Drivers arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in California with out-of-state driver’s licenses should be aware of specific rules and pitfalls that may complicate their cases. A California DUI / DWI arrest may jeopardize the driver’s privileges in the state that issued the license. An experienced California attorney who concentrates on drunk driving defense can work to protect an individual’s driving privileges both here and in the state that issued the license.
The process for out-of-state drivers after a California DUI / DWI arrest is the same for in-state license holders. DUI / DWI arrests in California trigger two separate cases: The California Department of Motor Vehicles and Superior Court.
The California DMV will automatically begin the process of suspending driving privileges in the state of California after learning of a driver’s DUI / DWI arrest, regardless of where the driver is licensed. If the DMV reviews the arrest documents and finds by a preponderance of the evidence – the lowest standard of proof – that the motorist was driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater, it will suspend the motorist’s driving privileges in California. This suspension will begin 30 days after the arrest.
What happens to the motorist’s driving privileges in his or her own state depends on whether that state is a party to the Interstate Driver’s License Compact, an agreement between 45 states to communicate about driving-related crimes, including DUI / DWI. Only Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Michigan are not part of the Interstate Driver’s License Compact. All other states have agreed to notify other states of a DUI / DWI conviction and/or take against a person’s driving privilege.
A driver’s license is the property of the state that issued it. When a driver licensed in California is arrested for DUI / DWI within the state, the arresting officer will take the license and issue a temporary document that holds off an automatic license suspension for 30 days. After 30 days the driver’s license will be suspended.
However, if the driver has a license issued in another state, the arresting officer cannot take the license. The arresting officer will issue the same temporary license, and a summary suspension of the driver’s California driving privileges will be held off for 30 days.
The driver must request a California DMV administrative per se (APS) hearing within 10 days of arrest, or risk losing driving privileges after 30 days. If the driver doesn’t have a successful hearing outcome, or doesn’t request a hearing at all, the DMV will notify the driver’s home state, and that state may suspend the license. An experienced California DUI / DWI criminal defense attorney can ensure the best possible outcome at a DMV hearing.
Distinguishing between a driver’s license and a driving privilege makes it easier to understand why motorists can lose their driving privileges whether or not police seize out-of-state licenses. Possession of a driver’s license is only a presumption that the individual has a valid privilege to drive in the state. If the driver’s privilege is suspended, the license is useless.
Out-of-state drivers arrested for DUI / DWI in California face enormous financial and personal consequences. A California criminal defense lawyer with experience fighting drunk driving cases can help minimize the consequences for out-of-state drivers arrested on suspicion of DUI / DWI.