One of the most feared consequences associated with a California DUI conviction is the license suspension. While most people who have been convicted of a California DUI know that their license will be suspended, few know the process by which a license is suspended or for how long a license will be suspended following a DUI arrest.
The first thing that people should be aware of is the fact that there are two separate proceedings which can lead to a license suspension; 1.) the DMV administrative per se (APS) action, and 2.) the court case.
Following the DUI arrest where it is suspected that a person had a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08 percent or if the person refused a chemical, that person has only 10 days to request a hearing from the DMV to try and save their driving privilege. Most people do nothing and their license is automatically suspended. If, however, a hearing is scheduled, that person or an attorney can present evidence to refute that the BAC was at or above a 0.08 percent or that the person refused a chemical test.
These “APS” hearings are very difficult to win. This is because the hearing officer, who is an employee of the DMV, is both the proponent of the incriminating evidence as well as the finder of fact. In other words, the hearing officer acts as the prosecutor, jury, and judge.
At the APS hearing, if it is found that a person had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more, they face a four month suspension. If it is found that the person refused a chemical test following a lawful arrest, they face a one year suspension. If the hearing is successful and it is found that the person neither had a 0.08 blood alcohol content nor refused the chemical test, their license is safe…at least for now.
Even if the DMV APS process has concluded, chances are that the court case is still ongoing. If a person is convicted of a California DUI either through a plea deal or after a trial, the court will notify the DMV of the conviction which triggers a “mandatory action” suspension. This suspension is six months in length. If the person served any time for an APS suspension, that time will be credited against the mandatory action suspension and the remaining APS suspension, if there is any, is served concurrently with the mandatory action suspension. In other words, a person who loses the APS hearing and is also convicted at court should serve no more than a six month suspension.
So what happens when the APS hearing and the court case have different outcomes?
• DMV hearing loss and a court conviction -> License suspension
• DMV hearing loss and a court dismissal -> License suspension
• DMV hearing loss and an acquittal after a court trial -> License suspension set aside
• DMV hearing win and a court conviction -> License suspension
• DMV hearing win and a court dismissal -> No license suspension
• DMV hearing win and an acquittal after a court trial -> No license suspension
Whether a license is suspended through the APS process or the mandatory action, a person can apply for a restricted license after 30 days of a “hard suspension.” During the hard suspension, the person cannot drive at all. After the hard suspension, and if a restricted license is granted, a person can travel to and from work, school, doctor’s appointments, and other necessary locations.