The First 48 Hours After a DUI | Getting Your Driver's License Back | Easing the Consequences of a DUI | Fighting a Napa DUI
- The DUI Suspension From Court
- The DUI Suspension From DMV
- SR-22 and Low-cost Insurance
- DUI Classes
- Traffic Tickets and Unpaid Fines
- Too Many Negligent Operator Points
- Physical & Mental Health Suspensions
- Senior Driver Suspensions
- Minors With DUI Suspensions
- Commercial Drivers With DUI Suspensions
Two Different Suspensions Result From a Napa DUI
The best Napa DUI lawyers understand that a DUI usually results in two different driver's license suspensions. One suspension is triggered by a DUI conviction in court (often called the "Mandatory Suspension" because of the mandatory nature of the suspension automatically imposed once DMV receives notice of the conviction), and the other suspension is triggered by the Pink Temporary License issued at the time of arrest, and governed separately by the DMV regardless of what happens in court (often called the "APS suspension," abbreviating the formal name of this separate Administrative Per Se process — see Tip #2 in this section). Many people will never know or care about the differences (including most attorneys and judges), but for many people who try to resolve a DUI case quickly, the bureaucratic requirements created by two very different suspensions can be confusing and a misstep may cause unexpected consequences.
In addition, the two suspensions often mandate different suspension periods with different rules for converting back to full or limited "restricted" driving privileges, and of course the longer of the two suspension periods determines the final outcome. Drivers have to address and resolve each suspension in order to be sure that driving privileges are restored at the earliest date. To understand these two different suspensions, compare the information on the court suspension here in Tip #1, to the separate DMV administrative suspension described in Tip #2 in this section, and then review the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer info on this page below, as well as the SR-22 info in Tip #3 and the DUI class info in Tip #4.
Client comment: "I do want to thank you for all your help. I couldn't have done this on my own, as much as I wanted to. I went to the DMV today and received my restricted license. Most of the people in my DUI program were surprised to find out their court suspension and DMV suspension were two different animals and have subsequently been [unnecessarily] off the road for up to 9 months in some cases. So thanks! You rule!"
Many people may find Ryan's flow chart to be an easier way to begin to understand the parallel but different DMV and court processes. If you get confused with the discussion below, then click on Anatomy of a Napa County DUI.
Laws and Legislation
Laws relating to restricted licenses may be found, for first offenses in Vehicle Code Section 13352(a)(1), and Section 13352.1, and Section 13352.4, and in Section 13353.3(b)(1), and Section 13353.6, and Section 13353.7, and for second offenders in Section 13352(a)(3) (or third offenders, Section 13352(a)(5)), and Section 13352.5, and in Section 13353.3(b)(2), and Section 13353.75, and for minors in Section 13353.8, and also in Section 13202.5.
The latest 2019 complex law revisions eliminating mandatory driver's license suspension periods in favor of installation of the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer in most DUI cases may be found here: SB-1046. The earlier 2010 and 2012 law revisions allowing conversion of DUI license suspensions to early DUI restricted driving privileges for multiple offenders may be found here: SB-598 (for converting one-year suspensions or longer license revocations into 3 or 6-month suspensions followed by ignition interlock restricted license), SB-895 (adding SB598 license to separate DMV administrative suspension scheme), and AB-520 (adding Wet Reckless multiple offenders). Good Napa County DUI lawyers will explain all of these new laws to you, yet another reason to have access to a competent Napa DUI attorney.
The Court Conviction-Triggered Suspension
If you and your Napa County DUI lawyer are unable to win your case, the court is supposed to tell you at the time of sentencing (most judges don't), that a Napa DUI conviction results in a mandatory suspension of your driver's license by the DMV. This suspension is different than the DMV's separate administrative suspension. Your Napa DUI attorney should explain that this suspension which results from a Napa court conviction is administered by the DMV but triggered by what happens in the courthouse, whereas the other "DMV administrative suspension" (discussed in the next Tip #2), is triggered by the pink temporary license and can be imposed separately by DMV even if you and your Napa DUI attorney win in court or criminal charges are dropped by the Napa County prosecutor.
First you need to understand what the court suspension is exactly (and then compare to the DMV administrative suspension described in Tip #2):
First DUI Conviction
In a typical first offense DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test, no other alcohol-related suspensions in the last ten years) Veh Code 23152), an informed Napa County DUI lawyer should explain that the suspension triggered solely by the court conviction is likely to be six months (Veh Code 13352(a)(1)(A)), but could be ten months if the court orders enrollment in the nine-month DUI program because of a court finding that the alcohol level was at or above .20%, or a court finding of a refusal to give a required chemical test when requested by Napa County law enforcement (Veh Code 13352.1(a) and Veh Code 23538(b)(2)). Other factors, such as misdemeanor or felony DUI cases causing injury to others (Veh Code 23153, and Veh Code 13352(a)(2),(4),(6)) and your age (Veh Code 23136 and 23140) can affect the length of a court suspension, but in most cases your Napa DUI attorney can provide you with the advice you need to get back on the road immediately, even after a Napa County DUI conviction.
