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License Suspension

California drivers arrested for a Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or drunk driving in San Francisco, Bay area face two separate cases - in California DUI criminal court, and at the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The California DMV case is far more time-sensitive - the driver must request a DMV administrative per se (APS) hearing within 10 calendar days of the arrest, or risk having his or her license suspended. Consulting with an experienced California DMV hearing attorney can help ensure the best possible outcome at an APS hearing.

The first and best possible outcome is that the California DMV hearing officer can set aside the revocation, suspension or restriction of a driver’s license. This means that the California DMV case is over, and the driver is free to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and obtain a duplicate driver’s license.

The second possible outcome is that an administrative per se action (APS) will be imposed. In order to suspend a driver's license, the California DMV hearing officer must find that three facts have been proven by a preponderance of the evidence - the lowest standard of proof in law. If the California DMV hearing officer can establish that police had a reasonable belief that a crime had been committed, that the driver was lawfully arrested, and that the motorist had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater, the APS action will be imposed.

The consequences imposed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles after a drunk driving arrest will depend on whether the motorist has prior Driving Under the Influence (DUI) convictions, and whether or not the driver agreed to take a chemical test. A driver who refused a breath, blood or urine test at the time of arrest faces harsher consequences. Refusing to take a chemical test to determine BAC will substantially increase the length of the license suspension.

A first-time DUI driver who agreed to a chemical test will lose his or her license for four months and must file a formal proof of insurance (an SR-22) with the California Department of Motor Vehicles for the next three years. After one month, the driver may be entitled to a restricted license that allows travel to work and alcohol education classes.

Multiple drunk driving convictions will substantially increase the punishment imposed by the California DMV. A driver who submitted to a chemical test but has prior DUI convictions or APS suspensions within the past 10 years will have his or her license suspended for one year for a second offense, two years for a third offense, and three years for a fourth offense. The driver also must file an SR-22 and complete an alcohol education class that could last from 18 months for a second offense to 30 months for a third or fourth offense.

Motorists who refused a breath, blood or urine test face harsher consequences. The driver will lose his or her license for one year for a first refusal, two years for a second refusal, three years for a third refusal, and four years for a fourth refusal. Drivers who refuse chemical testing will not receive a restricted license.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles may also impose additional license restrictions on drivers convicted of DUI in court. New legislation effective September 20, 2005, means that California courts now have no jurisdiction over driver's licenses - that authority rests entirely with the DMV. The California DMV can and will impose additional license restrictions when it is notified of a drunk driving or DUI criminal court conviction.

Because the consequences of an unsuccessful California DMV hearing are so severe, it is important to aggressively fight the case with expert legal help. A Northern California attorney who focuses on DUI defense will launch a defense designed to reduce or eliminate the repercussions of both a drunk driving criminal court case and a The California DMV hearing.

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