What happens to my driver’s license after a DUI? Ask the lawyer

Q: Sad to say, but our daughter got a DUI.  She is in her 20s, works full time and has otherwise had no tickets. We just heard from the DMV that it may suspend her license. Can you please explain the DMV part?

G.N. Seal Beach

Ron Sokol

A: An arrest for DUI in California triggers a process at the DMV that can result in suspension of the driver’s license. This is referred to as “administrative suspension.” To get a hearing, it is necessary (in fact, critical) to contact the DMV within 10 days to make the request. If the hearing is timely requested, your daughter can continue to drive prior to the hearing.

At the DMV hearing, she can seek to defeat the DUI. Perhaps, for example, the arrest was illegal or the blood alcohol is below the threshold limit (and she was not impaired). Should the DMV decide to suspend, however, it still may be possible to obtain a restricted license, which allows driving to and from work, and to and from a treatment program (subject to a number of conditions). Bottom line, I encourage your daughter to promptly consult, if not retain, qualified counsel (if she has not already done so). Dealing with a DUI charge can be very challenging.

Q: I should have called for a taxi, but did not and got a DUI. It has been many years since I got a ticket and an otherwise upstanding citizen. What are the consequences? Blood alcohol was .09, so not much higher than the threshold.

L.D., Carson

A: At the end of the first question and answer above, I encouraged consultation, if not retention, of a qualified lawyer. I will start with that here. There may be a possible plea to a lesser charge and/or a challenge that could be mounted. You should at least evaluate with counsel your options, the risks and how much it may cost.

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Research indicates a first offense DUI in California typically is treated as a misdemeanor. Punishment can include three to five years probation, a $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments, DUI school, a 6-month driver’s license suspension (carried out by the DMV) and installation of an ignition interlock device. Jail time can be ordered (for up to six months), but my impression is that this piece is not as common and, given your situation, probably would not occur. Above all, seek qualified counsel to carefully go over the matter, if not to retain one.

Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 35 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.

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