Anyone arrested for DUI / DWI in California faces threats to his or her driving privileges, but drivers with out-of-state face special challenges both in criminal court and at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Out-of-state drivers facing California drunk driving charges risk losing their driving privileges both here and in their home states. A California DUI / DWI criminal defense attorney can help accused motorists protect their driving privileges both in California and in their home states.
The most pressing concern for anyone arrested for drunk driving in California is to request a DMV administrative per se (APS) hearing within 10 days of arrest, regardless of where the driver is licensed. If the hearing is not requested, the Department of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend the motorist’s driving privileges within the state of California. The suspension imposed by the California DMV is initiated and imposed without an actual court conviction.
This does not mean that the driver can return to his or her home state and continue to drive. An agreement known as the Interstate Driver’s License Compact means that California will notify the driver’s home state of its action, and that state likely will suspend the driver’s license. The Interstate Driver’s License Compact includes 45 states – only Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Michigan are not parties to the agreement.
Once the DMV is notified of a California drunk driving arrest, the agency will add the information to the driver’s file and begin the process of suspending the individual’s driving privileges. The file number is the licensee’s driver’s license number. When an out-of-state licensee is arrested for DUI / DWI, the same process takes place; however, the DMV will issue an “X” file number that includes the home state driver’s license number.
Once the suspension takes effect, police will be able to identify the driver and confirm the status of his or her California driving privileges. The driver will be cited or arrested for driving on a revoked, suspended or restricted driving privilege in California, even if the home state license is still valid with no restrictions.
Although 45 states belong to the Interstate Driver’s License Compact, not all states automatically suspend a driver’s license based only on a DUI / DWI arrest. An experienced California DUI / DWI attorney can advise drivers of the implications in their licensing states.
To suspend a driver’s California driving privileges during an APS hearing, the Department of Motor Vehicles must only establish by a preponderance of the evidence, the lowest standard of proof, that the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion of drunk driving, that the arrest was lawful, and that the motorist had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater. This means that even if the driver’s criminal case is dismissed, the motorist can still lose his or her driving privileges in both California and at home.
Because a California DUI / DWI case poses a direct threat to a driver’s privileges, it’s imperative to fight the case aggressively both in court and at the DMV. An experienced California drunk driving lawyer can help protect an accused DUI driver’s privileges both in California and in the state where the license was issued.