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Top Ten Tips > Getting Your License Back After a DUI

Motorcycle6. Too Many Negligent Operator Points

Drivers accumulate DMV bad driver "negligent operator" points when cited for certain vehicle code violations in Napa County. Most traffic citations are assigned one point, but major violations (such as a DUI or driving on a suspended license) are typically assigned two points. You can see which are two-point violations by reviewing 12810 VC. Typically you receive an Advisory Notice and then a Warning Letter from the San Francisco or Sacramento DMV as you approach the presumed negligent operator status of 4 or more points in 12 months, 6 or more points in 24 months, or 8 or more points in 36 months for most adults (12810.5 VC).

You may obtain more information about the points system by clicking here on DMV Bad Driver Points.

Although a Class A or B commercial driver without a special certificate (such as hazmat) may be allowed 2 additional points, a violation received in a commercial vehicle carries 1-1/2 times the point count normally assessed (12810.5(b) VC), and commercial drivers must ask for the same hearing discussed below to present the defense of commercial driving and ask for the additional points allowance, assuming that the trigger points were obtained while driving commercially.

A minor, under 18 years old, may receive a 30-day restriction for 2 points in 12 months, or be suspended for 3 points in 12 months (12814.6(b) VC). Click here to see an example of a juvenile driver's Provisional License Notice of Restriction and Intent to Suspend.

As with any governmental hearing, a local Napa County DUI lawyer can be extremely helpful guiding you through the process, especially since we work with the same type of process daily with DUI suspensions, and other types of driver license suspensions such as physical and mental suspensions, too many bad points suspensions, lack of skill suspensions, and other similar administrative proceedings at the DMV.

Before Points are Assessed: the Traffic Court Hearing & Traffic School.

Challenging a Traffic Citation. According to the court, there are three options for going to trial on a traffic citation in Napa County:

Option 1: Contact the court to post the fine amount as bail and have an arraignment and court trial held on the same day.

Option 2: Contact the court to schedule an arraignment which will not require bail to be posted. At the time of arraignment, a future date for a court trial may be set.

Option 3: Trial by Written Declaration (pursuant to VC40902): When requesting a trial by written declaration, the fine amount must be posted as bail. If found not guilty or if the charges are otherwise dismissed, the full amount of bail will be refunded.

Be sure to speak with a Napa County DUI attorney comfortably prior to the citation due date before making any decisions. You may find excellent self-help resources on how to fight effectively fight a traffic ticket by going to Jake's DUI Resources section, or click on How to Fight Traffic Tickets.

Traffic School Alternative to Conviction/Points. Absent other defenses to a traffic ticket, you may wish to elect traffic school during the time limit provided at the bottom of your original Napa County citation by asking for the traffic school alternative at the Napa County traffic court. According to the court, the Courtesy Notice identifies if you are eligible for traffic school and the fees that must be paid to the Court before you may sign-up. These fees are the bail amount (varies by violation) and a State/Court administrative fee. An additional fee will be charged by the traffic school provider when you enroll in their class. Upon payment of the fees, the Court will provide a date on which the traffic school completion is due. If you fail to attend the traffic school, or if you do not successfully complete the course, your fine and administrative fee will be forfeited and a conviction will be reported to the DMV.

According to the the court, you may attend traffic school if you meet the following guidelines:

You have not attended a traffic school in the last 18 months since the date of last violation

You have a valid California driver's license (non-commercial)

Your speeding violation is not more than 25 mph over the speed limit

Your violation did not occur in a commercial vehicle

Click here for a 2012 list of Napa County's Traffic Violator Schools, (a current list of approved schools should be sent to you by the court upon payment, so you should always independently confirm the latest locally authorized schools before enrolling), or Search Approved Traffic Schools Online, successful completion of which would typically result in no further points if so ordered by the court. This may help you to avoid any additional points which would cause you to meet or exceed the point limits. Discuss your specific situation with a local Napa DUI attorney. If you encounter problems with a traffic school you picked, you may file a complaint about a traffic school by clicking here for the DMV Traffic Violator School Complaint Form & Instructions.

If you have already lost your license due to too many points, the only way to re-obtain your driving privileges prior to the expiration of an imposed suspension may be to seek help in obtaining Napa County court dismissal of one or more prior citations that caused the points on your driving record. This is particularly true if you were on DMV probation already and picked up yet another Napa County citation thereafter.

If the Napa County court is willing to dismiss past traffic tickets (usually when your Napa County DUI or traffic lawyer can effectively show compelling personal situations or offer to resolve everything pending in court at one time) then typically we can go back to the DMV and argue that your points reduction compels returning your license.

After Points are Assessed: the Suspension Notice & the DMV Hearing

DMV SuspensionIf you are not successful avoiding points due to convictions in court, and you reach or exceed the limits described above, then usually you will be sent a letter of reexamination or suspension from San Francisco or Sacramento DMV (click here to see a real example of a DMV Order of Probation and Suspension) which provides you the opportunity to have a hearing (sometimes called a "311 Hearing" or a NOTS Hearing). Napa DUI lawyers nearly always advise individuals to immediately request such a hearing within the allowable time listed in the notice in order to preserve your right to fight to keep your driving privileges before your right to fight expires. The hearing may be held at the DMV hearing office where one may contest the planned adverse action, or explain any extenuating or mitigating circumstances or unfairness (including any evidence that you were not at fault in an accident resulting in any of the points, or that a recent Napa County DUI resulted in 2 points which pushed you over the allowable totals but you were otherwise a long-time good driver, etc.), and explain that you understand the danger and illegality of breaking traffic laws, and how you intend to address and stop such violations in the future.

Typically you will be asked how long you have been driving, if you have any pending violations not reflected on your current Napa County driving record, where and how many miles you drive in a typical week, and whether you drink alcohol. Your Napa DUI attorney will explain to you that a restricted "work" license, or probation (a promise of no more violations for a certain period) are alternatives to an outright suspension.

If you and your Napa County DUI lawyer are effective in this hearing, then you may avoid or shorten an interruption of driving privileges. See here an example of a Successful DMV Decision Ordering Probation Only, and see here an example of an Adverse DMV Decision Imposing Six Months Suspension.

Normally it is advisable to request any hearing offered to you within the stated time given to request such a hearing. Hiring a lawyer is not necessary but having a local Napa County DUI lawyer by your side during a hearing in Santa Rosa or Petaluma will help you to understand, and effectively address, the issues which are important to the local DMV. Do not ignore DMV notices or the opportunities they provide to avoid or lessen the consequences of past conduct. An attorney may not be able to help you if you wait too long.

In most cases such as demonstrated in the example of the notice above, you will be suspended by DMV for 6 months and placed on probation (no more traffic violations at all) for one year. You may obtain information on exactly what the DMV considers at a hearing, and what options are available, by clicking here on DMV Negligent Operator Guidelines.

NOTS Probation Violation Hearings

Typically hearings set to contest a pending suspension due to a driver already on probation who accumulates another violation point (called "450 or 451 NOTS Probation Violation Hearings") are very difficult to win in any sense because the only permissible issues are whether the driver was on probation, and whether the driver violated that probation by obtaining an additional point. Clearly, a Napa County DUI or DMV attorney would increase chances of success in such hearings, either by winning the hearing, or by softening the consequences of an adverse decision by lessening the suspension period or obtaining other concessions. Click here to see an example of a DMV 450 Decision.

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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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