the predetermined suspension period or until the charge is dismissed at a DMV hearing. After receiving the citation, you have a 10-day window period within which you can ask for a hearing to challenge the suspension. After the hearing, the suspension is either upheld or dismissed. If convicted, your DUI conviction remains on your driving record for 10 years. If you do not request a hearing, your license suspension automatically takes effect 30 days after the citation.
A DMV license suspension can either be court-ordered or administrative under the Admin Per Se (APS) law. Although both court and DMV proceedings result in your license being suspended for a period of time, the two are independent. While the court seeks to determine whether you are guilty of a criminal offense or not, the DMV will attempt to impose a license suspension for violation of APS laws. A DUI charge reduced to reckless driving in court has no effect on your license suspension by the DMV for violating APS laws.
In addition, requesting a DMV hearing, and having a lawyer present at the hearing is at your discretion. On the other hand, court proceedings demand that you or your lawyer appear at all arranged hearings. Regardless of whether your license suspension is court-ordered or administrative, it is an offense to drive with a suspended license. However, the DMV may allow you to continue driving without restrictions if you install an ignition interlock device (IID) for a specific period of time.
Furthermore, a win at a DMV hearing does not directly affect your DUI charges in court. The decision by a DMV hearing officer to overturn your license suspension is independent of court charges and decisions. The DMV can only reverse your court-ordered license suspension if the court acquits you of DUI criminal charges.
DMV License Suspension for First and Second DUI Arrests
A first or second DUI arrest does not result in an automatic license suspension. Your license is only suspended if you do not request a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest, you lose at the hearing, or you are convicted of a DUI crime in court. For the first DUI arrest, the DMV suspends your license for four months. This suspension is affected if your chemical test results show a BAC of 0.08% or greater. If your BAC is lower, then you are not in violation of Admin Per Se laws and, therefore, the DMV cannot suspend your license.
If you are convicted for a first time DUI crime in court, your license is automatically suspended for six months. On conviction, the court notifies the DMV to impose the suspension. However, the DMV will allow you to continue driving if you install an IID. In case your DUI charge is reduced, you are found “not guilty” or your case ends in a mistrial, the court will not order a suspension of your license.
For a second DUI within 10 years, the DMV will impose an administrative suspension of your license for one year. However, if you have one prior wet reckless or DUI conviction within ten years, the court will order a two-year license suspension. Once you are convicted, the DMV is notified to impose the suspension. During the suspension period, DMV may allow you to go on driving if you install an IID. You can avoid a court-ordered license suspension if your DUI charge is reduced to a lesser offense, or a trial results in a hung jury, mistrial, or a "not guilty" verdict.
DMV License Suspension for Violating Under-21 DUI Laws
California’s Vehicle Code (VC) 23140 prohibits any person aged below 21 years to drive with a BAC of 0.05% or higher. If you are under 21, VC 23224 forbids you from having alcohol inside your vehicle unless the container is sealed, unopened and full, you are accompanied by a parent or other specific adult, or you are carrying the alcohol as part of your job at a legitimate liquor business. Violation of either of these codes may result in a one year DMV license suspension.
As long as you are under 21, the “zero tolerance” law on underage DUI (VC 23136) prevents you from driving if your system has any noticeable alcohol. Violation of this code is a civil offense and not a crime, but if you don't contest the citation and request for a DMV hearing within ten days, you will get a mandatory one year DMV license suspension. If you lose at the DMV hearing, you must wait until the suspension period ends to reinstate your license. Nevertheless, you are qualified to apply for a restricted hardship license if you did not refuse a chemical test or PAS Still, many find other modes of transportation tends to cause strain in their lives due to restrictions on driving anywhere but work and school. Even with eligibility for the restricted hardship license, you must serve a mandatory 30-day suspension period which may also cause issues. If you violate the “zero tolerance” law on underage DUI before receiving your license, you will be subjected to a mandatory one-year delay in obtaining one.
DMV License Suspension for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID)
California’s VC 23152 makes it a crime to drive under the influence of drugs. You may be charged with DUI of drugs if you are unable to drive the same way a clear-headed person would, in similar circumstances, as a result of any drugs regardless of whether they are illegal, over-the-counter, a prescription, or a combination of alcohol and any drug.
The first DUID offense is treated as a misdemeanor and attracts a DMV license suspension of a minimum of six months. For a second and third DUID, your driver’s license suspension period automatically increases with every conviction. A fourth and other subsequent DUIDs are treated as felonies and you risk your license being revoked. It is important to note that in California, all forms of DUI – including DUI of drugs, DUI of alcohol and driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher – count as priors for purposes of determining the applicable penalties.
Although recreational use of cannabis (marijuana) was legalized in California on January 1, 2018, it is still unlawful to drive under the influence of cannabis. For a first DUI relating to cannabis, your license will be suspended for six to 10 months. However, this suspension can be converted to a restricted license. For a second offense, your license will be suspended for two years and is only convertible to restricted status after 12 months. For a third offense, your license will be revoked and conversion to a restricted license is only possible after 18 months.
