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How Can I Keep My License After a DUI?

DUI Law Firm of Jon Woolsey April 19, 2022

Glass of alcohol, car key and driver license

California treats driving under the influence (DUI) offenses very seriously, which is why the state has some of the most stringent DUI penalties in the country. In addition to fines, jail time, or jail alternatives and a host of possible collateral consequences, penalties associated with DUIs in California most likely include a suspension of your CA driver’s license (or right to drive in CA with an out-of-state license). The length of time your license will be suspended or restricted will depend on the specific facts of your DUI arrest and/or conviction, including any prior offenses on your record within the last 10-years.

If you have been arrested for a DUI in California, you might wonder if there is any way you can keep your license. And, if your license was already suspended, it’s important for you to explore your options for getting a restricted or hardship license if you're under the age of 21. No matter your circumstances, reach out to a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in DUIs to help you get your license back or take the necessary steps to prevent your license from being suspended in the first place.

At DUI Law Firm of Jon Woolsey, I am dedicated to minimizing the impact of drunk driving charges. I proudly serve clients in Santa Rosa, California, the county of Sonoma, and the North Bay counties of Marin, Napa, and Mendocino. Set up a one-on-one consultation with me today. I'm a solo practitioner so you'll be speaking to me directly, not to some office assistant or junior attorney.

DUI License Penalties in California

When a California licensed driver is arrested for driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, their driver’s license is taken by the officer and they are given a temporary license good for 30-days. If nothing is done within the first 10-days to extend the stay beyond the 30-days, then the suspension will be reimposed for 4-months at a minimum and potentially for a year or revoked for 2 to 3-years. If the 10-day window is met and the DMV contacted, then the driver will also have a right to a restricted license and a hearing with the DMV to argue against any suspension at all. This is the Administrative part of the equation handled outside of the criminal case which usually follows as a result of the arrest. Remember, the DMV only deals with alcohol arrests. If arrested for a drug-only DUI, then only a DUI conviction in court will lead to a possible suspension.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) administrative suspension of a driver’s license comes in addition to any penalties a driver may face in their criminal case. In criminal DUI cases, possible penalties may include jail time, a mandatory alcohol treatment program, the requirement to drive with an ignition interlock device or drive with a work-only restriction. A court conviction may also lead to a new or extended suspension, restriction, or revocation of your driver’s license if a multiple-time offense.

The length of the driver’s license suspension gets progressively longer for a second, third, or subsequent DUI conviction within 10 years. The length will also be longer if you were on probation for a prior DUI offense at the time of your arrest. If it is your first DUI offense, your license can be suspended for six months, either to run concurrently with the DMV Administrative suspension of 4-months we mentioned earlier or an additional 6-months if the 4-month suspension has already come and gone. The suspension period for a second and third DUI offense is one and two years, respectively.

Another important thing to remember is that if you refused to take a chemical test of your breath or blood after being arrested and were properly informed of that requirement, called implied consent, then a one-year or two-year suspension can be imposed without the right to a restriction.

What Is a Restricted License?

The term “restricted license” refers to a limited driver’s license granted to drivers whose license was suspended or revoked as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. Drivers who get a restricted license retain restricted driving privileges, such as traveling only to work or driving during the course of work or alternatively driving anywhere and any time with an IID installed until their license is reinstated.

Not everyone whose driver’s license was suspended qualifies to get a restricted license. In California, drivers who wish to obtain a restricted license must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • You were 21 years of age or older when you got arrested (drivers who get arrested when under 21 years of age are eligible to apply for a hardship license after the first 30-days of a suspension);

  • You must enroll in a drinking driver program for either 3-months, 9-months, or 18-months, depending on the number of offenses on your record within the last 10-years and depending on the blood alcohol level if you are a first-time offender;

  • Obtain special insurance, called an SR22, with your current insurance company or with an independent provider;

  • You were arrested for driving a non-commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%. If you have a commercial license you could lose that for a full year or for life if you are a multiple-time offender. You don't have to be driving a commercial vehicle if arrested but if you were, then the limit is 0.05%, not 0.08%.

Most DUIs in California result in so-called “soft” suspensions, which means a driver whose license was suspended may qualify for a restricted license. In the case of “hard” suspensions, drivers cannot drive for any reason or obtain restricted driving privileges until the period of hard suspension is over. The only way to avoid a hard suspension in California is to successfully contest the suspension at your DMV hearing with the help of an attorney.

How Can You Get Your License Reinstated in California?

If your driver’s license was suspended, and you received a restriction as discussed earlier, you can get it reinstated in full without restriction by going to the DMV and personally making the request. However, California drivers have to wait until the suspension/restriction period ends in order to get their license fully reinstated. The process of getting your driver’s license reinstated includes the following steps:

  1. Wait until the suspension or restriction period ends. If you believe that your suspension is not warranted, you can contest the suspension at the DMV hearing. You can request a hearing to contest the suspension within 10 days of receiving notice of the action against your driver’s license. Otherwise, you will need to wait until the period of the suspension is over.

  2. Complete other terms of your conviction. Depending on your offense, you may also be required to attend and complete mandatory drinking driver programs, and not be delinquent with fines that must be paid as a result of a court conviction.

  3. Get auto insurance. If you do not have auto insurance, apply for it. If you already have auto insurance, make sure it is up-to-date and valid. And, don't let your SR22 lapse within its 3-year requirement.

  4. Submit required paperwork to the DMV. Finally, you should submit your paperwork personally to the DMV. When making your request, you will also need to pay applicable fees, including the reinstatement fee.

Contact an experienced DUI defense attorney to get legal guidance and assistance with obtaining the restriction and when reinstating your license. There are many nuances to what we've written here about the license. It's complicated, it's your livelihood at stake, and it's a process that regularly changes. Get expert help.

Experienced Guidance You Can Trust

The suspension of your driver’s license for a DUI can have a significant impact on the quality of your life. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, you need to explore your legal options to mitigate or avoid the impact of the DUI charge.

Seek out legal counsel to determine if you can prevent a suspension of your driver’s license. At the DUI Law Firm of Jon Woolsey, I help people in Santa Rosa, California, and throughout the North Bay build strong defenses in their DUI cases and fight to protect their driving privileges. If you live in the North Bay area, including Napa, Mendocino, Marin, and Sonoma counties, set up a case review today to discuss your options.