Driver's Licenses

DMV FAQ : Section I

Am I a California resident?

You are a California resident if your “permanent home” is in California. DMV will look at things such as voter registration, homeowner’s tax exemptions, resident vs. nonresident college tuition, and other things that suggest a permanent presence in California.

Residency is important because of certain conditions of vehicle registration and when one needs to obtain a license.

There are two provisions in the Vehicle Code that concern residency. Section 516 defines “residency” in terms of intent to live in California on more than a temporary basis. It provides that a stay of six months or more in any 12-month period creates a rebuttable presumption of California residency (this means if you can’t show otherwise, it is presumed true). Section 516 lists nine conditions that may be considered as proof of residency for vehicle registration purposes.

Section 12505 supersedes Section 516 concerning driver’s licenses and defines residency as “state of domicile.” Section 12505 lists four conditions that may be considered proof of residency for driver’s licensing purposes. These conditions also appear in Section 516. The Section 12505 list is not an exclusive list for driver’s license matters, so presumably conditions of residency appearing on the 516 may be used in a driver’s license scenario as well.

The Code

516, 12505

See Also
  • How to Prove You’re Not a California Resident and BEAT DMV
How long do I have to get my California license?

If you move to California, the law may consider you to have become a California resident. If so, you have only 10 days to get a California license after you move. Paid drivers must obtain a California license before driving at all (Section 12505(c)).

If you are not deemed a permanent California resident, then you may not need a California license. However, if your home state or country does not issue driver’s licenses, then you must get a California license within 30 days (Section 12503). And if you are under 18, you need a “nonresident minor’s certificate” from DMV to drive after 10 days even if you are not a California resident (12504).

What is a canceled license?

A canceled license is one that has been terminated. It is entirely defunct. If a license is canceled the holder must apply for a new one, though they may do so immediately. A canceled license is a form of retraction that only happens when the vehicle code specifically calls for it. It happens when one applies for a license of a higher vehicle class, when a license has been issued in error, or when the license holder changes their name.

A cancellation is technically very different from a “revocation” or a “suspension.” Even though they all involve the rescission of privileges, a revocation or suspension is in response to some prohibited action by a driver. In a “revocation” a license is terminated and there is period before which one may not apply again for a license. A “suspension” is a temporary withdrawal of driving privileges. It can be restored on a variety of conditions.

Articles 13200 to 13559 provide for the circumstances under which a driver’s license may be revoked, cancelled or suspended as well as guidelines for the duration of suspensions and surrender procedures. Few circumstances require cancellations- revocations and suspensions are far more common. “Cancellation” is also found in other sections of the CVC and may refer to license plates, ID cards, vehicle titles, dealer agreements or driver’s school and instructor licenses. In general, licenses are usually canceled due to spelling errors or name changes.

Sources

13100

What is a Class A license?

A Class A license is the most permissive license available and includes all the privileges permitted by Class B and Class C. The holder of a Class A license may operate any vehicles and combination of vehicles licensed in California, as long as they have subject the endorsement or special certificate required. A Class A license holder may also tow the heaviest vehicles (in excess of 10,000 lbs.), multiple vehicles and any trailer bus (with the trailer bus endorsement) (12804.9(b)(1)).

All license classes are authorized for M1 and M2 motorcycle endorsements upon completion of an exam.

A noncommercial Class A, that is a Class A that won’t be used in an employment capacity, can be acquired by the private individual to tow trailers over 10,000 pounds, 5th wheel trailers over 15,000 pounds and personal livestock trailers.

Sources

VC 12804.9

See Also
What is a Class B license?

A Class B license is the second most permissive license and includes all the privileges permitted by Class C. The holder of a Class B license may operate any vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, a vehicle with three or more axels, a bus or other single vehicle with a weight of over 26,000 pounds, a farm labor vehicle, a house car and all vehicles permitted by a Class C license. It also permits the towing of vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds by a vehicle that has three axels or more and is over 26,000 pounds.

A Class B license does not permit the driving of trailer buses, while a Class A license does. The house cars driven may be over 40 feet in length.

All license classes are authorized for M1 and M2 motorcycle endorsements upon completion of an exam.

Sources

12804.9

See Also
What is a Class C license?

A Class C license is a basic license and the class most private citizens have. Despite this, it affords many driving privileges. A Class C license allows the holder to drive two-axel vehicle under 26,000, a vehicle towing a trailer or semitrailer, a house car, and three-axel vehicles less than 6,000 pounds,

Upon passing the corresponding exam, a Class C license holder can also drive a motor scooter and a bus.

