Having your driving privileges suspended is one of the dreaded penalties of a DUI in California. You can lose the license after a DUI court conviction or through administrative action by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you are a first-time DUI offender, your biggest concern should be license suspension. You are worried that you might lose your work or drop out of school because you lack a means of transport after your license has been suspended. At The DUI Defense Attorney, we are proficient in defense against DMV license suspension for a first offense, thus best suited to help our clients in Van Nuys, CA, retain their driver’s license or acquire a new one after a revocation.

Understanding Driving License Suspension by the DMV

Being a driver’s license holder in California is a privilege. The privileges of operating a car are issued once you have undertaken and completed all the tests required by the law. Having these privileges doesn’t mean they cannot be withdrawn. There are certain things that you can do when operating a motor vehicle and result in the withdrawal of your driving rights. A license suspension means the temporary removal of your driving privileges by the DMV.

First Offense DUI, DMV License Suspension 

The administrative per se law enables police to seize the licenses of drivers found driving under the influence. It also allows them to gather evidence by subjecting you to various tests. The results from the tests are used as a basis for license suspension by the DMV. Some of the tests conducted by the arresting officers include blood chemical tests and field sobriety tests. You will be arrested if your BAC levels violate the restrictions set by the law. You will only be detained if the BAC level is .04% or more for commercial vehicle drivers and .08% for non-commercial cars. Also, if a court convicts you for a DUI, it will inform the DMV so that they can suspend the license. The period your driving privileges will be withdrawn depends on the Vehicle Code you have violated, prior conviction, and the type of charge the prosecution chooses to file.

If you are found with a BAC level beyond the legal limit, the arresting police officer confiscates your driver’s license then issues a temporary license that lasts for one month. You are then issued with a citation requiring you to appear in court at a specific date.

Steps that Follow after a First Offense DUI Arrest

After an arrest, your license is forwarded to the DMV for holding for a particular period. The period the license will be held depends on whether you will be successful in the DMV hearing. If you win the DMV hearing, you get to keep the license, but if you lose, the license will be withheld for a set period.

Once you have been given a citation, you have up to ten days to challenge the decision to withdraw your driver’s license. Failure to challenge the DMV suspension within ten days will see the license automatically suspended. If you win the case, you retain the license until the DUI case is heard and determined. Upon conclusion of the case, in case you are convicted of a DUI, the conviction remains on your driving record for a decade. First DUI offense doesn’t always lead to license suspension. It can only be suspended if you don’t request a DMV hearing within ten days, lose the DMV hearing, or you are convicted in a criminal court. If you lose a DMV hearing, the license is suspended for four months.

Elements the DMV Officer must prove to suspend your License

Your license will not be withdrawn for four months unless the DMV officer can show the following:

  • The arresting officer had probable or realistic cause for the traffic stop
  • The arrest by the police officer was legal
  • Your blood alcohol concentration violated the legal limits
  • You were on DUI probation and your BAC level at the time of arrest was .01%
  • You declined to take or complete the tests

Legal Defenses against DMV License Suspension for a First Offense DUI

DUI offenders are not eligible for a public defender at the DMV hearing. You are, however, allowed to retain the service of a defense attorney who will challenge the reasons brought forward by the DMV officer on why your license should be temporarily withdrawn. Some of the legal positions your attorney can take include:

  1. You were not Operating the Vehicle at the Time of Arrest

If the arresting officer didn’t personally witness you driving, no witnesses have been summoned by the DMV, and there is no discovery to show that you were driving, your attorney can take the position that you were not operating the car during the arrest to win the hearing. You will win the case based on no driving defense.

  1. You were Arrested at an Illegal Sobriety Checkpoint 

You will win the DMV hearing if you can succeed in showing that the arrest was unlawful. A DUI arrest is illegal in California if you were arrested at a checkpoint that doesn’t comply with the stringent legal requirement set aside by California statutes.

  1. There was no Justifiable Reason or Cause to Detain you

The DMV will set aside the suspension of your driving rights if you can prove the arresting officer had no legitimate cause to stop and arrest you.

  1. Your BAC Levels were within the Legal Limits

A license can only be suspended during a DMV hearing if the BAC levels were not within the legal limit. You can argue that the BAC levels were actually low, but because of physiological explanations like residual mouth alcohol and high protein and low carbohydrate foods, the BAC levels reflected an illegal limit. By taking such a stand, despite what the test results show, the suspension will be set aside.

  1. The Arresting Officer Never made a Fifteen Minutes Observation before Conducting a Breath Test.

As per Title 17 regulations, the law enforcer who stopped you must make a fifteen minutes observation before administering a breath test. The fifteen minutes of view ensures that the suspect doesn’t do anything that might affect the outcome of the test. If Title 17 regulations were not strictly adhered to during the arrest, the DMV might set aside the suspension.

  1. The Breath Test Equipment were not Consistently Checked for Accuracy

After every ten days or one hundred and fifty blows, the breath testing equipment must undergo checkup. This is provided for under Title 17 regulations too. The DMV officer is likely to reverse the suspension of your driving license if you can show the equipment used to administer the test were poorly maintained, and the results were inaccurate.

  1. You were Never Advised on the Punishment of Declining a Breath or Blood Test

Your suspension is not going to be upheld if the arresting officer didn’t notify you that failure to submit the test will lead to an automatic license suspension for twelve months. When making a DUI arrest, a warning should be read to the suspect, and In case this didn’t happen when you were being arrested, your case is won.

Restricted Driving License

The defenses you put up in the hearing might not always help you win the hearing. In the event, you lose and the license suspension goes through, you can be issued with a restricted license. Those who never bothered to challenge the license suspension within ten days are also issued with a restricted driver's license. The license allows you to drive but within the terms of the court. In most cases, the license is issued under the conditions that you only drive to work, school, course of employment, and DUI School.

