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Top Ten Tips > Getting Your License Back After a DUI

DMV Field Office2. The DUI Suspension From DMV

The best Sonoma County DUI lawyers will explain to you that a typical DUI case results in two different driver's license suspensions.

One suspension is the mandatory suspension triggered by a DUI conviction in court (see Tip #1 in this section), and the other suspension is the APS suspension triggered by the pink temporary license issued at the time of arrest, and governed separately by the DMV regardless of what happens in court.

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.

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.

Delaying or Fighting the DMV Suspension

The court conviction-triggered suspension is delayed and fought in court, but this separate DMV suspension has it's own separate procedures. In most cases, if a driver is arrested for a DUI, they are handed a Pink Temporary License, which states on its face that the driver has ten days to call DMV and ask for a hearing, completely apart from any court proceedings, to show the DMV why their intended suspension is unjustified. Any experienced Sonoma County DUI attorney will accomplish this hearing request immediately on your behalf if we are hired in the first ten days from arrest.

A timely hearing request typically results in a "stay" (delay) of this separate DMV suspension until an independent administrative hearing is held to determine if DMV has enough evidence to conclude that the suspension should be reinstated. Of course the best Santa Rosa DUI lawyers will not only request the hearing for you, but we will also represent you at that separate hearing so that you don't have to figure it out yourself, or even attend.

In most cases, if this separate DMV hearing is not timely requested, or if the hearing is successfully obtained but DMV finds against the driver anyway, then the DMV's stay may be lifted and their intended suspension may be reimposed.

First DUI Suspension

Suspension Period

In a typical first offender 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), the expected suspension period would be four months (Section 13353.3(b)(1)).

Restricted License — After 1/1/19

If the date of the DUI arrest is on or after January 1, 2019, then following a typical DUI arrest with no prior DUI suspension in the last ten years, most first offenders may convert the separate four-month DMV license suspension into restricted driving privileges by (1) immediately obtaining an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time, but only if the DUI suspension is alcohol-related (Section 13353.3(b)(1)), or by (2) waiting until the 30-day pink temporary license expires, then suffering a 30-day suspension with no available hardship exceptions, followed by a restricted "work" license allowing driving only to/from, and in the course of employment and to/from the DUI classes and activities (Section 13353.7), unless or until a court orders installation of the IID breathalyzer during sentencing.

The first offender 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 in Tip #1). 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 Sonoma DUI attorneys will help navigate you to properly plan each of these tasks.

Restricted License — Before 1/1/19

If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then the same periods of suspension apply, but a portion of this separate DMV suspension must be served with no restricted license, and the process to obtain the restricted license thereafter is different. Further, in first offense cases, the driver is not required to choose between an IID breathalyzer restricted license and a "work" license, because there is no immediate IID license option, only the 30-day mandatory suspension followed by a work license.

Specifically, regardless of the suspension dates specified in any subsequent DMV notices received in the mail (DMV notices are notoriously misleading), most first offenders may obtain a restricted Class C work license after the first 30 days from the DMV suspension start date, as soon as certain fees are paid at a local DMV office, and DMV receives electronic proof of DUI program enrollment and proof of filing special SR22 insurance.

The first offender restricted work license allows driving only to/from, and in the course of employment and to/from the DUI classes and activities. These first offender restricted driving privileges typically last five months and until the Sacramento DMV receives proof of completion of the Sonoma County DUI program drinking driver classes. Each 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 Sonoma DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly plan these tasks.

LowCostInterlockSecond or More DUI Suspensions

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), the expected suspension period would be one year regardless of the number of prior DUI offenses (Section 13353.3(b)(2)), but don't panic, keep reading!

Restricted License — After 1/1/19

If the date of the DUI arrest is after January 1, 2019, then in the typical multiple offender case, most multiple offenders may convert the separate one-year DMV license suspension into restricted driving privileges by obtaining an immediate Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time, but only if the DUI suspension is alcohol-related (Section 13353.3(b)(2)).