For a C-Class, a two-axel vehicle must remain under 26,000 pounds when towing a trailer or semitrailer of 10,000. A two-axel vehicle of 4,000 can tow a trailer coach or fifth-wheel trailer of 10,000 as long as it is not for compensation, otherwise vehicle of 4,000 pounds can only tow 9,000 pounds. Certifications can be obtained to haul more weight, but never for compensation. A house car driven on a Class C license must be less than 40 feet in length. (12804.9)

All license classes are authorized for M1 and M2 motorcycle endorsements upon completion of an exam.

Sources

12804.9

 

What is a “combination of vehicles”?

The California Vehicle Code and DMV use the term “combination of vehicles” to refer to any vehicle towing another one. The towed vehicle may be another car, truck, bus, trailer or semi-trailer. A different class of license may be required, depending on the weights of the towing and towed vehicles.

What is a commercial driver’s license?

A commercial driver’s license is a Class A or Class B license granted after the passing of a written exam and a driving test in the class of vehicle to be licensed. In addition to the commercial license motorist may also need a special certificate or an endorsement to drive a particular type of vehicle or to drive for a particular purpose.

A commercial license holder can also receive endorsements to haul particular substances, such as fissile or other hazardous materials.

Sources

15250, 15275

 

What is a commercial vehicle?

A commercial vehicle is one that is driven primarily to transport people for compensation or property (whether for compensation or not).

In some cases, vehicles are labeled commercial due to their size and purpose even if they are not involved in commercial endeavors (2813).

The definition of commercial vehicle is provided by Definition 260, which states that “A ‘commercial vehicle’ is a motor vehicle of a type required to be registered under this code used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.”

There are also many other rules and regulations that apply to commercial vehicles, such as mandatory vehicle checks, where indicated by signage.

Is a taxi cab a commercial vehicle?

For vehicle registration purposes, a taxi cab is a commercial vehicle, but its operation does not require a commercial driver’s license. Cities and counties are required by California law to regulate taxi drivers to obtain a permit to operate a taxi within the city or county limits.

A commercial vehicle is defined in Section 260(a) as any vehicle used for the “transportation of persons for hire,” but according to Section 260(d), this definition does not apply to the commercial driver’s license laws. Thus, a taxi cab is a commercial vehicle for vehicle registration purposes, but not for the licensing of taxi cab drivers

Government Code section 53075.5 requires every city and county to regulate taxi cabs by establishing a permit process, a drug and alcohol testing program and a program to establish rates for fares.

Sources

VC 260, GC 53075.5

 

Is a limousine a commercial vehicle?

The definition of commercial vehicle in Section 260(a) includes any vehicle used for the “transportation of persons for hire,” but the drivers of limousines do not need a commercial driver’s license to transport fewer than ten passengers, including the driver.

Is a Lyft car or Uber car a commercial vehicle?

The definition of commercial vehicle in Section 260(a) includes any vehicle used for the “transportation of persons for hire,” but the drivers of vehicles in these so-called Transportation Network Companies do not need a commercial driver’s license to transport passengers.

On September 19, 2013, the Public Utilities Commission approved a decision to allow Transportation Network Companies (TCN) to operate in California provided they complied with background checks, driver training and car inspection programs, and mandatory insurance coverage.

How do I hire a limousine?
  1. Understand that you must schedule a limousine in advance (unlike a taxi).
  2. Do your homework. Read online reviews and check with your local Chamber of Commerce to make sure the company has a good reputation.
  3. Make sure the company is licensed with the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and that it maintains liability insurance.
  4. Insist on a written contract with all the details of your job, i.e., amount of deposit, tip policies, times and locations for pickup and drop-off, and services to be provided.
  5. Insist on seeing the exact car to be provided.
  6. Write down the TCP number displayed on the car and verify it with the PUC.
  7. Keep all receipts.
What is a nonresident minor’s certificate?

A “nonresident minor’s certificate” is a piece of paper issued by DMV to an out of state driver under 18 who wants to drive in California on their home state license.

Unlike nonresident adult motorists (who are exempt from the California driver’s license requirement), a nonresident minor may drive in California for only 10 days before either getting a California license or obtaining a nonresident minor’s certificate (Section 12504(a)). The minor must show his or her home state license and proof of financial responsibility (Section 12504(b)).

