One of the significant consequences of a first DUI offense is the driver's license suspension. Once DMV suspends your driving permit, you will no longer be able to drive to work or school or even run errands. There are two ways through which a DUI offender can have their license suspended: through court order or by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles. Either way, you need legal help in ensuring that you are not losing your driving privileges.

If the DMV has recently suspended your driver’s license, or you have already received a notification of a possible suspension or revocation, you can get in touch with the San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm. We have extensive experience in handling such cases around San Jose, CA. We have a team of excellent DUI attorneys on standby, ready to help for whatever reason the DMV might have for suspending your license.

Understanding DMV-Imposed Driver License Suspensions

If you are facing arrest for driving under the influence in California, you may be confused as to the relationship between your arrest, the state DMV and the status of your driver's license. The truth is that a DUI arrest in California triggers two distinct cases: one at the criminal court and the other at the state's DMV. Losing in any of these cases could see you losing your driving privileges for some time or life, depending on the nature of your DUI offense.

Before California DUI laws were revised, both the DMV and criminal courts could have a DUI offender's driver's license suspended. But only the Department of Motor Vehicles could take that action. However, after 2005, new legislation removed the power of criminal courts to order the suspension of drivers' licenses. It now leaves us with only the DMV with the ability to suspend a driver's license, which could be done either after a criminal conviction or an unsuccessful DMV hearing.

The help of an experienced DUI attorney can help in both cases, but the problem is that DMV hearings are quite sensitive. It is because DUI offenders are only given ten days after the date of their arrest to request a hearing with the DMV. If the driver does not request the trial within that time, the DMV will automatically suspend their license for a month. The same also applies to drivers who hold driving licenses from other states, as their licenses could also face suspension through the Interstate Driver License Compact.

California DMV hearings are also the administrative per se actions (APS actions). These hearings are usually held within the department's Safety Offices and not in the field offices. The main issue of discussion in these hearings is whether or not the driver submitted to DUI testing after an arrest. If indeed he/she agreed to take the test, DMV will consider three more issues:

  • Whether or not the police had probable cause for the driver’s arrest or DUI
  • Whether or not the arrest was lawful
  • Whether or not the chemical test results read a BAC of 0.08% or more

If all these issues are found to be accurate, then the driver will be found guilty of the offense they are facing, and their driver's license will be suspended.

If the driver failed to submit to chemical testing, the officer in charge of the hearing would seek to find whether or not the arresting officer informed him/her of the consequences for failing to submit to the test. If, after being told the driver still would not accept to take the test, the DMV will take immediate action against him/her.

If a driver is unsuccessful in the DMV hearing and it is established that they had failed to submit to DUI testing, their driver license suspension will take much longer than an unsuccessful driver who had agreed to the examination.

DMV hearings are quite unusual and different from criminal court hearings, mainly because the prosecutor and the judge are usually the same people. The person who will be presenting evidence against the driver is the same person who will announce the verdict. The most unusual thing is that the judge in these hearings is not even a judge professionally but an employee working for the state DMV.

DMV Hearings for First DUI Offenders

If you are facing a DUI arrest for the first time, it is possible to imagine that the police, prosecutor, and the judge will be merciful and maybe let you go without any punishment. The truth is that a first DUI offense in the state is as severe as a fourth and subsequent offense. The penalties for subsequent offenders may be more in terms of longer prison terms and heftier fines, but first-time offenders also get severe penalties. It is all because of the severe nature of this offense. 

First-time DUI offenders in the state of California can get such penalties as misdemeanor probation and time in jail. The court could also allow them to continue using their driver's license as long as they have an IID system installed in their vehicles for about four months. However, drivers who are not willing to have an IID installed in their car may have to do away with their driver's license for six months. However, this could change if:

  • The offender requests and attends a DMV hearing within ten days of arrest and wins it
  • The offender does not get a conviction in DUI in a criminal court

Note that the first DUI offender will also be expected to attend a DUI trial in a criminal court as well as a DMV hearing. The main difference between the two is that:

  • The criminal prosecution will help determine if the driver has indeed committed the offense of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • The DMV hearing is optional. It is an administrative hearing that helps determine whether or not the DUI offender should be allowed to continue operating their vehicle or any other vehicle.

