California Dui: Losing Your License Before a Conviction

The average driver in California probably already knows that the consequences of a DUI conviction may include the loss of driving privileges, fines and a jail or prison sentence. Motorists stopped for driving under the influence might be surprised when the officer making the arrest keeps the person’s driver’s license, and serves them with written order suspending their driving privileges.

Administrative license suspension


A program created in 1990 suspends or revokes the driver’s license of anyone who is 21 years of age or older who meets one of the following criteria at the time of the arrest:

  • A blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher as revealed by a chemical test of the person’s breath or blood
  • A blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or higher if the driver is on probation for a prior DUI at the time of his or her arrest a new charge
  • A blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or higher if the individual is driving a truck or other commercial vehicle
  • A chemical test is not completed because the driver refuses to take one or, having agreed to take it, fails to compete it

Under the administrative license suspension program, the department of motor vehicles is required to suspend or revoke the driver’s license of a motorist arrested and charged with DUI. This loss of the right to drive is separate and apart from any penalties imposed by a judge after the motorist is convicted of the DUI charge.

How does an administrative license suspension work?

If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, the police officer will not give you back your driver’s license. Instead, the license is sent to the DMV, and the officer serves you with a written order notifying you that a suspension or revocation of your license will begin in 30 days.

The order includes a temporary license and instructions about how to request a hearing to challenge the suspension or revocation. You must request a hearing within 10 days from the date of your arrest or from the date of your receipt of the order.

Challenging the loss of your license

When you get to the DMV hearing, the only issues are the legality of the arrest and whether or not you were driving a motor vehicle at the time. If the suspension or revocation is based upon your refusal to complete a chemical test to measure your BAC, whether you actually failed to do so will be an issue that could be raised along with whether the police officer advised you that a refusal could lead to the suspension or revocation of your license.

Length of administrative suspensions

If a hearing fails to show that an administrative action should not be taken against your driving privileges, your license will be suspended or revoked as follows:

  • Suspended for four months if it is your first offense and your submitted to a chemical test
  • Suspended for a year if you have prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years
  • Suspended for a year if you refused to take the chemical test and it is your first offense
  • Revoked for two years if it is your first offense but you are on probation for DUI

Getting legal advice and representation

There can be serious consequences associated with the loss of your driver’s license before you are convicted of violating the law. A Sacramento criminal defense attorney with knowledge of the DUI laws may be of assistance. An attorney can help you to determine if you are eligible for a restricted license during any suspension period.