Sources

VC 12504

See Also

 

What is a driving permit?

A driving permit is a limited license giving to a motorist who has passed the written test but not yet passed the driving test. It allows the motorist to practice driving and drive for their driving test.

Sources

VC 12504(b)

What is the Mandatory Actions Unit?

The Mandatory Actions Unit at DMV’s headquarters in Sacramento is the unit responsible for entering driver’s license suspensions into the California motorist database. The MAU is DMV’s authority on lengths of suspensions

Department of Motor Vehicles
Mandatory Actions Unit, Mail Station J233
P. O. Box 942890
Sacramento, CA 94290-0001

(916) 657-6525

Rules of the Road

DMV FAQ : Section II

What is evading a police officer?

What constitutes felony evading a police officer is a complicated case. Depending on the charges and way a judge decides to sentence, certain evasion cases can be felonies or misdemeanors. Police evasion is what is considered a “wobble” issue, meaning that the same crime can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. What differentiates felony evasion from simple evasion depends on the charges, and even then the cases can “wobble.”

Evading a police with no additional charges is always a misdemeanor, punishable by time in county jail.

The next level of severity is evading police with a charge of reckless driving; that is a disregard for persons or property. Reckless evasion is a wobble charge resulting in either time in state prison or a year or less in county jail, a fine, or both.

On about the same level as reckless driving is the “Wrong way driver” charge. As the name implies, if one is convicted of driving on the wrong side of the street or otherwise into opposing traffic, they face six to ten months in county jail. If this charge is asserted, reckless driving certainly will be as well.

Evading a police officer causing injury, the next most severe charge, is also a wobble issue. If driving eluding police has caused an injury, the person eluding the police may spend one, three or five years in state prison or not more than one year in county jail. A fine may also be imposed.

If evading a police officer causes death, the crime is always a felony, punishable by four, six or ten years in state prison.

At the stages in this progression, the offences are punishable by time in prison, a fine, or both. There is, however, no fine for misdemeanor evasion. The fine for reckless driving must be more than 1,000 dollars, but must not exceed 10,000. For injury the fine is 2,000 to 20,000. And for death the fine is from 1,000 to 10,000 dollars. All monetary and sentencing amounts vary with the situation and are at the discretion of the judge.

Sources

2800.2, 2800.3, 2800.4

See Also
What is felony evading a police officer?

What constitutes felony evading a police officer is a complicated case. Depending on the charges and way a judge decides to sentence, certain evasion cases can be felonies or misdemeanors. Police evasion is what is considered a “wobble” issue, meaning that the same crime can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. What differentiates felony evasion from simple evasion depends on the charges, and even then the cases can “wobble.”

Evading a police with no additional charges is always a misdemeanor, punishable by time in county jail.

The next level of severity is evading police with a charge of reckless driving; that is a disregard for persons or property. Reckless evasion is a wobble charge resulting in either time in state prison or a year or less in county jail, a fine, or both.

On about the same level as reckless driving is the “Wrong way driver” charge. As the name implies, if one is convicted of driving on the wrong side of the street or otherwise into opposing traffic, they face six to ten months in county jail. If this charge is asserted, reckless driving certainly will be as well.

Evading a police officer causing injury, the next most severe charge, is also a wobble issue. If driving eluding police has caused an injury, the person eluding the police may spend one, three or five years in state prison or not more than one year in county jail. A fine may also be imposed.

If evading a police officer causes death, the crime is always a felony, punishable by four, six or ten years in state prison.

At the stages in this progression, the offences are punishable by time in prison, a fine, or both. There is, however, no fine for misdemeanor evasion. The fine for reckless driving must be more than 1,000 dollars, but must not exceed 10,000. For injury the fine is 2,000 to 20,000. And for death the fine is from 1,000 to 10,000 dollars. All monetary and sentencing amounts vary with the situation and are at the discretion of the judge.

Sources

2800.1

See Also
What is reckless driving?

Reckless driving is a charge of driving with “a willful or wanton disregard for persons or property.” This charge can be asserted against driving not just on the road but also parking lots or structures. The punishment is between five and ninety days in county jail, a fine of 145 to 1,000 dollars, or both.

Should reckless driving result in injuring anyone but the driver, even indirectly, the penalty is between thirty days and six months in county jail, a fine of between 220 and 1,000 dollars, or both.

