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Will I Lose My Driver’s License if I Get a DUI in California?

California may suspend or revoke someone’s driver’s license following a DUI charge.

Getting arrested on charges of drunk driving in California is overwhelming. Many people do not know what lies on the road ahead in terms of next steps and possible penalties. Here, we take a look at the administrative consequences of a DUI conviction specifically related to someone's driver's license.

Immediate Consequences

According to the California Division of Motor Vehicles, the law enforcement officer who arrests someone for a DUI will take the person's driver's license. The driver has 10 days from the arrest to request a hearing with the DMV. The agency will then conduct a review to see if the suspension has merit. If it does not, the DMV may set aside the suspension or license revocation and restore the person's privileges.

It may be that the officer issues the driver a temporary license, which may be good for 30 days. However, it is still possible that those privileges may be suspended or revoked pending the outcome of the charges.

Chemical Testing

As part of California's implied consent law, drivers in the state are subject to chemical testing to determine their blood alcohol concentration. This may apply to either blood or breath testing.

Those results could have an impact on a driver's license suspension in the following ways:

  • A four-month suspension is applied to first-time offenders 21 or older who have 0.08 percent BAC or more.
  • A one-year suspension applies to those with second or subsequent offenses within a 10-year period.
  • Those under 21 with 0.01 percent BAC or higher face a one-year suspension.

Despite the implied consent law, drivers may refuse testing. However, failing to take a test automatically results in a one-year license suspension for first-time offenders and a two-year license revocation for second offenses in a 10-year timeframe. Someone who has three or more such offenses in 10 years faces a three-year license revocation.

Restoring License Privileges

Typically, a driver's license is restored to people at the end of the revocation or suspension period. However, the driver must pay a fee to the DMV for the reissuance. In many cases, the drivers also have to provide an SR-22 form. This is a certificate of insurance that demonstrates that the person has at least the minimum insurance coverage that the state requires.

Of course, the above administrative sanctions are only a fraction of what someone faces when dealing with a DUI charge. There are also criminal penalties, such as possible jail time and probation, which may apply. Anyone who has concerns about this issue should speak with a criminal defense attorney in California.