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Driver's License Suspension in the Bay Area

Many people may not realize how harsh a driver's license suspension can be for California drivers. People across the East Bay use their cars every day to get them to and from school, getting to work or using their car on the job, going to the doctor, and for grocery shopping. However, with a suspended license, they may be forced to walk or take to bus to get to where they are going. While the East Bay does have public transportation options, BART and the bus don't go everywhere.

If your license has been suspended for any reason, talk to an experienced attorney who will fight for you so you can get back your license. If you have received a notice of suspension, your attorney can represent you at the DMV hearing to keep your license to drive.

California DMV Suspension

There are a number of motor vehicle violations or criminal violations that can result in a suspended license. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is the agency responsible for giving driver's a license to drive as well as suspending their license. There are a number of incidents that can trigger an automatic license suspension, including getting too many traffic infractions or getting a DUI.

In some cases, such as a drunk driving arrest, your license may be suspended even if you have not been convicted of the crime. This means drivers have to consider both the criminal penalties and the administrative actions that can result from a vehicle or traffic violation.

Other drivers may not even be aware that their license has been suspended. This commonly occurs with students or people who move around a lot. They may not have updated their address with the DMV. As a result of not getting a piece of mail or forgetting about a traffic violation, their license suspended and not even realize it.

Driving on a Suspended License

If the DMV has sent a notice of a license suspension or notification that your license has already been suspended, it is important to take care of the problem and not just ignore the suspension. Driving on a suspended license is a vehicle code violation under VC 14601. Violation may result in a misdemeanor criminal charge, which could result in fines, possible jail time, and an extended suspension period.

Negligent Operator Suspension

A driver may have their license suspended if they are designated as a “negligent operator.” The Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) issues a driver warnings and penalties when they have reached a certain number of negligent operator points within a given period of time. When a driver is convicted of a traffic violation, negligent operator points are added to their driving record. The number of points issued for each driving violation is detailed under Vehicle Code 12810. Common 2-point violations include:

  • Failure to stop after an accident;
  • Drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs;
  • Underage DUI;
  • Driving on a suspended license; or
  • Reckless driving.

After getting 4 points within 12 months, 6 points within 24 months, or 8 points in a 36-month period, a driver is presumed to be a “prima facie” negligent operator. This will lead a 6-month license suspension, with the suspension effective 34 days after the notice is mailed.

Driving Without Insurance

California drivers are required to have a certain level of auto insurance to operate their vehicles on the road. If they are stopped by police and do not have proof of insurance, they may face a ticket or even an impounded vehicle. However, getting caught without insurance after an accident will result in more severe penalties. After an accident, an uninsured driver may be assessed a fine and have their driver's license suspended for a year. The driver may also be required to obtain SR-22 proof of financial responsibility to have their license reinstated.

Drunk Driving Suspension

Many drivers have their license suspended after they are arrested for drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs. The unique aspect of a suspended license for a DUI is that you do not even have to be convicted to have your license suspended. Simply getting arrested is enough to lose your license. Immediately after an arrest, the police will take your license and give you a temporary license that will expire in 30 days. However, you only have 10 days to request a DMV hearing to fight an automatic suspension.

A suspension after a DUI will depend on the nature of the offense. For a first-time DUI, the driver may have their license suspended for 6 months. A second DUI within 10 years may result in a 2-year license suspension. For a 3rd DUI, your license may be revoked for 3 years. A fourth DUI is a felony and can result in a revocation for up to 4 years.

An underage DUI includes driving under the influence of any alcohol measured at 0.01% BAC or higher. An underage DUI may result in a 1-year driver's license suspension. Even if a driver is completely sober, having alcohol or an open container in the car for an underage driver can lead to a license suspension.

Drivers convicted of a DUI can seek a restricted driver's license in some cases. However, after a first DUI, the driver must first provide proof of enrollment in DUI school, show proof of financial responsibility with an SR-22, and pay the DMV fees. A restricted license may only allow you to drive to certain places at certain times of the day, including to and from work or school.

Refusing a Breath Test

Many drivers refuse to take a chemical test after a DUI arrest. They may refuse the test because they do not want the police to have proof that they were drinking alcohol or because they are upset that they were arrested when the driver knows they are not intoxicated. However, because of California's implied consent laws, simply refusing a chemical test carries penalties. Refusing to take the test can result in a 1-year license suspension. A second or third offense may result in a 2 or 3-year suspension, respectively.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident

After an automobile accident, the drivers of any vehicles involved are supposed to stop at the scene and give their insurance and contact information to anyone else involved. Even if the driver is not at fault, or they hit an unattended vehicle, they are required to stop at the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident is a vehicle code violation, and could add points to your driving record, which could add up to a license suspension.

Reinstating Your California Driver's License

After your license is suspended, you may be focused on what you need to do to get your license back. A restricted license may only allow you to drive to limited places. In order to have your full driver's license reissued or reinstated you may need to fulfill certain requirements, including:

  • Wait out the mandatory suspension period;
  • Pay any court fines and fees;
  • Obtain proof of insurance;
  • For a DUI, complete a licensed DUI school and obtain a Notice of Completion Certificate;
  • For a DUI, if required, have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed;
  • Provide proof of financial responsibility, usually an SR-22 certificate; and
  • Pay the DMV driver's license reissue fees.

SR-22 Filing

For some license suspension, you may need an SR-22 before your license can be reinstated. An SR-22 is also known as a certificate of financial responsibility. The driver will have to obtain an SR-22 and pay the associated fees. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires an SR-22 for a certain period of time after a DUI or other driving violations. If you lose your automobile insurance coverage, the insurance company will immediately notify the DMV of your non-coverage and you will not be permitted to drive.

You may also be required to provide proof of insurance as part of your SR-22 requirement. The SR-22 requirement usually lasts for a period of three years. The minimum coverage required in California is 15/30/5, or:

  • $15,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $5,000 property damage liability per accident.

DMV Administrative Per Se (APS) License Suspension Hearings

As soon as a driver is notified that their license may be suspended, they should request a DMV administrative hearing. The time to fight a suspension depends on the type of violation. For example, a negligent operator suspension notification generally gives the driver 34 days before their license will be suspended. However, a DUI arrest only allows the driver 10 days to file a request for an administrative hearing.

An administrative hearing is not the same as the criminal court hearing. There are different procedures for an administrative hearing. Make sure your attorney is experienced in administrative hearings and understands how you can fight an automatic suspension and keep your license to drive. It may be easier to fight the initial suspension that to have your license reinstated after suspension. As soon as you know that you may have your license suspended, contact an experienced East Bay attorney who will fight for you to keep your license and avoid a criminal conviction.

Experienced East Bay Defense Attorney

Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience and understands how important your license may be for your family and your job. You should not have to lose your license just because of a few tickets or traffic violations. Contact Lynn Gorelick to represent you during your DMV hearing so you can keep your license to drive.

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