Should reckless driving cause great bodily injury, the sentence may be as above for simple injury or 16 months, two years or three years in jail

Reckless driving is also a charge added to eluding a police officer that increases the severity thereof. This charge is applied should a person be eluding an officer while driving in a way that disregards the safety of persons or property.

Reckless driving can also result in license suspension.

The sentencing of wet reckless driving causing great bodily injury, as defined in 122022.7, is covered in 23103, but also refers to possible sentencing pursuant to 1170 (h) of the Penal Code. Reckless driving may result in a court suspension “for a period of not to exceed 30 days upon a first conviction, for a period of not to exceed 60 days upon a second conviction, and for a period of not to exceed six months upon a third or any subsequent conviction.”

Sources

23103.5, 13201

See Also
What is wet reckless driving?

Wet reckless driving is the offense that results from a plea bargain from a downgraded DUI. If a defendant is charged with DUI, they might be offered this deal. Under this plea bargain, if a defendant agrees to plead “no contest” or guilty to a wet reckless charge, the DUI charges will be dropped. The charge is recorded as reckless driving with a note made as to whether the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The sentencing for a wet reckless charge is the same as its normal reckless driving counterparts.

Despite DUI charges being dropped, this bargain does carry some penalties aside from actual sentencing. In terms of certain codes, a wet reckless charge can count as a prior offense when the code stipulates different punishments for DUI charges when priors are present.

A wet reckless charge counts as “a prior offense for the purposes of Section 23540, 23546, 23550, 23560, 23566, or 23622, as specified in those sections.” It applies to these sections exactly as a prior would in term of sentencing. If the court decides to place the defendant on probation for this charge, there is mandated drug and alcohol counseling and education. When two wet reckless charges occur within 10 years, there is a court mandated nine-month period of counseling and education.

Sources

23100

Points

DMV FAQ : Section III

What are points? What is the “traffic violation point count”? What are negligent operator points? What is the Negligent Operator Treatment System?

The point count is the running tally of points for unsafe events on your driving record. If you get too many points, DMV can presume you to be a “negligent operator” and suspend your license or refuse to renew it. If you are trying to get a California license for the first time, DMV can look at the points you got elsewhere to deny you a license in California. You have the right to a hearing if DMV suspends your license, refuses to renew it or denies your application for a license because of too many points.

If you accumulate “too many points,” DMV may conduct an investigation and suspend your license, placing you on negligent operator probation (Section 13800). Too many points also authorizes DMV to refuse to renew a license or deny an application for a new California license (Section 12809(e)). For new licenses, California will look at points a driver accumulated in the United States, U.S. territories and Canada.

For a driver 18 and older, “too many points” means four points in a year; six points in two years or eight points in three years (“4,6,8”) (Section 12810.5(a)).

A Class A or B driver without a special certificate/endorsement may be allowed two extra points each year (“6,8,10”), but a violation in a commercial vehicle counts 1½ times the normal point count (Section 12810.5(b)(2). Despite the higher allowances for these commercial drivers, it is common for DMV’s computers to initiate a negligent operator action against them based on the “4, 6, 8” point values for two reasons: first, the Class A or Class B driver must request and appear at a hearing to avail themselves of the extra points allowed; and second, DMV may still use the “4,6,8” numbers if it reasonably determines that the points were accumulated in a vehicle requiring only a Class C license (Section 12810.5(b)(1)).

Provisional drivers (under 18) may receive a 30-day restriction for two points in a year, or be suspended for three points in a year (Section 12814.6(f)). A minor’s restriction or suspension will run its entire length, even if the minor turns 18 before then.

Sources

VC 13800, VC 12809(e), VC 12810.5, VC 12814.6(f), DSM 9.10

See Also
  • Understand Point-stacking
  • Understand Negligent Operator Suspensions
  • Understand the Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS)
  • How to Win Your Negligent Operator Hearing
How many points is a speeding ticket? How many points is driving too fast for conditions? How many points is excessive speed?

The California Vehicle Code contains more than 20 traffic offenses directly related to the speed of a vehicle. All but two of them are one point violations, with Exhibition of Speed and Speeding Over 100 mph carrying two points each.

The only two speed-related offenses in California that carry two points for a conviction: Speeding in Excess of 100 mph (Section 22348(b)) and Speed Exhibition (Section 23109)

In certain circumstances, however, basic speeding may constitute other violations (such as Reckless Driving) and may be prosecuted as such, resulting in a different point count than if prosecuted as speeding.

