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Top Ten Tips > Getting Your License Back After a DUI

1. The DUI Suspension From Court

Sonoma County CourtTwo Different Suspensions Result From a Sonoma DUI

The best Sonoma DUI lawyers understand that a DUI usually results in two different driver's license suspensions. One suspension is triggered by a DUI conviction in court (often called the "Mandatory Suspension" because of the mandatory nature of the suspension automatically imposed once DMV receives notice of the conviction), and the other suspension is triggered by the Pink Temporary License issued at the time of arrest, and governed separately by the DMV regardless of what happens in court (often called the "APS suspension," abbreviating the formal name of this separate Administrative Per Se process — see Tip #2 in this section). Many people will never know or care about the differences (including most attorneys and judges), but for many people who try to resolve a DUI case quickly, the bureaucratic requirements created by two very different suspensions can be confusing and a misstep may cause unexpected consequences.

In addition, the two suspensions often mandate different suspension periods with different rules for converting back to full or limited "restricted" driving privileges, and of course the longer of the two suspension periods determines the final outcome. Drivers have to address and resolve each suspension in order to be sure that driving privileges are restored at the earliest date. To understand these two different suspensions, compare the information on the court suspension here in Tip #1, to the separate DMV administrative suspension described in Tip #2 in this section, and then review the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer info on this page below, as well as the SR-22 info in Tip #3 and the DUI class info in Tip #4.

Client comment: "I do want to thank you for all your help. I couldn't have done this on my own, as much as I wanted to. I went to the DMV today and received my restricted license. Most of the people in my DUI program were surprised to find out their court suspension and DMV suspension were two different animals and have subsequently been [unnecessarily] off the road for up to 9 months in some cases. So thanks! You rule!"

Anatomy of a DUIMany people may find Jake's flow chart to be an easier way to begin to understand the parallel but different DMV and court processes. If you get confused with the discussion below, then click on Anatomy of a Sonoma County DUI.

Laws and Legislation

Laws relating to mandatory suspensions due to court convictions may be found in Vehicle Code Section 13352, or for minors: Section 13352.6 and Section 13202.5 (and for juveniles: Section 13352.3).

Laws relating to the parallel administrative suspensions due to separate DMV actions may be found in Vehicle Code Section 13353.3, and for refusal cases in Section 13353 and Section 13353.1.

Laws relating to restricted licenses may be found, for first offenses in Vehicle Code Section 13352(a)(1), and Section 13352.1, and Section 13352.4, and in Section 13353.3(b)(1), and Section 13353.6, and Section 13353.7, and for second offenders in Section 13352(a)(3) (or third offenders, Section 13352(a)(5)), and Section 13352.5, and in Section 13353.3(b)(2), and Section 13353.75, and for minors in Section 13353.8, and also in Section 13202.5.

The latest 2019 complex law revisions eliminating mandatory driver's license suspension periods in favor of installation of the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer in most DUI cases may be found here: SB-1046. The earlier 2010 and 2012 law revisions allowing conversion of DUI license suspensions to early DUI restricted driving privileges for multiple offenders may be found here: SB-598 (for converting one-year suspensions or longer license revocations into 3 or 6-month suspensions followed by ignition interlock restricted license), SB-895 (adding SB598 license to separate DMV administrative suspension scheme), and AB-520 (adding Wet Reckless multiple offenders). Good Sonoma County DUI lawyers will explain all of these new laws to you, yet another reason to have access to a competent Santa Rosa DUI attorney.

The Court Conviction-Triggered Suspension

If you and your Sonoma County DUI lawyer are unable to win your case, the court is supposed to tell you at the time of sentencing (most judges don't), that a Santa Rosa DUI conviction results in a mandatory suspension of your driver's license by the DMV. This suspension is different than the DMV's separate administrative suspension. Your Santa Rosa DUI attorney should explain that this suspension which results from a Sonoma court conviction is administered by the DMV but triggered by what happens in the courthouse, whereas the other "DMV administrative suspension" (discussed in the next Tip #2), is triggered by the pink temporary license and can be imposed separately by DMV even if you and your Sonoma DUI attorney win in court or criminal charges are dropped by the Sonoma County prosecutor.

