Understanding California’s Complex DUI License Suspension Laws

DUI%20License%20Suspension%20California%20example

Anyone arrested in the state of California faces a gauntlet of DMV consequences that can make even seasoned lawyers feel intimidated.  It used to be the law that anyone arrested for a DUI would face a suspension in a minimum of two ways.  1).  The administrative or APS suspension which started 30 days from the date of arrest regardless of the Court case on the criminal charge of driving under the influence, and 2).  The Court suspension which commenced at the time of court conviction for either VC23152a or VC23152b.

This all ended several years ago when the Legislature decided that they were going to take away the suspension power from the Court because many Judges were not following the law and imposing a mandatory suspension against first and even second time offenders.  Courts were given too much discretion and that led to huge disparities in license consequences in some Courts.  With that in mind, the laws changed so that now the DMV imposes all license suspensions against drunk driving offenders.  The way it works is like this:

First, the DMV gets their claws on you when you are arrested at the roadside.  The arrested person is handed a notice of suspension by the cop and given the right to challenge that order via the administrative process known as the APS hearing.  The maximum suspension that can be handed down for a first time offender is one year if you refuse a test or 4 months if you take a test at the request of the arresting officer.  This suspension can be converted into a restriction if the person gets an SR-22 and gets enrolled in a AB-541 DUI class and pays a re-issue fee.  The restriction starts after 30 days of suspension.

Second, and here is the confusing part for most people, the offender will face a second suspension if they are convicted in Court for a 23152 charge, either A or B.  A wet reckless or any other reduced charge will not trigger the suspension.  If the person is convicted in court of a DUI the Judge should at that point tell them that they know have a new suspension that starts with the guilty or no contest plea but most Judges do not.  The ones that do advise the defendant’s at all simply tell them that “their license will be suspended by the DMV”, but this is where the trickiest part comes into play.  Because Courts have been stripped of the suspension power, the DMV must wait for an abstract of conviction from the Court before imposing the mandatory license suspension.  However, what often happens is the offender walks out of Court and does not receive a notification that they have suffered any suspension until weeks later when they get a letter from the DMV stating their license is suspended as of the date of conviction.  It shocks many to realize they may have been driving illegally all that time.  It is this time lag that throws many people off and needs to be fixed.

What the convicted person is not told is that they can immediately get a restricted license again by doing 3 things:  1) Get an IID installed in their car if the offense occurred in Los Angeles or one of the other pilot counties, 2)  Show proof that they have been enrolled in the AB-541 class, 3) pay all re-issue fees (Yes there is a second re-issue fee that must be paid), and lastly have an SR-22 filed.

Every defendant should be told to do those 4 things immediately following a Court conviction for any first time DUI, it will save them much stress, anxiety and possibly a ticket for driving on a suspended license.

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