The Fine Print

All other speed-related offenses in the Vehicle Code carry one point for a conviction:

  • Basic Speed Law (unsafe speed) (Section 22350, Section 22351)
  • Speeding Prima Facie (default) Limits (Section 22352)
  • Speeding Posted Limits (Section 22354, Section 22355)
  • Excess of 70 mph Freeway (Section 22356)
  • Increased/decreased Local Limits (Section 22357, Section 22358)
  • Speeding on Narrow Street (Section 22358.3)
  • Speeding Near Schools (Section 22358.4)
  • Speeding Between Districts (Section 22360)
  • Speeding Near Road Construction (Section 22362)
  • Speeding on Snow or Ice (Section 22363)
  • Speeding in Traffic Lanes (Section 22364)
  • Too Slow/Impeding Traffic (Section 22400(a), Section 22400(b))
  • Speeding Bridges & Tunnels (Section 22405)
  • Speeding in Specific Vehicles (Section 22406, Section 22407)
  • Speeding with Metal Tires (Section 22410)
  • Speeding on a Scooter (Section 22411)
  • Speeding on Grades (Section 22413)
  • Aiding/Abetting Speed Exhibition (Section 23109(b), Section 23109(d))
  • Speeding in Lift Carrier (Section 36400)
Sources

VC 22348(b), VC 23109, VC 22352, VC 22354, VC 22355, VC 22356, VC 22356, VC 22358, VC 22358.3, VC 22358.4, VC 22360, VC 22362, VC 22363, VC 22364, VC 22400,, VC 22405, VC 22406, VC 22407, VC 22410, VC 22411, VC 22413, VC 36400

See Also
  • Understand Point-stacking and BEAT DMV
  • How to Win Your Negligent Operator Case and BEAT DMV
What is a negligent operator?

A negligent operator is a motorist who has been presumed or declared negligent based either on the number of points on their driving record or on actual driving incidents.

Section 12810.5 provides that a motorist who accumulates 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months is presumed to be a negligent operator, resulting in a suspension of their license unless they demand a hearing within 10 days of the date of the notice (Section 12810.5.). If a motorist demands a hearing, they will have the burden of convincing the DMV hearing officer that they are not negligent.

See Also
  • Understand Negligent Operator Suspensions
  • Understand the Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS)
  • What are Points?
How many points can you have on your license?

The number of points allowed before DMV takes action depends on the type of license you hold. A noncommercial license may have up to four points in year, six in two years or eight in three years. Any of these limits is grounds for suspension or refusal to renew a license.

A commercial license may have up to six points in a year, eight in two years or ten in three years. Any of these limits is grounds for the suspension of the license or the refusal to renew it.

Sources

VC 12810.5

How many points can you have on a provisional license?

A provisional license for drivers under 18 may be restricted at two points a year, suspended in three points a year (12814.6 (2)).

Sources

12814.6 (2)

How many points is a DUI?

A DUI is two points, three for a commercial driver (18210 (b)).

Sources

18210 (b)

How many points is a reckless driving?

Reckless driving is two points, three for a commercial driver (18210 (c)).

Sources

18210 (c)

How many points is a red light ticket?

Running a red light is one point, two for a commercial driver (12810 (f)).

Sources

12810 (f)

How many points is a wet reckless driving?

Wet reckless driving is two points, three for a commercial driver (18210 (c)).

Sources

18210 (c)

How many points is a jaywalking ticket?

As jaywalking occurs as a pedestrian, it counts for no points against a driver’s license.

How many points is a seat belt ticket?

Not wearing a seat belt will result in no points (12810.2).

How many points is a cell phone ticket?

No points are given for a cell phone ticket (12810.3).

How many points is a bicycle violation?

A bicycle violation receives no points.

What is a responsible collision?

A responsible collision is one you are responsible for. It is one point in both a private and commercial vehicle (12801 (f)).

Sources

12801 (f), DMV Web

How many points is a zero tolerance ticket under VC 23136?

A minor driving with a blood alcohol content of greater than .01% results in no points, though this does not exclude other prosecution.

Sources

12810 (4), 23136

How many points is a hit and run under VC 20001 or 20002?

A hit and run is two points, four for a commercial driver (12810 (4) and 23136).

ow many points is an accident/responsible collision?

