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First-Offense DUI in California

Motorists arrested for drunk driving in California face two separate cases - at the California DMV and in criminal court. The California Department of Motor Vehicles hearings are known as an Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing, will attempt to suspend the driver's license. An experienced California DUI criminal defense lawyer can represent the interests of an accused drunk driver at the California APS hearing, and fight to maintain the individual's driving privileges.

In California motorist has only 10 calendar days after arrest to request a hearing at the California DMV. If the driver doesn't request a hearing within that timeframe, the California DMV will automatically begin the process of suspending the license.

For first-time DUI offense in California, the punishment depends on whether the motorist agreed to take a chemical test. A driver in a first California DUI offense who submitted to a chemical test faces a four-month license suspension and the requirement to file formal proof of insurance (SR-22) with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for the next three years. The motorist also must enroll in alcohol education classes. The driver may be entitled to a restricted license that allows travel to work and alcohol education classes.

California motorists accused of Driving Under the Influence for the first time who refuse to take a chemical test face longer license suspensions. Drivers who refused to submit to a chemical test will lose their licenses for one year, and there is no opportunity to obtain a restricted license. The driver must file an SR-22 form with California DMV in order to have the license reinstated at the end of the suspension period.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles must determine three facts at an APS hearing in order to suspend a driver's license - that the arresting officer had a reasonable belief that the driver committed a crime, that the arrest was lawful, and that the driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater. A skilled California DUI defense attorney will challenge all three of these accusations.

Any punishment meted out in connection with a California APS hearing is separate from the consequences that stem from a criminal court conviction. Although courts no longer have the authority to order driver's license suspensions, the California DMV will suspend a driver's license for six months upon learning of a drunk driving conviction. This suspension is concurrent with, not in addition to, any California Administrative Per Se (APS) hearing suspension.

Although even first-time DUI offender face license suspensions at the California DMV, it can be avoided. An experienced California DUI defense lawyer will plan an aggressive defense at both the California DMV and in criminal court designed to keep negative consequences to a minimum.

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