Updated: Jun 5, 2021
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Getting charged with a DUI in California is a serious problem, and it can result expensive fines, jail time and it can tarnish your image. The California Criminal Code punishes people accused of DUI harshly. Following a DUI charge, you can face an administrative driver's license revocation by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, in addition to fines and jail time (DMV).
DUI refusal situations, which occur when a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer test, have special considerations. If you are charged with DUI or DWI in California, you should have an experienced DUI defense lawyer to help you through it.
The Basics of DUIs in California
Anyone operating a vehicle in the state of California is breaking the law if the following conditions exist:
If you are an adult who is 21 years of age or older and driving a passenger vehicle in the state, you must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.
If you have a commercial driver's license and are driving a commercial vehicle, such as a tractor-trailer or other big truck, the BAC must be 0.04 percent or higher.
If you're under the age of twenty-one, your BAC should be at least 0.01 percent.
DUI laws in California refer to more than just alcohol. You cannot legally drive a car in the state if you are under the influence of illegal substances or have taken an excessive amount of over-the-counter or prescription drugs that contain alcohol, such as cough medicine.
DUI Hearings at the California Department of Motor Vehicles
The arresting officer is allowed by statute to suspend or revoke your driver's license immediately and submit a copy of your suspension, as well as your driver's license and a copy of the police report, to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV would then conduct its own inquiry into the facts against you presented by the arresting officer in order to decide if the suspension or revocation of your license should be upheld.
The officer will give you an Order of Suspension/Revocation after suspending or revoking your license. This will act as your temporary license for the next 30 days, after which the suspension or revocation will take effect. The California DMV would mail you an Order of Suspension/Revocation if the arresting officer did not give one.
To request an administrative hearing with the California DMV, you will have ten days from the date of your license suspension or revocation. If you do not request an administrative hearing during the ten-day timeframe, the DMV will retain the suspension or revocation, and you will lose your driving privileges.
An administrative hearing is the opportunity to provide proof that challenges the evidence given to the DMV by the arresting officer in order to demonstrate that the suspension or revocation is unjustified and that the driver's license should be restored.
If you want to have a chance of winning your administrative hearing, you'll need to hire a DUI defense lawyer who has experience scheduling and defending clients at administrative hearings. You do not want to request a hearing and then represent yourself at the hearing; this is a losing proposition. You would want to ensure that the DUI defense lawyer you employ has experience defending clients at administrative hearings.
If you or your DUI Attorney request an in-person hearing, the California DMV will schedule you for a telephone hearing by default. You and your DUI defense lawyer should prefer an in-person hearing rather than a telephone hearing because it is difficult to efficiently present evidence in your favor and contest the evidence against you over the phone.
When you or your DUI Attorney schedules your administrative hearing, you can ask for copies of the DMV's documentation of evidence so that you and your DUI defense lawyer can prepare an effective defense against the DMV's evidence before your hearing date.