An accident or responsible collision is one point, whether the vehicle is commercial or not (12801 (f)).

Sources

12801 (f), DMV Web

How many points is vehicular manslaughter under PC 192?

Vehicular manslaughter is worth two points, four for a commercial license (12801 (d)).

Sources

12801 (d)

How many points is an Under 21 DUI under VC 23140?

An under 21 DUI is two points. The distinction between this and VC 23136 is that VC 23136 pertains to a BAC of .01%. A DUI for persons under twenty one when the blood alcohol content is found to be greater than .05% is more severe, as such carrying a heavier penalty (12810 (2)).

Sources

12810 (2)

Hearings

DMV FAQ : Section IV

What happens if I miss the deadline to request a hearing?

If you do not schedule a hearing within 10 days, the DMV will not permit another hearing.

May DMV use hearsay evidence at a hearing?

Yes, but only if DMV has other evidence to back it up. Hearsay may be used only to “supplement or explain” other, non-hearsay evidence, and may not be relied upon as the sole evidence to support a finding. Government Code section 11513(c) allows DMV to introduce hearsay evidence at a hearing. Unlike a criminal court case, a DMV hearing can use an officer’s police reports against you. However, there is one significant limitation, and that is that such hearsay—even though admissible—cannot be used by itself to establish any part of DMV’s case unless a hearsay exception applies. So while the hearsay police reports are admissible, they may not be used as the sole evidence of any fact (such as BAC, the lawfulness of the stop, or the time of driving) unless a hearsay exception applies.

What happens if I miss my DMV hearing?

If you miss your DMV hearing the court will proceed with the case against you. If you cannot make your DMV hearing, you can try to reschedule it.

WHAT IS AN ADMIN PER SE HEARING? WHAT IS AN APS HEARING?

By far the most common type of hearing at DMV is the “administrative per se” hearings, or “admin per se” or just “APS.” They’re called admin per se because they are administrative hearings to suspend a driver’s license based on a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is “per se” illegal. That is, a motorist driving with that much alcohol is illegal per se, regardless of whether or not the amount of alcohol was enough to impair their driving. Technically, any hearing where DMV has to prove a specific BAC would be an APS hearing, but the term is generally reserved for .08% BAC hearings under Section 13353.2(a)(1) for drivers 21 and over.

If you request a hearing, you will have to right to challenge DMV’s case against you and beat DMV.

Sources

VC 13353.2(a)(1)

See Also

  • Understand Admin Per Se (APS) Suspensions
  • How to Win Your Admin Per Se (APS) Hearing

Suspensions

DMV FAQ : Section V

What happens if I miss my court date?

If you miss your court date, you are out of luck. The case will proceed without your input and will move onto the next stage of litigation

What is a refusal?

A refusal is refusing to take a chemical test demanded by an officer at the time of a lawful arrest for a DUI. This refusal carries the penalty of a one-year license suspension and time in prison, should the arrest be deemed lawful. Despite the intuitive (and usually correct) thought that you cannot be forced to incriminate yourself or have your bodily sanctity violated, no such protections exist in this case. This is because of a California law known as “Implied Consent.” In short, implied consent means that by driving in California, you are consenting to be tested (CVC 23612).

What is implied consent?

Implied consent is a term referring to CVC 23612 which states that “A person who drives a motor vehicle is deemed to have given his or her consent to chemical testing of his or her blood or breath for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of his or her blood, if lawfully arrested for an offense allegedly committed in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153.” This means that by driving in California, you agree to this policy. It’s kind of like software agreements, if you are using it, you agree.If you refuse a chemical test when being arrested and suspected of DUI, you have in essence broken a contract and will receive time in jail and a license suspension if found guilty.

What is Departmental Review?

Departmental review is an administrative procedure to allow a motorist who is wrongly suspended to ask DMV Headquarters to review the suspension decision.

Departmental Review is theoretically one way to obtain relief after an arbitrary DMV hearing decision. You obtain Departmental Review by sending a letter to Sacramento with a check for $120, and one of the DMV bureaucrats reviews the DMV file for any errors. The DMV is supposed to give you your license back if the hearing officer committed an error in suspending your license. While lawyers have heard stories of Departmental Review actually returning a license to a motorist, it is widely regarded as so rare as to be a waste of time. There is no provision for staying the suspension during the process of Departmental Review, so you cannot drive legally while you wait.

