Drivers arrested for DUI / DWI face two separate cases – at the DMV and in court. California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will attempt to suspend a suspected drunk driver’s license in what is known as an administrative “per se” (APS) hearing. A motorist arrested for drunk driving has only 10 calendar days to request a DMV hearing. If no hearing is requested within 10 days, the DMV will automatically begin the process of suspending a driver’s license.
The consequences of an unsuccessful APS hearing depend on whether the motorist has prior convictions for drinking and driving or refused to take a chemical test. An experienced California DUI / DWI criminal defense lawyer can represent the interests of an accused drunk driver at an APS hearing and fight to maintain the individual’s driving privileges.
For first-time DUI / DWI drivers, the punishment imposed by the DMV depends on whether the motorist agreed to take a chemical test. A driver in a first-time DUI case who agreed to a chemical test faces a four-month license suspension and the requirement to file formal proof of insurance (an SR-22) with the DMV for the next three years. The motorist also is required to enroll in alcohol education classes. The driver may be entitled to a restricted license that allows travel to work and alcohol education classes.
First-time DUI / DWI drivers who refuse to take a chemical test face harsher consequences. Drivers who refused a chemical test face a license suspension of one year, with no opportunity to obtain a restricted license. The driver must file an SR-22 in order to have the license reinstated at the end of the suspension period.
In order to suspend a driver’s license at an APS hearing, the DMV must determine three facts – that police 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 while behind the wheel. A skilled DUI / DWI criminal defense attorney will cast doubt on all three of these assertions.
It’s important to remember that punishment imposed in connection with an APS hearing is separate from any consequences stemming from a court conviction. Although courts no longer have the authority to order driver’s license suspensions, the 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 APS suspension.
Although the DMV can suspend the driver’s license of a first-time DUI arrestee as a result of an unsuccessful APS hearing or a criminal court conviction, neither outcome is inevitable. An experienced California DUI / DWI attorney can launch an aggressive defense at both the DMV and in court, and keep negative consequences to a minimum.