DUI Driver’s License Suspensions and the DMV Process

Navigating the DMV system following an arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) can be confusing and costly. Here are the basics that you’ll need to know as you move forward after your arrest. You are facing a situation where you need to defend yourself on two different tracts: defending against criminal charges and complying with DMV requirements for your license to be reinstated. This article focuses on drivers over 21 and is geared toward understanding the DMV process.

Administrative Per Se Hearing (aka “APS”)

California uses a program called the Admin Per Se (APS) program which sets out the instances in which your license will be immediately confiscated if you are pulled over for DUI. Grounds for immediate confiscation include:

  • Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level is 0.01% or more while on DUI probation;

  • Your BAC level is 0.04% or more while driving a commercial vehicle;

  • Your BAC level is 0.08% or more while driving a non-commercial vehicle; OR

  • You refuse to complete a BAC test.

Initiation of APS Proceedings

After you have been pulled over and the officer has determined that you are driving under the influence you will be arrested. At the time of your arrest you will likely receive an Order of Suspension/Revocation when the arresting officer confiscates your physical license. This document is called a DS-367. It includes a temporary driver’s license that is valid for 30 days from the date it was issued. Your driver’s license suspension/revocation will begin at the end of the 30 days. It is important to keep in mind that any action taken against your license by the DMV is separate and distinct from court proceedings charging you with DUI.

Your Rights After a DUI Arrest

After your arrest you have the ability to request an APS hearing to determine the status of your license. You must request this hearing within 10 days of your arrest or you will lose the right to a hearing. You can request a “stay” of your license suspension which means you can continue to drive until the final determination of the hearing.

In California the DMV has independent authority to suspend driving privileges when it determines that your BAC was 0.08% or above at the time of driving. The hearings are held in front of a “hearing officer” that may or may not be trained in the law. While these hearings are notoriously hard to win they are nevertheless a good opportunity to cross-examine the officer(s) involved in the arrest. At your hearing you have the right to call witnesses and you have the right to see any and all evidence the DMV intends to admit prior to the hearing.  Any statements or observations that the arresting officer discloses during the APS hearing may benefit your court case. The hearing officer does not render an opinion immediately, but will take time to review the facts presented and any testimony given and will then give notice of decision by mail. The outcome of the hearing has no bearing on your court case.

Possible Results of The APS Hearing

If you win your DMV hearing, the license suspension will be set aside and you can continue to drive. If not, the license suspension will go into effect within 10 days of the hearing. The suspension includes one month of full suspension of the driving privilege followed by three months of restricted license suspension (meaning you will be able to drive to school or work related activities only.)

Reinstating Your License

To apply for your restricted license you need to go to a DMV office on or after the date of eligibility and apply for the restricted license and pay a re-issuance fee. Before you are eligible to submit the application, however, you must:

  1. Enroll in the First Conviction Program (FCP) and get the instructor to file a Proof of Enrollment Certificate (form DL 804) with the DMV; and

  2. Purchase an SR-22, which is a certificate of financial responsibility, from your insurance company. You’ll need evidence of both of these things in order to apply for a restricted license.

Don’t Do It Alone

Although DUI convictions stay on your driving record for 10 years, you are eligible for reinstatement of your driving privilege after you have complied with all terms of both your DMV license suspension and any court penalties imposed in your case including completion of a DUI or other alcohol or drug treatment program. Having a skilled defense attorney to protect your rights and help you navigate through the system is of outmost importance to minimizing the damages of a DUI.