Protecting Your Driver's License When Charged with a DUI

It is well known that the state of California imposes some of the harshest criminal penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) in the nation. With possible terms of imprisonment, probation, court ordered classes, community service, and the many barriers and repercussions that come with having a criminal conviction on one's record, criminal DUI penalties handed down by the court can be devastating. While defending oneself against charges and fighting to avoid or mitigate criminal penalties is crucial, those who stand accused of a DUI must also be aware that they need to take swift and decisive action when protecting their driving privileges.

As many people convicted of a DUI in California can attest, driver's license penalties are among the most debilitating consequences that arise in the aftermath of a conviction. They can limit one's ability to work, especially when driving is part of the job, and can create a number of strains in your personal life. As such, it is imperative for all those who stand accused of any DUI offense to understand that they have every right to challenge the government's case against them as they fight to preserve their driving privileges.

DMV Hearings and the 10-Day Rule

If you are charged with a DUI in Los Angeles or anywhere throughout the state, your case will be handled in two separate proceedings – one in a criminal court and one with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Criminal court proceedings concern whether or not you are guilty of committing a criminal offense and DMV hearings will focus solely on your driving privileges. Criminal cases and DMV hearings are conducted independently from one another.

When you are arrested under suspicion of a DUI, the arresting officer will likely confiscate your driver's license and give you a temporary license that is valid for 30 days. This does not mean that you are guilty, but rather that your case is pending. In order to challenge the suspension of your driver's license and to prevent your license from being automatically suspended or revoked, you must request a hearing with the DMV within 10 days of your arrest.

DMV hearings are administrative proceedings that focus only on the suspension or revocation of your driver's license. Under state and federal law, you have the right to be informed of the actions the DMV plans to take against and the right to challenge their case in order to protect your license. During the hearing, officials will consider the circumstances surrounding your arrest, including the arresting protocol of law enforcement officers, evidence and witness testimony, results from chemical tests, and other similar factors. You – and your attorney – will have the opportunity to challenge arresting procedures, breath and blood tests, and other important elements.

While you are not legally required to request a DMV hearing, these administrative procedures are your only chance to protect your license. If you do not request a hearing, your license will automatically be suspended or revoked on the date mentioned on your temporary license. Although criminal cases and DMV hearings are conducted separately, there are a few instances in which the decision reached in one proceeding may impact the other. If your suspension is upheld by the DMV and you are later found not guilty of a DUI in criminal court, for example, you may be able to have the DMV decision overturned. Reductions of a DUI to a wet reckless, on the other hand, will most likely have no impact on your license suspension.

Aside from providing the chance to protect your license, DMV hearings will also provide you with the opportunity to petition for a restricted license. If you are eligible for a restricted license, you must provide proof of insurance (SR-22), proof of enrollment in a court approved DUI education class, and pay the various administrative fees. A restricted license will allow you to drive for school or work related purposes only.

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have spent collective decades representing local residents who have been charged with various DUI offenses. With extensive experience and resources at our disposal, we are able to provide comprehensive and effective representation during both criminal court proceedings and DMV hearings. As time is a crucial factor in protecting your license, we encourage you to speak with a member of our legal team as soon as possible. Find more information about DUI charges and penalties, DMV hearings, and how a proven Los Angeles DUI attorney from our firm can help.