The multiple offender 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 in Tip #1). These restricted driving privileges typically last one year (unless the court orders a longer IID period). 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 plan each of these tasks.

Restricted License — Before 1/1/19

If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then in the typical multiple offender case, most multiple offenders may obtain a restricted IID breathalyzer license after the first 90 days (second offenders) or six months (third offenders) from the DMV suspension start date, and as soon as certain fees are paid at a local DMV office, and DMV receives electronic proof of installation of an IID breathalyzer, DUI program enrollment and proof of filing special SR22 insurance. Timing is always critical for first and multiple DUI offenders to avoid any longer time off the road than necessary, and therefore the best Sonoma County DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly plan each of these tasks.

stealth IID cupDifferences Between the DMV Suspension and the Court Suspension

Santa Rosa DUI attorneys would explain it to you this way: The DMV administrative suspension is different from the mandatory Sonoma County court conviction suspension in at least six ways:

(1) Differing outcomes in the same current matter: even if you win in court, or charges are reduced or never filed, this separate DMV suspension is usually still imposed if you and your Sonoma DUI lawyer fail to win separately at the Santa Rosa DMV hearing (requested within 10 days of arrest);

(2) Differing treatment of prior matters: even if court charges were never filed in a prior matter, or lesser charges were filed (such as under-21 zero tolerance but not .08% DUI), or the conviction was for something other than a DUI (like a "Dry Reckless" or a simple traffic infraction, but the DMV still suspended you for an alcohol-related reason in that prior matter, then the DMV may treat this new Sonoma County case as a second or higher DUI and impose a multiple offense one-year suspension period (without the possibility of a hardship or work license in some cases) even though your Sonoma DUI lawyer tells you that the Santa Rosa prosecutor is treating a new case as a "first offense" and is not charging the prior court matter in the current Sonoma County Superior Court proceedings;

(3) Required time off the road: if this is your first administrative suspension, then if you don't want to install an IID breathalyzer, you must serve the first 30 days of the DMV suspension without any driving privileges at all, unless your local Sonoma County DUI attorney can arrange credits or otherwise obtain a different result at the Santa Rosa DMV, whereas all of the Sonoma court-caused suspension is typically convertible into a work license; in a first DUI scenario, it is this DMV administrative suspension rather than the Sonoma court conviction-triggered suspension which typically causes the complete loss of driving privileges for any length of time;

(4) Chemical test refusal cases: if this is your first alcohol-related suspension, a good Sonoma County DUI lawyer will explain to you that a refusal to provide a chemical test at the time of arrest will likely result in a one-year loss of driving privileges with no work or hardship license allowed from Santa Rosa DMV (see example APS Refusal Notice), and more than one year if you have prior DUI suspensions, whereas the Sonoma County court suspension typically would be totally convertible into a restricted work license; in this case the DMV one-year suspension takes priority even though the Sonoma County court may dismiss the refusal allegation or otherwise allow a restricted license;

(5) Length of suspension in multiple priors cases: if this is not your first DMV suspension in the last ten years, then, except for the breathalyzer restricted license availability, the DMV administrative suspension is one year (more if you refused to give a chemical test) for any number of priors, but the Sonoma court-generated suspension increases to two years, three years, or more depending on the number of court priors; and

(6) Two different restricted work licenses: if your Sonoma DUI attorney resolves the Sonoma County criminal case in court first, and thereafter you obtain the work license from Santa Rosa DMV discussed in Tip #1 above, then usually DMV requires that you go back to the local DMV office to get a new restricted license after you are suspended again due to the administrative suspension (or vice versa). You should talk to your local Sonoma DUI lawyer about coordinating resolutions so that only one trip to Santa Rosa DMV is required.

Client comment: "The DUI Program said after I have DUI program enrollment and SR22 accomplished I can go to DMV in 3 working days to apply for a restricted license instead of waiting 30 days. I'll go next Wednesday."