Remember that not everyone is eligible for a restricted license. If you don’t qualify for the license and you lose the DMV hearing, the license will be suspended for a period between six to ten months. Those who are eligible get an opportunity to apply for a license after the first month. To get a license, you must do the following:

  • Join a DUI school
  • Present an SR-22 form
  • Pay dollars one hundred and twenty-five as reinstatement fee

A first DUI offender who causes injuries to another party and loses a DMV hearing get the driving license temporarily suspended for three hundred and sixty-five days. You would get the same suspension, too, if you declined to submit a chemical test. First DUI offenders who caused injuries and failed to provide a chemical test are not eligible for a restricted license. Also, if you are arrested with a BAC of .01% while you are on probation, you cannot apply for a restricted driver's license.

IID Restricted License

An ignition interlock device is a Breathalyzer that prevents the car from igniting once it senses alcohol in the driver’s breath. The DMV might allow you to continue driving without any restrictions if you agree to install the device in your car. However, to be eligible for an IID, you must complete DUI School, pay the required fees, and file form SR-22. 

Differences between an Administrative DMV Hearing and Court Triggered License Suspension

An administrative hearing and a court proceeding are very different. In a court proceeding, the focus is on whether you are guilty of a crime or not. On the other hand, a DMV hearing focuses on the withdrawal of driving rights and what transpired during a DUI arrest. Some of the critical distinctions between the two include:

  • In a DMV hearing, you have the discretion as a defendant to be present in the hearing or not. Also, you are free to choose whether to have an attorney present during the trial or not. For court proceedings, it is mandatory for you or your attorney to be present during arraignment in court.
  • A win in the DMV proceeding doesn’t directly impact your DUI court trial. The only difference it will make is that the administrative action will not be upheld. The decision by the DMV is separate and independent from any criminal charge or penalty. In a court trial, if you win the case, if the DMV had already suspended the license, the decision will be reversed when you get acquitted by the court.
  • A reduction of a first DUI charge to reckless driving in court is also separate from an administrative hearing and doesn’t impact your license suspension.
  • If a DUI charge is not filed or filed but removed because of insufficient evidence, even if you had lost a DMV hearing, you have the right to a new hearing, but only if you do it within twelve months after the date of arrest.

A DMV hearing is not an obligation, but if you fail to request for one within ten days, the license is withdrawn temporarily.

Restoring your License after the First Temporary Withdrawal

It is possible to regain your driving privileges after they have been suspended, although it is a process that takes time. To have your driver’s license reinstated, you must do the following:

  • Ensure you complete the duration your driving privileges had been withdrawn
  • Have documents that show you have served jail or prison sentence imposed by the court.
  • Complete the DUI School program
  • Complete any other sentencing conditions like compulsory drug and alcohol treatment program.
  • Get another auto insurance and provide proof by presenting form SR-22
  • Visit the local DMV offices and make an application for reinstatement

Keep in mind the California DMV will need all the documents showing that you have followed all the above steps. If you were convicted of a first DUI offense, you would be required to pay a reinstatement fee of dollars fifty-five to the DMV.

Driving on a Suspended License

As per California VC 14601, it is a crime to get behind the wheel or operate a car after the DMV has withdrawn your driver’s license. You will be convicted of the crime if you drove while knowing the license has been revoked or suspended. The charge is usually a misdemeanor, and the penalties include jail term and a fine. To contest the charges, you can take the position that you lacked knowledge that the license was suspended. Also, you can assert that the accusations that led to the withdrawal of the license in the first place were invalid. The other legal defense against charges under VC 14601 is driving on a restricted license. It is also permissible to drive when your license is on suspension if you have a restricted driver's license.

Ways of Learning about License Suspension

Many of those that have been arrested for driving under the influence for the first time don’t know where they might get information about the suspension in case they are not notified. Other times, you might be notified of the suspension but fail to get in-depth information about the suspension. To learn either your license has been withdrawn temporarily or not:

Call the DMV

Calling the DMV offices can be an easy way of learning about the status of your driving privileges. The challenge with this method is that someone might not be available to pick up your call. But if they pick up, they can easily update you on your driver’s license status.

Visit Local DMV Offices in Person

Going to the DMV offices in person is also a great way to know about the suspension. The challenge with the technique is the long queues, but once you succeed in seeing a clerk, you get to learn more about the reasons behind the suspension.

DMV Website

With this approach, you will have to create an account if you don’t have any and give the following information:

  • Your email address
  • PayPal account where you pay $2
  • Driver’s license issuance date
  • Date of birth
  • License plate number
  • Credit card
  • VIN
  • Last four digits of your SSN

The two dollars you pay are for record-keeping. Once the account is created successfully, you become a certified user of the website; you can get information whenever you need regarding your license status. 

Appealing the DMV Decision

If you failed the DMV hearing, and the outcome is not satisfying, you can always appeal the decision. An appeal can be filed directly to the superior court. Another option is having the DMV review the case. Usually, the notice you receive from the DMV on your DUI license suspension often contains the details you need to appeal, and the time frame for appealing. Remember, a DMV departmental review comes with a fee of one hundred and twenty dollars.

Find a Van Nuys DUI Attorney Near Me 

DMV license suspension for the first offense can be very annoying. You are forced to rely on public transport or friends and family members to go to work or school. Getting the license reinstated is another big problem for many because of time consumption and the costs of reinstatement. If you are in a situation where you are facing license suspension by the DMV for a first DUI offense in Van Nuys, CA, call The DUI Defense Attorney at 818-253-1913. We will help you prevent the suspension, or regain it if it has been suspended.