Many people are understandably confused about the impacts of being pulled over for a DUI, especially regarding the retention of their drivers’ license. For many Californians, a driver’s license is all but essential for employment, and there is understandable fear about the consequences of being found guilty of a DUI. Sometimes, this leads drivers to believe that they should never submit to a breathalyzer test when pulled over. While every circumstance is different, it should be noted that an outright refusal to submit to a breath test may prove to be a serious mistake.
Since 1990, California has implemented a law that allows for the immediate confiscation, and alter suspension, or one’s driver’s license if they have been arrested for DUI. The suspension of your license is handled outside of court, during a DMV administrative hearing.
In short, what this law means is that all licensed drivers have given implied consent to a breath or other chemical test upon being pulled over for suspicion of DUI. If the test reveals the driver to have a BAC of 0.08% or above, the law enforcement officer may confiscate the driver’s license, and the DMV can move to immediately suspend or revoke the driver’s license. Refusal to take the test does not protect the driver from confiscation. If a driver refuses to take the test, the license may also be immediately suspended or revoked, regardless of the results of any subsequent chemical test.
In addition to the above mentioned legislation, California passed a “zero tolerance” law in 1994 with regards to chemical tests for individuals under the age of 21. If anyone under 21 years of age is tested with a BAC of 0.01% or refuses to take a chemical test, their driver’s license may be immediately confiscated, and an order of suspension or revocation of the license goes into effect for one year.
It is important to be aware that the license suspension or revocation upon refusal to take the test is an administrative penalty imposed by the DMV that is separate and independent of any punishment you may receive resulting from any subsequent criminal conviction for DUI. For a first refusal to submit to a test, a one-year license suspension goes into effect; for a second refusal, a two-year suspension goes into effect; and a three-year suspension goes into effect for a third or subsequent BAC test refusal. Unless successfully challenged in an administrative hearing, the suspension of driving privileges is valid regardless of whether you are convicted of DUI in any subsequent criminal hearing.
While a driver over 21 who fails a BAC test will have his license confiscated on the spot, he may still apply for a 30-day temporary license, or stay of the suspension, while he pursues an administrative review of the suspension with the DMV. After 30 days of the suspension, and meeting certain conditions, he may be able to obtain a five-month restricted license from the DMV that allows him to drive himself to and from the DUI program and to and from his place of employment. However, a restricted license is not available to those who refuse a BAC test.
For drivers under 21 who fail the BAC test (that is, the test shows a result of 0.01% or higher), the license suspension is for one year. Unlike the suspension for refusal, however, there is a hardship exemption that may allow for a restricted license if the driver can demonstrate that they have a critical need to drive.
Our DUI lawyer in Sacramento can assist you not only with your criminal charge, but also in pursuing your administrative process with the DMV. We have a specialization in helping commercial drivers and those individuals for whom the need to retain a driver’s license is particularly critical. We know California DUI law and procedure, and we know how to build a convincing case. Call our DUI lawyer in Sacramento for a consultation today at (916) 446-4400.