Jake's [pre-2019] answer to this client: "(Sigh) Yet another example for my website of wrong advice from the DUI program: remember that we started your DMV administrative suspension the same day as your conviction, but the administrative suspension hasn't been updated to your driving record yet; wait this first 30 days regardless of wrong advice from the DUI program, otherwise (1) you will be required to go to DMV twice to convert two suspensions separately, and (2) you may be caught driving on a suspended license if you are stopped between the dates when the administrative suspension is updated to your driving record and the date you receive notice of the new suspension in the mail. This myopic DUI program "advice" could have cost you a new arrest, impoundment of your vehicle, and a new court case for driving on a suspended license! Don't blindly follow DUI Program advice; wait the 30 days as we discussed."

Different Suspension Start Dates Beware allowing your Sonoma County court case to drag on far beyond any DMV re-imposition of suspension; if this happens you may find that your second restricted license, required after a court conviction, will result in additional months of restrictions as compared with the bare minimum restriction duration if you coordinate the start of both suspensions at once. Be sure that you thoroughly discuss this process with your Sonoma DUI attorney and that you are comfortable that the possible benefits of prolonging the court case outweigh the risk of a longer restriction period.

Similarities Between the Two Suspensions

(1) Santa Rosa DUI attorneys understand that as the agency in charge of drivers licenses, the DMV bureaucratically administers both suspensions and any restricted licenses. The DMV will send all of the license suspension notices to your address on record at the DMV (usually without clear information on which suspension is which, and with misleading information on what to do next).

DMV Mailing Address. Be sure you submit your current address to the Santa Rosa (or nearest satellite) DMV office unless there are compelling reasons not to do so. You can visit the Santa Rosa or Petaluma satellite DMV office to submit a Sonoma County change of address, or click here to Print and Mail Change of Address Form, or here to Update Your Address Online, if DMV has an old address. Additionally, copies of some of the DUI-related notices are sent to your Sonoma DUI lawyer.

Santa Rosa DMV Field Office:

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(2) The same Santa Rosa DUI program drinking driver classes and the same SR 22 insurance filing, and if applicable the same IID breathalyzer installation, satisfy the same requirements to get both restricted licenses once you are eligible.

(3) If you win at trial in Sonoma County, or your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer obtains a factual finding of innocence on the specific charge of being at or over .08% (or .01% in under-21 cases), or otherwise obtains a "Helmandollar Acquittal," then your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will inform Sacramento DMV and win both court and DMV cases at once. Most likely, if the Santa Rosa DMV matter had already been decided against you, it may be overturned with such a win in the Sonoma County courthouse.

How Do You Know Which Suspension is Which?

Read the notices you receive (save them and ask a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer if you don't understand them). Your DUI attorney will explain that in a first DUI, if the duration of your suspension stated on the "Administrative Per Se" notice (first DUI) is four months, then this notice is referring to the Santa Rosa DMV's administrative suspension. If the duration is six or ten months, then this notice is the Mandatory Action "Order of Suspension" notice (first DUI) referring to the Sonoma court conviction-generated suspension.

If this is your second or higher DUI, and if the duration of your suspension on the "Administrative Per Se" notice (second DUI) is one year in a non-refusal case, then your Sonoma DUI attorney will explain to you that this is referring to the DMV's administrative suspension. If the duration is two years or more in a non-refusal case, then this notice is the Mandatory Action "Order of Suspension" notice (second DUI) referring to the Sonoma court-generated suspension.

The best way to avoid the DMV administrative suspension is to have a local Sonoma DUI attorney ask for the separate DMV administrative hearing in Santa Rosa within the allowable time, and then win the hearing. The best way to win the hearing is with a Santa Rosa DUI lawyer at your side who can address the issues which we know are most important to the DMV. These issues are not usually the personal or economic hardship issues which are most important to you, or the way you were treated by Sonoma County law enforcement, but rather, in most cases, what we know wins a case are the precise legal issues surrounding the legality of the law enforcement conduct, and the weight of evidence regarding your sobriety, and the accuracy and adequacy of the chemical tests and the police and DMV documents.

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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