What a request for Departmental Review does accomplish is a 90-day extension of the time you have in which to seek a writ of mandate to overturn the suspension.

Writs

DMV FAQ : Section VI

What is a Writ of Mandate? What is a writ of mandamus? What is an administrative writ?

“Writ” is a fancy word for court order.

A writ is an order from a judge telling a lower court or a government agency (like a school board or DMV) to reverse a decision. The legal term is writ of mandate or writ of mandamus. When the writ challenges the decision of an administrative agency after a hearing, it is often called a writ of administrative mandamus or just an administrative writ. If the challenged decision did not follow a hearing, the writ is usually called a common law writ.

Either way, a DMV writ is an order signed by a judge telling DMV to reverse one of its decisions—usually the suspension of or refusal to issue/renew a driver’s license.

How Do I Get a Writ of Mandate?

You will have to hire a writ attorney who will file a lawsuit against DMV. After a hearing, the judge will sign an order called a writ that forces DMV to give you your license back.

The procedures for obtaining a writ of mandate are complex and will vary from county to county (indeed, sometimes from judge to judge!). In general, though, it starts by initiating a civil lawsuit on your behalf against DMV by filing a document called a Petition. After service of the Petition on DMV, DMV will respond and prepare the Administrative Record.

Once the Administrative Record is complete, your lawyers file a brief with the legal points and authorities showing the judge why they should take the extraordinary step of overturning a DMV decision. The California Attorney General will file a brief opposing the writ, and then your side will file a Reply Brief.

Once all the documents are filed, your lawyers square off with the Attorney General for a court hearing, where your case is argued to the judge. The hearing is not a trial; there won’t be any evidence presented or witnesses called. It is an appellate argument based on statutes, case law, and general regulations. The hearing may last anywhere from fifteen minutes to more than an hour in matters of first impression.

How much does a Writ Cost?

You should expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000 to get a writ of mandate. Be wary of any “cheaper” DMV lawyers—you get what you pay for.

Let’s face it: nobody budgets for a driver’s license suspension. Unfortunately, if you’re in that situation you don’t have a choice of whether you will pay a bunch of money—you’re going to pay it. You’re only choice is to whom you pay it.

If you do nothing and just accept the suspension, you will usually have to pay for alternate transportation during the suspension period, an SR-22 with increased auto insurance premiums upon reinstatement, and a mandated class or lessons. These costs can easily total $5,000 – $6,000 and don’t even include the inconvenience or stigma associated with not having your license.

If you decide to fight the suspension, there are two types of expenses you will pay to get the writ: attorney’s fees and costs.

Attorney’s fees will vary depending on the complexity and amount of work involved in a particular case, i.e., the number of issues to be raised to challenge the suspension. If you are like most motorists, you will want a stay of the suspension so that you can drive while we get the writ. A stay adds to the cost because it requires a separate motion and an additional court hearing. In general, attorney’s fees will run between $5,000 and $7,500.

The typical writ proceeding has associated cost related to administrative procedures. Filling fees for the writ petition and stay request, the costs of producing the transcript or Administrative Record, service of process on the DMV, and courier/fax filing charges are all auxiliary costs associated with the process. In total, these costs usually run between five hundred and twelve hundred dollars, depending on the length of the underlying DMV hearing.

Sources

GC 70603, GC 70611

What is a Stay?

A stay is the temporary stopping of a DMV suspension order. There are two common stays in the DMV suspension context: one to allow an administrative hearing following an alcohol-related citation; and one to allow your DMV attorney to get you a writ of mandate after a hearing or mandatory action.

The California Vehicle Code authorizes a stay to stop an alcohol-related suspension from taking effect before you can challenge it at an administrative hearing (VC 13558(g)). The Code of Civil Procedure authorizes a superior court judge to stay a driver’s license suspension long enough to decide whether or not to issue a writ of mandate to overturn that suspension (CCP 1094.5(g)).

The California Code of Civil Procedure authorizes a judge to stay the action of any State administrative agency while a writ action is pending to challenge that decision. This makes good sense to prevent the harm that could occur during the time it takes to challenge a decision. A motorist should not lose their license for the two to three months it may take to prove the suspension was wrongful in the first place. A stay is the temporary order that prevents this kind of irreparable harm.

Sources

CCP 1094.5(g), VC 13558(b)

See Also
  • How to Request a DMV Hearing
  • Get a Stay of Your Suspension

 

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