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How does a DUI Arrest Affect Your License?

by Peter Chang on October 2, 2013

If you have been arrested for a DUI / DWI / Driving Under the Influence, will your license be taken away as a result?  How long will it be before you can get it back?  If you refuse to provide a blood/breath sample, will it change anything?  What can you do to keep your license?

If you have been arrested for a DUI anywhere in California, the arrest will be reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the DMV will start the process of suspending your driver’s license.  The suspension period will be for at least four months, although you may have the option to apply for a restricted license, which will allow you to drive under limited circumstances.

A DUI arrest will result in not one, but two separate cases.  The first case will be the criminal defense case, where the District Attorney of the California County where you were arrested will prosecute you.  But in a criminal defense case, you have the potential to be incarcerated.  But you also have powerful legal rights and protections enshrined in the state and federal constitutions.  For instance, in a criminal defense case, you have the right to a jury trial, and must be found “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” to lose your case.

The second case will be the DMV hearing, where the DMV Hearing Officer (who will act as prosecutor, judge, and jury) will hold a hearing to determine whether the DMV should suspend your license.  Unlike in a criminal case, there is no potential for you to be incarcerated if you lose the DMV hearing.  However, you will not have many of the rights and protections you have in a criminal case.  For instance, the DMV Hearing Officer only needs to find that you are guilty by a “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. more likely than not) to order the suspension of your license.  Also, if a request for a DMV hearing is not filed with the DMV within 10 days of the date of your arrest, the DMV will determine that you have waived your right to a DMV hearing, and will automatically suspend your license.

If you lose your DMV hearing, your license will be suspended, and you will not be allowed to drive at all during the suspension period, unless you apply for and are given a restricted license. In both your criminal defense case and your DMV hearing, the penalties may be increased if your blood alcohol level is found to have been unusually high, or if you refuse to provide a blood/breath sample to law enforcement, or if you have a prior DUI record.

The judge in your criminal case does have the power to order the installment of an interlock device, or even order the suspension of your license in certain DUI cases.  However, the court does NOT have the power to order the DMV to issue a license (not even a restricted license).

An effective criminal defense attorney will know your rights and defenses in any DMV hearing.  This office has extensive experience handling DUI cases and will aggressively pursue your case towards a positive outcome.  If the arresting officer’s investigation or detention procedures were improper, or if the breathalyzer and/or blood analysis procedures were faulty, or if your BAC test results were not an accurate measure of your actual level of intoxication at the time of your arrest, or if you simply want the negotiate the best outcome for your case (including a chance to keep your license), call us.

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