Keeping Your License After a DUI License Suspension

If you are arrested for a DUI, then the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will suspend or revoke your license (know your rights if you are pulled over for a DUI). This happens if you take a chemical test and are found to have a BAC of .08% or more, or if you refuse to take the test at all.

It is an immediate administrative action, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t steps you can take to maintain your privilege to drive.

Our knowledgeable DUI lawyers can help you through the restricted driver’s license process, your DMV hearing, and your criminal court case to minimize the impact of the arrest on your life. Learn what a DUI lawyer costs in CA and more about the process in general below.

Do you lose your license immediately after a DUI?

Yes, and no.

The physical driver’s license card will be confiscated by the police.
They’ll provide you with a pink piece of paper that is your 30-day temporary, unrestricted license. That pink piece of paper, which is officially known as DS 367 will tell you to schedule your DMV hearing within 10 days or face suspension.

Here’s what the DS 367 looks like.

If you lose your DMV hearing or don’t request your hearing within the 10 days, then your license will be suspended automatically.
During your suspension, you can apply for a restricted license.

What is an administrative license suspension from the DUI?

Why can the DMV suspend your license even though you haven’t been convicted yet?

This process is an administrative per se process. That means it’s completely separate from the criminal conviction process. It was triggered by your arrest, not by your conviction.

Remember, arrest and conviction are two different things. When you are arrested, it isn’t yet decided whether you’ll be convicted or not.

What happens to your driver’s license for a first-offense DUI?

Here is how the process works for a first-time offender.
Once you are arrested, you will have ten days to request a driver’s license hearing. We recommend doing this via fax so that there’s a paper trail, but it’s possible to do it over the phone. We also recommend faxing because it’s difficult to get ahold of the DMV over the phone. Unfortunately, it is not possible to schedule your hearing online. 
After the DUI arrest, you will receive a pink piece of paper that serves as your temporary license. Your physical driver’s license will be confiscated.
This temporary license is valid for 30 days and you can drive without restrictions. 
What happens next depends on whether or not you request the hearing and the outcome of the hearing.

If you requested a DMV hearing for your first offense DUI

If you requested your DMV hearing, then the DMV puts a stay on your license suspension. That means it won’t be suspended, at least not until the outcome of the hearing has been decided. 
It can take a couple of weeks for the DMV to contact you to schedule the hearing. They must retrieve the police report first and any chemical test results (like testing your blood for alcohol), which can take some time.
The hearing will typically be set several weeks out from when the DMV contacts you to schedule it. After the hearing is scheduled, the DMV will send you the police report so that you can prepare for the hearing. You can continue to drive as normal until your hearing, at which point you’ll be bound by the results of the hearing. 
If you schedule a hearing, wait for the outcome before starting the process for getting a restricted license. Your license will not be suspended unless you lose or cancel the hearing, so you might as well avoid spending the money involved to get the restricted license. There is also a possibility for you to win the hearing and avoid a suspension altogether. 

If you did not request a DMV hearing for your first offense DUI

Your license will automatically be suspended in 30 days. The countdown clock starts on the day of your arrest. During the 30 days, you may continue to drive as normal with no restrictions.

Your license will be suspended for four months. The countdown clock starts on the day of suspension, which is 30 days from your arrest.

You can apply for a restricted license during your suspension. 
Learn more about first-time offender suspensions from this CA DMV information sheet.

What happens to your license if you are a repeat DUI offender?

If this is a second offense you will receive a one-year license suspension.
You will still receive your 30-day temporary license and will have 10 days to request a DMV hearing. If you choose not to have a hearing, your one-year suspension will take effect thirty days after your arrest. If you win the hearing, then your license will not be revoked.
If you choose not to have the hearing or you lose your hearing, you may still apply for a restricted license. The ignition interlock device (IID) restricted license is the only option that is available to you. You will have to remain on the IID-restricted license for one year. 
If you are convicted then your license will be suspended for 2 years, or 3 years if you caused an injury. But you can still have an IID-restricted license during this time.
Subsequent convictions increase both the amount of time your license will be suspended and the amount of time that you will be required to adhere to the IID restriction. See the tables below.

How long your license will be suspended or revoked.

How long you’ll need to have an IID for.

Learn more about repeat offender license suspensions from this CA DMV information sheet.

Can I get a restricted license in California?

Yes, you can. If your license has been suspended in California, you can apply for a restricted license. Here is the DMV information for first-time offender restricted licenses and repeat-offender restricted licenses.

There are two options available to first-time offenders: the ignition interlock license and the employment treatment program. Repeat offenders can only get an ignition interlock license.

DUI ignition interlock device restricted license

You need to provide proof of installation for an ignition interlock device (IID), evidence of DUI class enrollment, and an SR-22 insurance certificate, which you can get through most auto insurance carriers. 

You can choose where you get your IID installed. Both Auburn and Roseville have multiple Intoxalock locations where you can purchase and have the device installed. Their installation costs are currently between $70 and $150, depending on your car. Calibration costs are between $60 and $90 per month. You’ll need to ask for proof of installation, known as a DL 920. 

