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California Driver’s License Suspensions

Most of us are dependent on our ability to drive. We might use our vehicles to get to our jobs, to buy groceries, to see family and loved ones, and for recreation. Sometimes it is easy to forget that our ability to drive is not actually a right, but rather a privilege that is dependent on our ability to do certain things and to refrain from some other behaviors. The length and terms of a driver’s license suspension vary depending on the reason for the suspension. Here are several common reasons a person might find their license suspended.


One of the most common reasons a person might have their license suspended is because they were caught driving under the influence, resulting in a DUI. The amount of time that your license will be suspended for will depend on several factors. If you received your first DUI, you could lose your license for 4 months or more. If you are caught driving under the influence a second time, the suspension will typically increase to up to two years, by your third DUI you could be facing a three-year suspension.

Another factor is your age. If you were under 21 at the time of your DUI, you will likely lose your license for one year. This would be the case even if your blood alcohol level was below the .08% that defines a DUI for a driver who has reached the age of 21.

It is important to note that for DUI there are both criminal proceedings in the California Superior Courts as well as an Administrative Per Se hearing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The criminal court is charged with determining criminal activity such as breaking the law related to drinking and driving. Consequences can range. The California DMV and their Driver Safety Offices are tasked with keeping all motorist safe and taking action to suspend licenses for failure to drive safely. There punishments would be related to license suspension and are separate from the court case.

Negligent Operators and the Point System

Under California’s point system, records on your driving history are maintained for a period of 36 months or more, depending on the severity of the infraction. If you receive 4 points on your license within a twelve month period, your license will be suspended. You will also face a suspension of your license for accruing 6 points in a twenty-four month period or 8 points within a thirty-six month period.

Here too, age plays a factor. Drivers under 18 will face a suspension of their licenses after 3 points within a 12 month period.

This type of suspension has it’s own set of hearing standards processed by the California DMV and is commonly known as a Negligent Operator Suspension. Closely related to this is “Lack of Skill” suspensions.

Other Reasons for Driver’s License Suspension

You might also see your license suspended if you do not appear at your court date for a traffic ticket, if you fail to pay a fine for your failure to appear at a court date, for not paying child support, for driving with a mental or physical impairment or for driving without car insurance. These suspensions can stem from a wide range of actions by others. The suspension of child support is typically requested by California Department of Child Support Services as an attempt to get compliance from a non-custodial parent who is not current on their support orders. Medical and mental suspensions can happen after a doctor has reported to the DMV that a driver may not by physically fit to drive safely. Similarly lapse of consciousness suspensions can happen after routine traffic stops or when drivers are found un-responsive while driving.

Restricted Licenses     

In some circumstances, it might be possible to obtain a restricted driver’s license. If you received your first DUI in the last 10 years, you can potentially acquire a license that would allow you to drive to and from work, and to your DUI program. There are situations where this type of license is not available even for first-time offenders, such as when the driver was under 21 at the time of the DUI. Individuals who lose their licenses due to a lack of insurance can also get a restricted license, which would allow them to drive to and from work, to obtain medical care, and sometimes might allow them to provide transportation to minor dependent children commuting to and from school.

For many people who have had their driver’s licenses suspended, there are ways to have it reinstated. If you find yourself in this difficult situation, you should find an experienced attorney to help you navigate your case. Contact Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP today at 909-798-3300 for a consultation.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.