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Top Ten Tips > Getting Your License Back After a DUI

2. The DUI Suspension From the DMV.

DMV Field Office

Good Napa County DUI lawyers will explain to you that typically, if you fail to ask for a DMV hearing within the required time (10 days from date of arrest, but confirm with a Napa DUI attorney immediately if you think you are outside the 10 days -- limited exceptions may apply), or if you lose the DMV hearing, and if this is your first alcohol-related driving incident, and this is a misdemeanor arrest and you had a valid California license prior to this incident, and you are age 21 or older, and there is no allegation by Napa law enforcement of injuries or that you refused to give a breath or blood sample at the time of this arrest, then even though you may receive a notice from San Francisco DMV stating that you are suspended for four months, typically you can obtain a restricted Class C "work" license after the first 30 days from the date on the DMV suspension notice as soon as the Napa DMV office receives from the DUI program proof of your enrollment in the 30-hour (three-month) Napa DUI program classes, and receives proof of filing your SR22 insurance.

This restricted license typically lasts five months and until the Sacramento DMV receives proof of completion of the Napa County DUI program drinking driver classes.

Many people find Jake's Napa County DUI Lawyer flow chart to be an easier way to begin to understand the parallel but different DMV and court processes. If you are starting to get confused with this discussion, then click on Anatomy of a Napa County DUI.

Differences Between the DMV (Administrative) Suspension and the Court (Conviction-Triggered) Suspension.

Napa DUI attorneys would explain it to you this way: The DMV administrative suspension is different from the mandatory Napa County court conviction suspension in at least six ways:

(1) Differing outcomes in the same current matter: even if you win in court, or charges are reduced or never filed, this separate DMV suspension is usually still imposed if you and your Napa DUI lawyer fail to win separately at the DMV hearing (requested within 10 days of arrest);

(2) Differing treatment of prior matters: even if court charges were never filed in a prior matter, or lesser charges were filed (such as under-21 zero tolerance but not .08% DUI), or the conviction was for something other than a DUI (like a "Dry Reckless" or a simple traffic infraction, but the DMV still suspended you for an alcohol-related reason in that prior matter, then the DMV may treat this new Napa County case as a second or higher DUI and impose a multiple offense one year suspension period (without the possibility of a hardship or work license in most cases) even though your Napa DUI lawyer tells you that the Napa prosecutor is treating a new case as a "first offense" and is not charging the prior court matter in the current Napa County Superior Court proceedings;

(3) Required time off the road: if this is your first administrative suspension, then you must serve the first 30 days of the DMV suspension without a work license unless your local Napa County DUI attorney can arrange credits or otherwise obtain a different result at the DMV, whereas all of the Napa court-caused suspension is typically convertible into a work license; in a first DUI scenario, it is this DMV administrative suspension rather than the Napa court conviction-triggered suspension which typically causes the complete loss of driving privileges for any length of time.

(4) Chemical test refusal cases: if this is your first alcohol-related suspension, a good Napa County DUI lawyer will explain to you that a refusal to provide a chemical test at the time of arrest will likely result in a one-year loss of driving privileges with no work or hardship license allowed from Napa DMV (see example APS Refusal Notice), and more than one year if you have prior DUI suspensions, whereas the Napa County court suspension typically would be totally convertible into a restricted work license; in this case the DMV one-year suspension takes priority even though the Napa County court may dismiss the refusal allegation or otherwise allow a restricted license;

(5) Length of suspension in multiple priors cases: if this is not your first DMV suspension in the last ten years, then, except for the breathalyzer restricted license availability, the DMV administrative suspension is one year (more if you refused to give a chemical test) for any number of priors, but the Napa court-generated suspension increases to two years, three years, or more depending on the number of court priors; and

(6) Two different restricted work licenses: if your Napa DUI attorney resolves the Napa County criminal case in court first, and thereafter you obtain the work license from Napa DMV discussed in Tip #1 above, then usually DMV requires that you go back to the local DMV office to get a new restricted license after you are suspended again due to the administrative suspension (or vice versa). You should talk to your local Napa DUI lawyer about coordinating resolutions so that only one trip to Napa DMV is required.