Once you’ve had the device installed, you must go to the DMV (an appointment is not required). You then provide the DMV with proof of enrollment in a treatment program, your SR-22 insurance certificate, and your proof of IID installation. The companies providing these services should also send proof to the DMV directly. You’ll then pay a $125 administrative fee to the DMV.

The restriction will last for four months. You may be eligible to drive without restrictions after the four months is up, so long as you haven’t been convicted, or have met any other court sanctions that have since been levied against you. 

DUI employment/treatment program restricted license

This license restricts you to driving to, from, and during your employment or to and from your DUI program for up to 5 months. 
To apply, you must first serve 30 days of your 4-month suspension. You may then go to the DMV. An appointment is not required.
You’ll need to provide your proof of enrollment in a DUI program, as well as your SR-22 insurance certificate. You’ll then be asked to pay a $125 administrative fee to the DMV. 
The restriction will hold for four months. You’ll be eligible to apply for your reinstated driver’s license after the four months is up, so long as you haven’t been convicted, or have met any other court sanctions that have since been levied against you.

What do I need to do to get a restricted license in California?

1. If you’re a first-time offender, choose what kind of restricted license you want: ignition interlock device (IID) or employment/treatment program. If you are a repeat offender, you must get an IID-restricted license.

2. Enroll in a DUI class.

3. Obtain an SR 22 insurance certificate. This certificate proves that you are carrying liability insurance that meets or exceeds state requirements. You can obtain one from your insurance provider or through a separate insurance company. We recommend using a separate company because this could save you money.

4. If you are getting the IID restricted license, get your ignition interlock device (IID) installed and get proof of installation, known as a DL 920.

5. Go to the CA DMV (an appointment is not required) with the following to get your restricted license:
• proof of enrollment in a DUI class/program.
SR-22 insurance certificate
• your proof of IID installation (DL 920) if you are getting an IID
• $125 to pay the DMV administrative fee

What happens to your license if you’re convicted of a DUI?

If you are convicted, the DMV imposes another suspension (the first one was after your arrest/DMV hearing) for 6 or 10 months. However, you can obtain a restricted license for this entire time period. 

•If your BAC was less than .20% your suspension will be 6 months and you will have to take a 3-month DUI class. 
•If your BAC was .20% or higher your license will be suspended for 10 months and you will have to take a 9-month DUI class.

You do not have to finish the 4-month suspension from your arrest for the 6 or 10-month one to start. They can overlap. The 6 or 10-month suspension will start after the DMV becomes aware of your conviction.

In many cases, you already chose the IID or employment treatment license during your first suspension. None of that carries through after you are convicted. You’ll have to go back to the DMV to pick up your new restricted driver’s license. You’ll have to provide all of the paperwork again, and you’ll have to pay $70 for them to issue another restricted license. If you don’t do this, your license will be suspended after the DMV becomes aware of the conviction, even if you took the steps to obtain a restricted license following your arrest/DMV hearing.

What happens to your Commercial Drivers License (CDL) if you get a DUI?

If you are convicted of a DUI you’ll lose your CDL for one year, even if the DUI occurred in your personal vehicle. This will constitute a complete loss of your CDL; there is no restricted CDL you can use.

Does California have a DUI hardship licenses?

There is no such thing as a hardship license in California. 
This is good news: you don’t have to prove that there’s any hardship in order to get a restricted license. You just choose your path and fulfill the requirements. 

How do I get a restricted license in California under 21?

The state of California will only give someone under the age of 21 a restricted license if they can demonstrate that there is a critical need. This rarely happens. You would fill out DS 694: Application for a Critical Need Restriction.
We’re happy to help you fill out the form, but the truth is you can probably do it on your own. You have to explain why you can’t get a ride to where you need to go, and why you can’t use public transit. 
If you don’t request the DMV hearing, or you do and then you lose, your license will be suspended for one year. You must serve a 30-day license suspension before you are eligible for a critical need license.

The DMV makes its decision on Critical Need Restrictions on a case-by-case basis. It’s not like the 21+ restricted licenses where you simply check all the boxes and then you are good to go.

They don’t have to give it to you, and if they decide not to do so there’s not a whole lot that can be done about it.

How to get your license back after a DUI in California

When you go to the DMV to get your restricted license, you’ll get your physical license back. The restrictions on your license are in the computer system. The DMV should send you documentation regarding suspension/restriction start and end dates.

If you do not receive documentation in the mail, you will need to call the DMV to find out what’s going on.

Get help today

We can help you navigate the restricted driver’s license process, the DMV hearing, and your criminal court case. Working with an experienced DUI lawyer is the best way to minimize the impact a DUI arrest has on your life.

If you’re in trouble, don’t hesitate. Call the Cohen Defense Group today in Auburn at 530-823-7700 or Roseville at 916-596-2700. Or contact us here.


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About Zachary Merliss

Zachary Merliss HeadshotZach Merliss focuses his practice on DUI law in Placer County. He teaches the “legal aspects” lecture at a First Offense DUI School in Auburn, and successfully completed the 3-day Standardized Field Sobriety Test Academy, which is the same course police must pass before conducting a DUI investigation. He has litigated dozens of DMV hearings, DUI trials, and motions to suppress evidence. During his time at the Cohen Defense Group, he has worked hard for clients to obtain reduced sentences and dismissals.