Driver's license suspension or revocation is the only legal penalty that a DUI offender can get from a DMV officer. The officer is not allowed by law to impose other sanctions, which are all left for the criminal court judge.

Also, note that the decision made during the DMV hearing is separate from the decision made at the criminal court. DMV's decision will not affect the criminal case in any way. It means that even if you lose the DMV hearing, you can still be found not guilty of DUI in a criminal court.

Again, while a criminal court case is automatic after every arrest, a DMV hearing is not always automatic. A criminal court case is the only way the defendant can clear his/her name from any criminal wrongdoing. A DMV hearing is not mandatory and is only requested by DUI offenders who want to contest the automatic suspension/revocation of their driver's licenses. For that to happen, the offender has only ten calendar days, weekends included, to request a hearing with the DMV. If the request is not made, the driver will lose their right to a trial, and their license will be automatically suspended for six months.

Some first-time DUI offenders will get an automatic license suspension or more than six months. The facts of the case determine the length of time here and whether or not the offender submitted to DUI testing after the arrest. If, for instance, the driver refused to take the DUI test, DMV may suspend their license for a much more extended period. It means that the driver will get an additional 48 hours in county jail and also a minimum of nine months in a court-ordered DUI school on top of the time they get in the original DUI offense.

Sobriety Testing and DMV Suspensions

The state of California has an implied consent DUI law, which states that every person that is a driver in California is presumed to have given consent to DUI testing if they have been legally arrested for DUI. What this means is that if you are at 21 years of age or more and you have been stopped for suspicion of drunk driving, the police will expect you to submit to DUI testing automatically. Failing to submit to this testing means that you can automatically lose your driver’s license through suspension.

If you agree to the testing and your readings show a BAC of .08% or higher, you could also get an automatic driver’s license suspension of four months if it is your first DUI offense.

If, on the other hand, you are below 21 years of age, which is the legal drinking age in California, you will get an automatic driver's license suspension for a year, even if your BAC reads 0.01%.

The state's drunk driving laws require all drivers to agree to DUI testing to enable the police to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in their system. This testing could be conducted on the driver's blood, breath, or urine. In most cases, the driver is free to choose how they want the test to be performed. But if he/she is unconscious, the police will have to conduct a blood test since the driver is not able to provide a breath sample.

Factors That Could Trigger a DMV Driver’s License Suspension for First DUI Offenders

The main reason why a person would get a license suspension from DMV in California is if they are arrested for DUI. Once the department revokes or suspends your driver’s license, you may not be able to drive any vehicle, at least until the suspension or revocation is lifted, and the license is reinstated. Here are some of the reasons why you could lose your driving license after a first-offense DUI arrest:

You Already Have More Points on Your Driving Record

California Department of Motor Vehicles makes use of a point system to measure out and keep track of all drivers’ risky behavior on the road. These points can be used against the drivers, depending on the level of their recklessness and irresponsibility that they have shown. You will, for instance, receive one point or two against your driver’s license every time you violate a traffic rule or are convicted of a traffic infraction. Having more of these points is reason enough for the DMV to have your driver’s license suspended.

If you are a first DUI offender and you have more points against your driver's license, you could face a license suspension or revocation for a year. If you are placed on probation, you will still get a license suspension for six months. Note that the number of points you have against your driver's license is what will decide the length of time the DMV will suspend your driving license.

You do not Have Auto Insurance

Driving without insurance is, in itself, a severe offense in California. The crime calls for fines of up to $200 for first offenders. DUI, while operating a vehicle with no insurance, will make those penalties stiffer. In addition to the penalties you receive for driving under the influence, the offender will also be penalized for operating without a valid license. If a driver got involved in an accident while operating a vehicle without a permit, the DMV would impose a license suspension of up to four years.

This sentence could only be reduced if the driver shows proof of insurance. When that happens, their license could be reinstated after one year. Note that the reinstatement will only be processed if you manage to maintain that proof for the remaining three years.

You are Convicted for DUI

We have some of the stringent DUI laws in California, whereby even first-time offenders are severely punished and their driver’s license suspended. If you get convicted for DUI for the first time, you will lose your driving privileges for at least six months. The criminal court does, however, not suspend. What happens is that after a DUI conviction, the court informs the DMV, and the DMV suspends your license. 