Client comment: "The DUI Program said after I have DUI program enrollment and SR22 accomplished I can go to DMV in 3 working days to apply for a restricted license instead of waiting 30 days. I'll go next Wednesday."

Jake's answer to this client: "(Sigh) Yet another example for my website of wrong advice from the DUI program: remember that we started your DMV administrative suspension the same day as your conviction, but the administrative suspension hasn't been updated to your driving record yet; wait this first 30 days regardless of wrong advice from the DUI program, otherwise (1) you will be required to go to DMV twice to convert two suspensions separately, and (2) you may be caught driving on a suspended license if you are stopped between the dates when the administrative suspension is updated to your driving record and the date you receive notice of the new suspension in the mail. This myopic DUI program "advice" could have cost you a new arrest, impoundment of your vehicle, and a new court case for driving on a suspended license! Don't blindly follow DUI Program advice; wait the 30 days as we discussed."

Different Suspension Start Dates. Beware allowing your Napa County court case to drag on far beyond any DMV re-imposition of suspension; if this happens you may find that your second restricted license, required after a court conviction, will result in additional months of restrictions as compared with the bare minimum restriction duration if you coordinate the start of both suspensions at once. Be sure that you thoroughly discuss this process with your Napa DUI attorney and that you are comfortable that the possible benefits of prolonging the court case outweigh the risk of a longer restriction period.

Similarities Between the Two Suspensions

(1) Napa DUI attorneys understand that as the agency in charge of drivers licenses, the DMV bureaucratically administers both suspensions and any restricted licenses. The DMV will send to you all of the license suspension notices (usually without clear information on which suspension is which, and with misleading information on what to do next) to your address on record at the DMV.

DMV Mailing Address. Be sure you submit your current address to the Napa (or nearest satellite) DMV unless there are compelling reasons not to do so. You can visit the Napa satellite DMV office to submit a Napa County change of address, or click here to Print and Mail Change of Address Form, or here to Update Your Address Online, if DMV has an old address. Additionally, copies of some of the DUI-related notices are sent to your Napa DUI lawyer.


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(2) The same Napa DUI program drinking driver classes and the same SR 22 insurance filing satisfy the same requirements to get both restricted licenses once you are eligible.

(3) If you win at trial in Napa County, or your Napa DUI lawyer obtains a factual finding of innocence on the specific charge of being at or over .08% (or .01% in under-21 cases), or otherwise obtains a "Helmandollar Acquittal," then your Napa DUI lawyer will inform Sacramento DMV and win both court and DMV cases at once. Most likely, if the DMV matter had already been decided against you, it may be overturned with such a win in the Napa County courthouse.

How Do You Know Which Suspension is Which?

Read the notices you receive (save them and ask a local Napa County DUI lawyer if you don't understand them). Your DUI attorney will explain that in a first DUI, if the duration of your suspension stated on the "Administrative Per Se" notice (first DUI) is four months, then this notice is referring to the Napa DMV's administrative suspension. If the duration is six or ten months, then this notice is the Mandatory Action "Order of Suspension" notice (first DUI) referring to the Napa court conviction-generated suspension.

If this is your second or higher DUI, and if the duration of your suspension on the "Administrative Per Se" notice (second DUI) is one year in a non-refusal case, then your Napa DUI attorney will explain to you that this is referring to the DMV's administrative suspension. If the duration is two years or more in a non-refusal case, then this notice is the Mandatory Action "Order of Suspension" notice (second DUI) referring to the Napa court-generated suspension.

The best way to avoid the DMV administrative suspension is to have a local Napa DUI attorney ask for the separate DMV administrative hearing within the allowable time, and then win the hearing. The best way to win the hearing is with a Napa DUI lawyer at your side who can address the issues which we know are most important to the DMV. These issues are not usually the personal or economic hardship issues which are most important to you, or the way you were treated by Napa County law enforcement, but rather, in most cases, what we know wins a case are the precise legal issues surrounding the legality of the law enforcement conduct, and the weight of evidence regarding your sobriety, and the accuracy and adequacy of the chemical tests and the police and DMV documents.

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Any result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

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Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, Wine Country resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of North Bay DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.

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