First you need to understand what the court suspension is exactly (and then compare to the DMV administrative suspension described in Tip #2):

First DUI Conviction

Suspension Period

In a typical first offense DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test, no other alcohol-related suspensions in the last ten years) Veh Code 23152, an informed Sonoma County DUI lawyer should explain that the suspension triggered solely by the court conviction is likely to be six months (Veh Code 13352(a)(1)(A)), but could be ten months if the court orders enrollment in the nine-month DUI program because of a court finding that the alcohol level was at or above .20%, or a court finding of a refusal to give a required chemical test when requested by Sonoma County law enforcement (Veh Code 13352.1(a) and Veh Code 23538(b)(2)). Other factors, such as misdemeanor or felony DUI cases causing injury to others (Veh Code 23153, and Veh Code 13352(a)(2),(4),(6)) and your age (Veh Code 23136 and 23140) can affect the length of a court suspension, but in most cases your Santa Rosa DUI attorney can provide you with the advice you need to get back on the road immediately, even after a Sonoma County DUI conviction.

Restricted License — After 1/1/19

IID Car BreathalyzerIf the date of the DUI arrest is on or after January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical DUI case with no prior DUI convictions in the last ten years, a driver may immediately convert the conviction-triggered license suspension into either (1) an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time (but this license is only available if the DUI conviction is alcohol-related) Veh Code 13352(a)(1),(2), Veh Code 13352.1, or (2) a 12-month "work" license allowing driving only to/from, and in the course of employment and to/from the DUI classes (but this license is only available if the court failed to order installation of the IID breathalyzer during sentencing) Veh Code 13352.4.

In either option above, the restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office after paying certain fees, but only if DMV can confirm on their computers that the driver has (1) already filed the special SR-22 insurance (see Tip #3 in this section), (2) already enrolled in the correct DUI program (see Tip #4), and (3) if applicable, already installed the IID breathalyzer (see our IID info below). All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Santa Rosa DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly time each of these tasks.

The 12-month restricted work license (allowing driving to, from and in the course of employment and to and from the DUI classes) is only available if there are no prior convictions in the last ten years, and is not permitted if the court separately orders installation of an IID breathalyzer during sentencing Veh Code 13352.4. Typically, the IID-restricted license lasts at least six months (or ten months if the court orders the nine-month DUI classes because of a refusal or high alcohol level at or above .20%), or longer if the court so orders, and until the Sacramento DMV receives proof of completion of the DUI program classes.

Restricted License — Before 1/1/19

If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical DUI case with no prior convictions in the last ten years, the same periods of suspension apply, but the process to obtain the restricted license is different. The driver is not required to choose between an IID breathalyzer restricted license and a work license in order to avoid a suspension, because there is no IID license option, only the work license option. Therefore, in the typical first offense DUI case, the driver may immediately convert the conviction-triggered suspension by simply filing the SR-22 insurance discussed here in Tip #3, and enrolling in the DUI classes discussed here in Tip #4, and then once DMV has electronic confirmation of these two tasks accomplished, a work license may be obtained after paying certain fees at any DMV field office. Timing is still critical to avoid any actual time off the road, and therefore the best Sonoma County DUI lawyers will help navigate you to perfectly time each of these tasks.

LifeSafer IIDSecond or More DUI Convictions

Suspension Period

In a typical multiple offender DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test), then an experienced Santa Rosa DUI lawyer should explain that the mandatory minimum suspension period following a second Sonoma County DUI court conviction is typically two years, and the mandatory minimum suspension period following a third Sonoma County DUI court conviction is three years, etc. Veh Code 13352(a)(3),(5),(7).

Restricted License — After 1/1/19

If the date of the DUI arrest is after January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical multiple offender DUI case, a driver may immediately convert the conviction-triggered license suspension into an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time (but this license is only available if the DUI conviction is alcohol-related) Veh Code 13352(a)(3),(5),(7). The new 12-month "work" license for first DUI offenders is not an option for multiple DUI offenders, but may be an option for some second offenders who have not driven the first year Veh Code 13352.5.

As with first offenders, the IID restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office after paying certain fees, but only if DMV can confirm on their computers that the driver has (1) already filed the special SR-22 insurance (see Tip #3 in this section), (2) already enrolled in the correct DUI program (see Tip #4), and (3) already installed the IID breathalyzer (see our IID info below). All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Santa Rosa DUI lawyers will help navigate you to perfectly time each of these tasks.

Restricted License — Before 1/1/19

If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical DUI case, the same suspension periods apply, but the process to obtain the restricted license is different. Under the old law before 2010, which is still an option, some second offenders may obtain a restricted "work" license after the first year of suspension Veh Code 13352.5. Between 2010 and 2018, law changes provided that following 90 days of absolute suspension, most second offenders are eligible for an IID restricted license for the remainder of the suspension (21 months) if certain tasks are pre-accomplished, including installation of the IID ignition device, enrollment in the multiple offender DUI program, and filing the SR-22 insurance.

