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Getting Your License Back After DUI in California in 2024

In order to get your driver’s license back after a DUI in California, you typically need to complete several steps including serving the required suspension or revocation period, completing any court-ordered requirements, obtaining an SR-22 insurance certificate, and applying for license reinstatement.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What Happens After You've Been Arrested for a DUI in California?

The police officer is legally obligated to promptly send a copy of the completed notice of suspension or revocation form, along with any confiscated driver's license and a sworn report, to the DMV [1].

Upon receiving these documents, the DMV automatically conducts an administrative review. This review includes an examination of the officer's report, the suspension or revocation order, and any relevant test results, such as those from a breathalyzer.

You have the right to request a hearing from the DMV within 10 days of receipt of the suspension or revocation order. If the review shows there is no basis for the suspension or revocation, the action will be set aside. You will be notified by the DMV in writing only if the suspension or revocation is set aside following the administrative review.

What is the Punishment for a DUI in California?

According to Forbes, in California, most DUIs are misdemeanor offenses, and those convicted of the offense typically do not serve jail time [2]. Instead, the most common punishment is a few years probation and a fine.

Aggravating DUI Factors

Alternatively, a driver can exacerbate a DUI case through a combination of behaviors just before or during the arrest.

Prior offenses can also serve as aggravating factors. Under California Vehicle Code 23540, individuals previously convicted of reckless driving within 10 years of being sentenced for a DUI conviction face penalties of between 90 days and a year in county jail and a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000.

Certain aggravating factors can elevate a misdemeanor DUI charge to a felony.

Do You Lose Your License Immediately After Getting a DUI in California?

According to LADA, police officers in California can take your license from you when they arrest you under suspicion of DUI. They aren’t taking away your driving privileges at this stage. Instead, you will be issued a temporary license that will expire within 30 days [3].

If the officer does not take your license at the time of the arrest, you may still be issued a temporary permit to drive by the DMV. However, instead of receiving the temporary permit from the officer, the DMV will mail one to you. It will have a 30-day expiration date, though it will be from the date the DMV handles the request rather than the date of your arrest.

The Administrative Suspension Process Explained
When the officer takes your license and issues your temporary one, that notifies the DMV of your pending DUI charge. This triggers the automatic administrative process, known as the “admin per se” process, which will result in your license getting suspended.

The length of the suspension will vary based on your record but can be as much as four months for a first-time offender.

The process has two critical deadlines:

  • 30 days from the date of your arrest—when the DMV will suspend your license
  • 10 days from the date of your arrest—the last day to request a hearing to contest the administrative suspension

Even if you’re unsure of how you intend to handle the criminal aspect of your DUI, acting quickly is an essential step if you’re looking to minimize the potential impact of the arrest.

Your only chance of avoiding this suspension is by requesting a hearing with representatives from the DMV within 10 days of your arrest. You can use the time between the request and the hearing to speak with a DUI lawyer about the unique facts of your case.

California Drunk Driving Statistics

According to US Law Org. Drunk driving has serious consequences that can follow victims and their families for the rest of their lives.

Statistics from and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provide insight into the severity of DUI accidents in California:

  • In a recent year, California saw 1,069 fatalities from drunk driving crashes, accounting for over 10 percent of the nationwide total.
  • Alcohol-impaired driving accidents made up 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in California during the same period.
  • Among drivers under the age of 21 in California, there were 113 drunk driving fatalities, representing more than 11 percent of the nationwide total and 28.8 percent of all fatalities in that age group in the state.
  • The state recorded 2.7 fatalities per 100,000 Californians due to alcohol-related traffic crashes in the same year.
  • For alcohol-related accidents involving drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeding 0.15, the fatality rate was 69.8 percent. Moreover, 77.9 percent of drivers with a BAC exceeding 0.15 involved in fatal DUI crashes were repeat offenders.

These statistics highlight the critical issue of drunk driving in California, showing not only a substantial share of the national burden but also the significant risks associated with high BAC levels and repeat offenses.

Efforts to address these challenges are vital, as they underscore the need for targeted interventions and stricter enforcement policies to reduce the incidence and severity of DUI-related accidents.

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