Criminal DUI Court Punishment: Driver's License Suspensions - California DUI Law and Legal Information
A California drunk driving conviction can have serious consequences, including jail sentences, fines, mandatory alcohol education classes, and driver's license suspensions. Because the punishment associated with a California DUI offense is so severe, it's critical to have expert legal representation. A skilled California criminal defense attorney who focuses on drunk driving defense will devise a strategy to fight the charges and keep repercussions to a minimum.
Until recently, California criminal courts could order a driver's license suspension after a DUI conviction. However, new legislation has removed the court's authority to suspend or revoke driver's license on DUI cases that occurred on or after Sept. 20, 2005. The authority to suspend California driver's licenses now rests solely with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The California DMV can now suspend a license for two different reasons - an unsuccessful DMV administrative per se (APS) hearing, or a criminal DUI court conviction.
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The California DMV hearing is the most time-sensitive concern for anyone arrested in a violation of California V.C. Section 23152 - Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs or California V.C. Section 23153 - Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs Causing Injury. The driver has only 10 days from the date of arrest, including weekends and holidays, to request an Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing from the California DMV. If the driver doesn't request a hearing before the deadline passes, the DMV will automatically suspend the driver's license.
One aspect of the California DMV hearings is very unusual - the DMV employee who presents the evidence (the "prosecutor") and the DMV employee who weighs the evidence (the "judge") are the same person. The legal standard used in a California DMV hearing is a preponderance of the evidence - a much lower standard of proof than in a criminal DUI trial. If the administrator concludes after looking at a police report and a chemical test result that a motorist was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the driver's license will be suspended. That's why it's critical to be represented by a qualified drunk driving defense lawyer at a California DMV hearing.
Under the new DUI sentencing laws, if the California DMV is notified of a first-time DUI conviction, it immediately suspends the driver's license for six months. Previously, the criminal DUI court could order the license suspended, but only the California Department of Motor Vehicles could actually restrict an individual's driving privileges.
California has a 10-year "washout period" for driving under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug offenses, meaning that a California drunk driving arrest within 10 years of a first arrest is treated as a multiple DUI offense with enhanced penalties. However, if 10 years pass after a first arrest and the driver is again arrested for a DUI, the later arrest is treated as a first-time drunk driving offense.
The new California driving under the influence (DUI) sentencing laws also change the way the DMV handles restricted licenses. In the past, a driver whose driver's license was suspended because of a first-time DUI conviction had to wait for one month to apply for a restricted license to drive to work or school. Under the new law, a first-offense DUI offender whose license is suspended by the DMV because of a drunk driving conviction can apply for a restricted license immediately.
If a motorist is convicted of drunk driving
for the second time in 10 years, the California DMV will suspend the driver's
license for two years, with the possibility of obtaining a restricted
license after one year if the driver is enrolled in the appropriate
alcohol education classes. Third- and fourth-offense drunk driving
convictions will result in a three-year suspension, with the
possibility of a restricted license after 18 months if the driver has completed an 18-month alcohol and drug program.
California drunk driving offenses resulting in injury or death will be charged as a felony DUI and will result in longer driver's license suspensions. A person who is convicted in a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23153 - Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs Causing Injury will face a one-year driver's license suspension, with no opportunity for a restricted license. A second-offense DUI with injury will bring a three-year license suspension, with an opportunity for a restricted license after 18 months if the driver has completed an 18-month alcohol program.
Motorists who hold California commercial driver's licenses face additional concerns under California's new drunk driving laws. Anyone convicted of DUI while driving a commercial vehicle is not eligible for any type of restricted license. Additionally, any commercial driver convicted of a first DUI offense in California loses his or her commercial license for one year. After a second DUI offense, the commercial license will be revoked for life.
Because any driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) conviction in California poses a threat to an individual's driving privileges, itís essential to have skilled legal representation. An experienced San Francisco, California DUI defense lawyer can develop an aggressive strategy to challenge both the criminal DUI court case and the California DMV action.