Understand that there are no hardship exceptions of any kind for driving during the initial suspension period (90 days or one year), even in the most compelling personal situations, regardless of the severest consequences to you or others.

For most third offenders, the 2010-2018 laws provide for a typical 6-month wait prior to becoming eligible for an IID breathalyzer restricted license. The best way to avoid this harsh result is to get charges reduced or dismissed in Sonoma County court with the capable skills of a good Santa Rosa DUI attorney, or win at trial.

Consult with a Sonoma County DUI attorney to see if your individual circumstances might prevent eligibility for one or more of these restricted licenses (for example, a drug DUI, chemical test refusal cases, under-21 cases, some probation violation cases, some pre-July 2010 arrest dates, and other atypical prior/present offense combinations, etc.).

LowCostInterlockThe IID Breathalyzer

Many of the basic rules pertaining to installation, maintenance and use of IID breathalyzers may be found in Veh Code 13352(i)-(m), Veh Code 13353.6 (first offenders), and Veh Code 13353.75 (multiple offenders), and generally in Veh Code 23575.3, including income-based fee schedules, mandated durations, and definitions of certain violations.

For a comprehensive listing of local Sonoma County ignition interlock IID resources, click the following link to view our Sonoma DUI Lawyer IID Resources. Lifesafer is one of many companies offering these ignition devices for quick and affordable installation. Low Cost Interlock is another IID company, offering competitive pricing and a very smart soda can camouflage cover for the device (pictured here).

Drug DUIs

In most Sonoma County cases resulting in a DUI conviction involving drugs only, typically a conviction only for violating Veh Code 23152(f), none of the IID breathalyzer restricted licenses discussed above in first or multiple offense cases are available to help the driver convert the conviction-triggered suspension into restricted driving privileges. Instead, for most first offense drug DUI cases the driver may obtain a 12-month restricted work license (immediately after the suspension start date upon payment of fees at DMV, if the DMV already has electronic proof of SR-22 insurance filing and DUI program enrollment). (Veh Code 13352.4(b), Veh Code 13353.3(b)(1)).

For most multiple offense drug DUI cases the driver may only obtain a minimum 12-month restricted work license, but only after suffering one year of no driving whatsoever, regardless of extreme hardship to the driver or others. (Veh Code 13352(a)(3)(A)(i), Veh Code 13352.5, Veh Code 13353.3(b)(2).

Getting the Restricted License

In most cases, a driver is eligible for the restricted license immediately after a DUI conviction in the Sonoma County courts. But it is important to understand that the DMV does not mail or automatically issue the restricted license to you. A good Sonoma County DUI attorney will explain that you must accomplish certain tasks comfortably before the conviction date, such as those described above, and then go to the Santa Rosa or Petaluma DMV field office and pay a fee to obtain the restricted license.

In most cases it is best to wait until you receive the suspension notice in the mail so that you know the suspension has begun, rather than wasting time waiting in line only to discover that the court has not yet sent the record of conviction to DMV, so they don't have a suspension to convert to a restricted license yet.

Other requirements may apply in your unique situation; an experienced Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will be able to give you the specific eligibility criteria and timing requirements applicable to your own individual circumstances.

Old Sonoma County DUIs

Note if you have a past Sonoma County DUI and the Santa Rosa DMV refuses (or you are a resident of another state and your home state DMV refuses) to renew or return your license, or refuses to allow you to obtain even a restricted license (typically because the DUI program was not completed), contact a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer to review your matter and help you sort out the mess and clear your California record to get your license back.

Renew an Expired or Expiring License

Note if you receive a Renewal Notice or otherwise have an expired California license (or even out of state expired license) then in most cases it is best to renew your license prior to any resolution of a new DUI case in order to re-obtain driving privileges at the earliest opportunity. Contact a local Santa Rosa DUI attorney to review your driving record and provide specific advice for your particular circumstances.

Try to Get Your Case Dismissed or Settled for Less Than a DUI Conviction

Avoid a DUI conviction to avoid the mandatory suspensions described above. Usually your local Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will look for every opportunity to try dismissing your case in Sonoma County superior court, or reducing your DUI to a wet reckless conviction, dry reckless, or attempted DUI or drunk in public, or a moving violation infraction, which will accomplish the goal of completely avoiding this mandatory Sonoma court-generated suspension.

In most cases, to avoid any interruption of driving privileges at all, your Sonoma DUI attorney must also win the separate administrative suspension at the Santa Rosa DMV discussed in Tip #2.

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Any result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

Our DUI Lawyers

Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, Sonoma County resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of Sonoma County DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.

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Dave Jake Schwartz