Arrested for Drunk Driving? When to Expect Your License Back
While being charged with any crime can be terrifying, reaping the penalties of a DUI conviction can present unique challenges. For many California drivers, one of the most pressing concerns is recovering their driver's license so they can continue to commute to work, financially support themselves, prioritize their health, and support any children or loved ones depending on them.
In this blog post, we’ll explain how long driver's license suspension can last after a DUI conviction in California, review key factors that can influence the decision, and identify 4 steps you can take to recover your license after a California DUI. Keep reading to learn more about recovering your driver’s license after a DUI conviction.
Understanding Driver’s License Suspension in CA
Driving under the influence (“DUI”) of drugs or alcohol is a serious criminal offense in California. It occurs when an individual operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, impairing their ability to drive safely.
Even first-time offenders can reap harsh consequences as convicted criminals after being charged with a DUI. Keep reading to learn more about avoiding severe legal consequences and how you can establish a strong DUI defense in court.
How Long Is License Suspension After a California DUI?
DUI offenses are taken very seriously in California. If convicted, drivers can face varying durations of driver’s license suspension depending on key factors, such as:
- Prior DUI convictions – If you have previous DUI convictions within the past 10 years, the duration of license suspension can be longer, as repeat offenders typically face enhanced penalties and more severe consequences than first-time offenders.
- BAC level – The blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) reading at the time of your DUI arrest can play a significant role. Generally, the higher your BAC level, the longer your license suspension may be.
- Age of offender – Age can also influence the duration of license suspension. For individuals under 21 years old, any BAC above 0.0% can result in a license suspension.
- Refusal of chemical testing – Refusing to take a chemical test (such as a breathalyzer or blood test) can lead to an automatic license suspension. The duration for refusal may be longer than for a DUI conviction alone.
- Completion of mandatory programs – Completing court-mandated programs, such as DUI education courses like AB541, can shorten the duration of your license suspension.
It's crucial to consult with a trusted criminal defense attorney to understand the legal options available to you, as criminal law in California can be tricky to maneuver. It's also imperative to differentiate between 2 ways that license suspension can affect drivers:
In California, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has the authority to suspend your driver's license administratively. This suspension is separate from any legal penalties imposed by the court and is a consequence of failing or refusing to submit to a chemical test. The length of DMV suspension can vary based on certain factors, such as prior DUI convictions, BAC level, age, and refusal to submit to testing.
In California, court suspensions after DUI are typically longer and have more severe consequences than DMV suspensions. Court-ordered license suspension can only occur if one of the following applies:
- The defendant pleads guilty; or
- The defendant is found guilty at their DUI hearing.
The court also has the right to impose additional penalties at their discretion, including license suspension, when sentencing defendants in California.
What Is a Notice of Suspension?
A “Notice of Suspension” is issued by the DMV or the court to inform you that your driver's license will be suspended due to a DUI offense. This notice typically outlines the reasons for the suspension, the length of the suspension, and any specific requirements that must be met to reinstate your license. It’s imperative to take prompt action after receiving a Notice of Suspension to ensure you meet all necessary obligations and minimize the impact on your driving privileges.
Initiating Reinstatement of Your License
Once your suspension period is over, you must complete certain requirements to reinstate your driver's license. This typically involves paying a reinstatement fee, completing any required alcohol education programs, and providing proof of insurance. In California, you must satisfy 3 elements to successfully reinstate your driver’s license, including:
- Complete a California AB541 program – In California, drivers are legally required to complete an alcohol awareness course in certain circumstances. Eligible programs must comply with the guidelines set forth by Title 9 of the California Health and Safety Code.
- File Form SR-22 with California DMV – Convicted offenders must file proof of financial responsibility (Form SR-22) with the DMV.
- Pay the driver’s license reissue fee – Those convicted of a DUI must pay a reinstatement fee at the DMV to recover their driver’s license.
4 Steps to Recover Your License After a California DUI
While your exact steps will vary based on the unique circumstances of your case, your lawyer can collaborate with you to examine the details of the offense and establish an effective defense to employ on your behalf. Generally, Californians can recover their licenses after DUIs by taking the following steps:
- Completing any court-ordered programs or requirements related to your DUI conviction (typically lasting anywhere from 90 days to 18 months);
- Serving the required period of license suspension imposed;
- Paying any applicable fines, including the license reissue fee (with average costs between $100-$150); and
- Requesting a reinstatement of your driver's license from the DMV.
It’s crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney specializing in DUI cases, as they can use their in-depth legal knowledge to guide you throughout your case and help fortify a strong defense on your behalf.
Aggressively Defending Your Rights in the Bay Area
Understanding the implications of a DUI offense in California is essential, and a qualified defense attorney can mean the difference between spending several years in prison and walking away as a free Californian. As the Bay Area’s top criminal defense firm, you can count on our experienced team at the Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed to examine the unique details of your case, advise your steps wisely, and provide the customized legal solutions you require to defend your rights and maintain your hard-earned reputation.
If you’re facing criminal charges in California, don’t forgo your right to strong legal representation. Call (510) 907-6600 to schedule a consultation.