The law, however, allows the defendant to petition the criminal court to be allowed a restricted driver’s license. This is a license that will at least enable them to drive to the most important places such as school, work, and a court-ordered DUI school. You might also be allowed to operate your vehicle if you agree to have an IID system installed in your vehicle. This system will only allow you to drive if you provide an alcohol-free breath sample every time you want to start the car.

You Fail to Report an Accident

If you have been involved in a car accident, the law requires you to do the following:

  • Stop and remain at the accident scene
  • Check to confirm that everyone involved is safe. if anyone is badly hurt, call an ambulance
  • Ensure everyone moves to a safe place
  • Ask for contact information from the other person who has been in the accident with you
  • Record information about the other vehicle and driver
  • Call the police and report the accident

Even if no one has been physically hurt in the accident, leaving the accident scene might cause you even more problems, such as facing a license suspension or additional charges for Hit & Run.

California DMV makes it an offense if a person fails to report an accident. If you have been involved in an accident of any form, you are required to file an SR-1 form with the department within ten days from the date of the accident. If the form is not submitted within that period, then the driver is likely to lose their driving privileges for a year.

Underage Driving

In 2006, the state of California enacted strict laws on underage driving, setting the legal driving age to 18. With these laws in place, young drivers are subjected to provisional license restrictions. These restrictions require them to be accompanied by a licensed adult for the first 12 months of their driving if they will be driving late at night or carrying underage passengers in their vehicles.

If these laws are violated, then the underage driver risks losing their driving privileges. California DMV will confiscate their driver’s license until the time they attain a legal age of 18. If the offender was too young to drive at the time the offense was committed, they risk losing their right to ever obtain a driver’s license in the state for over a year.

Failing to Submit to DUI Testing

As mentioned above, DUI testing in California is mandatory for any driver who has been legally arrested for driving under the effects of alcohol or drugs.  If you have been stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you will be subjected to preliminary testing. This is not a mandatory test, and so does not carry any penalties if the driver refuses to take the test. However, after an arrest, the police will conduct another test to enable them to gather evidence against you. The second test is mandatory, and refusing to get tested may see you losing your driver's license.

Even without the BAC results, you can still get convicted for failing to submit to DUI testing. This will increase your penalties for DUI, including time in jail.

Failing to Appear

Most drivers easily ignore traffic tickets because they do not take away the driver's driving privileges. However, failing to appear in court is a serious offense, even if you only have a single traffic ticket on your license. What most drivers do not realize is that failing to appear is one of the easiest ways through which one can lose their driver's license suspension. DMV can quickly suspend your license as a way to motivate you to show up in court. Failing to appear also puts you at risk of getting arrested and charged with skipping court dates.

How To Get Your License Reinstated

If your driver's license has been suspended in California, the good news is that you can easily have it reinstated. All you need is to file an SR22 with the DMV. This is a certificate of insurance that you can obtain from your auto insurance provider. All you need to do is request your insurer to file the form on your behalf with the DMV. The form is a confirmation that you meet all the requirements set by the state for car insurance liability coverage. The form is filed immediately after your driver's license is suspended to ensure that the DMV is reinstating it in time. SR22 form will also be needed by drivers who need to regain their full driving privileges after agreeing to have an IID system installed in their vehicles.

To obtain this form, you need to get in touch with your car insurance company. The moment you contact your insurer, he will automatically know that there is a problem. Your insurer will access your DMV record to decide whether they will issue you with a certificate, or they will cancel the policy. The other challenge the driver might face is that not all insurers provide SR22 forms. If your insurer does not, or they revoke your plan, you might have to find another insurance provider to file the form with the DMV on your behalf. Their rates will increase.

Once you get an insurer that is willing to issue you with an SR22 form, they can directly file it electronically with DMV. Note that you are supposed to maintain the SR22 status for at least three years if your DMV license suspension was related to a DUI.

Find a San Jose DUI Lawyer Near Me

Losing one’s driving privileges could be one of the worst punishments when a person is arrested for DUI. However, there is always a way out, especially if you have the best DUI attorney working on your case. At the San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm, we have an excellent team of experienced DUI attorneys who can help you avoid a license suspension or have your license reinstated. Call us at 408-777-6630 to consult with our attorneys.