DMV License Suspension for DUI Causing Injury
Under the California VC 23153, DUI causing injury is defined as causing another person bodily injury as a result of DUI. Under this code, DUI means driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or driving with a BAC of 0.08% or more. DUI causing injury is a criminal offense and court penalties vary depending on your specific case and how many priors you have within a ten-year period.
Your first or second DUI causing injury is treated as a misdemeanor and attracts a court-ordered license suspension period of between one to three years. A third DUI causing injury is treated as a felony and your license is revoked for 5 years. However, starting January 2019 you may continue driving without any restrictions if you install an IID for not less than six months for a first and second DUI causing injuries. For a third DUI causing injuries, you will be required to install an IID for a minimum of one year.
During the period in which you are facing criminal charges for DUI causing injury, the DMV will impose an administrative license suspension for violating the APS laws. This process is independent of your criminal case in court. You must request for a hearing within 10 days and win at the hearing to avoid the administrative DMV license suspension. If you are convicted in court, the court-ordered suspension is affected by DMV regardless of the outcome of the DMV hearing.
DMV License Suspension for Chemical Test Refusal
Before you are arrested, it is not mandatory to take a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test except if you are below 21 or on probation for a previous DUI. Similar to other field sobriety tests, a PAS is a tool to help the law enforcement officer to decide whether you should be arrested. Refusal to take a PAS if you are above 21 and not on probation is not admissible as confirmation of guilt. Unfortunately, if you agree to a pre-arrest PAS breath test, the results can be used as evidence of DUI.
Under California’s “implied consent” law, refusal of a chemical test after an arrest has serious consequences. This law presumes that by driving in California, you consent to chemical testing for BAC and/or drug levels in case you are rightfully detained for DUI. This law applies regardless of whether you agreed to a PAS test or not. Even when you think that your arrest was wrongful, you still have no legal right to refuse a DUI chemical test. However, if the court establishes that your arrest was wrongful, the DUI charge will be dismissed regardless of the chemical test results.
A post-arrest chemical test refusal carries a mandatory driving license suspension. The suspension is independent of the conclusion of your DUI lawsuit. This penalty applies to breath tests only since the police must obtain a warrant for blood tests. The period of suspension depends on the number of DUIs in your record within 10 years. Your license will be suspended for one year if you have no prior DUI. If you have a single previous DUI, your license will be revoked for two years. Two or more prior DUIs result in three-year license revocation.
Upon arrest, you have ten days to request a DMV hearing, which may postpone the suspension, pending the conclusion of that hearing. If you win at the DMV hearing, your license will not be suspended. If you lose, your license is suspended or revoked based on the number of your previous DUIs within 10 years. The DMV license suspension is independent of the outcome of your DUI criminal case. However, if the court finds you not guilty or your DUI case is dismissed for lack of evidence, you can request for another DMV hearing for your license to be reinstated.
Significantly, your license revocation or suspension will not be automatically reversed if your charge of DUI and test refusal is reduced to a lesser charge or even dropped. The DMV only needs to prove that you willfully refused a chemical test and does not deal with the criminal aspect of the refusal.
Beginning from 2019, if you are convicted of chemical test refusal, you may continue driving without limitations on an “IID restricted license”. The period of this license depends on the number of prior DUI convictions. If convicted for a first DUI with refusal, you get six months while for a second conviction you get one year of IID restricted license. For a third and fourth conviction, you get two and three years of IID restricted license respectively.
Though it seems simple, declining a DUI test may have major repercussions. You must understand the situations in which you may unintentionally refuse to take a DUI test. First, you only have one chance to take the test. The arresting officer is not required to give you another chance if you initially refused. Secondly, if you are offered choices, failure to choose a chemical test will be interpreted as a refusal. In addition, the right to an attorney after an arrest does not apply before a DUI chemical test. The test can be carried out even before you speak to your attorney. Finally, the test will be conducted by qualified law enforcement officers or a separate laboratory as stipulated in relevant regulations. Your own doctor cannot observe or conduct the test.
Common Defenses Against DMV License Suspension
There are several defenses that you can utilize to your benefit at a DMV hearing. If you are arrested at an illegal DUI checkpoint, without probable cause or you were not driving at the time of your arrest, your license cannot be suspended. Secondly, according to Title 17 regulations, breath testing equipment must be routinely checked for accuracy and there must be 15 minutes of observation prior to administering the breath test. Furthermore, an officer must read the admonition on chemical test refusal verbatim, and offer you a blood test if your breath is insufficient. If the officer fails to do any of these procedures, your license suspension cannot be upheld. In addition, flaws in the paperwork filed by the arresting officer and physiological justifications for high BAC could also work in your favor.
Contact a DUI Defense Attorney Specializing in DMV License Suspension Near Me
Any suspension of your license remains on your driver’s record for 10 years and counts as a prior. If you are in Van Nuys area, you can call The DUI Defense Attorney at 818-253-1913. We have the requisite experience to determine the possibilities in winning a DMV License Suspension case.