Restricted License — Before 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical DUI case with no prior convictions in the last ten years, the same periods of suspension apply, but the process to obtain the restricted license is different. The driver is not required to choose between an IID breathalyzer restricted license and a work license in order to avoid a suspension, because there is no IID license option, only the work license option. Therefore, in the typical first offense DUI case, the driver may immediately convert the conviction-triggered suspension by simply filing the SR-22 insurance discussed here in Tip #3, and enrolling in the DUI classes discussed here in Tip #4, and then once DMV has electronic confirmation of these two tasks accomplished, a work license may be obtained after paying certain fees at any DMV field office. Timing is still critical to avoid any actual time off the road, and therefore the best Napa County DUI lawyers will help navigate you to perfectly time each of these tasks.
Second or More DUI Convictions
In a typical multiple offender DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test), then an experienced Napa DUI lawyer should explain that the mandatory minimum suspension period following a second Napa County DUI court conviction is typically two years, and the mandatory minimum suspension period following a third Napa County DUI court conviction is three years, etc. Veh Code 13352(a)(3),(5),(7).
Restricted License — After 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is after January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical multiple offender DUI case, a driver may immediately convert the conviction-triggered license suspension into an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time (but this license is only available if the DUI conviction is alcohol-related) Veh Code 13352(a)(3),(5),(7). The new 12-month "work" license for first DUI offenders is not an option for multiple DUI offenders, but may be an option for some second offenders who have not driven the first year Veh Code 13352.5.
As with first offenders, the IID restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office after paying certain fees, but only if DMV can confirm on their computers that the driver has (1) already filed the special SR-22 insurance (see Tip #3 in this section), (2) already enrolled in the correct DUI program (see Tip #4), and (3) already installed the IID breathalyzer (see our IID info below). All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Napa DUI lawyers will help navigate you to perfectly time each of these tasks.
Restricted License — Before 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical DUI case, the same suspension periods apply, but the process to obtain the restricted license is different. Under the old law before 2010, which is still an option, some second offenders may obtain a restricted "work" license after the first year of suspension Veh Code 13352.5. Between 2010 and 2018, law changes provided that following 90 days of absolute suspension, most second offenders are eligible for an IID restricted license for the remainder of the suspension (21 months) if certain tasks are pre-accomplished, including installation of the IID ignition device, enrollment in the multiple offender DUI program, and filing the SR-22 insurance.
Understand that there are no hardship exceptions of any kind for driving during the initial suspension period (90 days or one year), even in the most compelling personal situations, regardless of the severest consequences to you or others.
For most third offenders, the 2010-2018 laws provide for a typical 6-month wait prior to becoming eligible for an IID breathalyzer restricted license. The best way to avoid this harsh result is to get charges reduced or dismissed in Napa County court with the capable skills of a good Napa DUI attorney, or win at trial.
Consult with a Napa County DUI attorney to see if your individual circumstances might prevent eligibility for one or more of these restricted licenses (for example, a drug DUI, chemical test refusal cases, under-21 cases, some probation violation cases, some pre-July 2010 arrest dates, and other atypical prior/present offense combinations, etc.).
The IID Breathalyzer
Many of the basic rules pertaining to installation, maintenance and use of IID breathalyzers may be found in Veh Code 13352(i)-(m), Veh Code 13353.6 (first offenders), and Veh Code 13353.75 (multiple offenders), and generally in Veh Code 23575.3, including income-based fee schedules, mandated durations, and definitions of certain violations.
For a comprehensive listing of local Napa County ignition interlock IID resources, click the following link to view our Napa DUI Lawyer IID Resources. Lifesafer is one of many companies offering these ignition devices for quick and affordable installation. Low Cost Interlock is another IID company, offering competitive pricing and a very smart soda can camouflage cover for the device (pictured here).
In most Napa County cases resulting in a DUI conviction involving drugs only, typically a conviction only for violating Veh Code 23152(f), none of the IID breathalyzer restricted licenses discussed above in first or multiple offense cases are available to help the driver convert the conviction-triggered suspension into restricted driving privileges. Instead, for most first offense drug DUI cases the driver may obtain a 12-month restricted work license (immediately after the suspension start date upon payment of fees at DMV, if the DMV already has electronic proof of SR-22 insurance filing and DUI program enrollment). (Veh Code 13352.4(b), Veh Code 13353.3(b)(1)).
For most multiple offense drug DUI cases the driver may only obtain a minimum 12-month restricted work license, but only after suffering one year of no driving whatsoever, regardless of extreme hardship to the driver or others. (Veh Code 13352(a)(3)(A)(i), Veh Code 13352.5, Veh Code 13353.3(b)(2).
Getting the Restricted License
In most cases, a driver is eligible for the restricted license immediately after a DUI conviction in the Napa County courts. But it is important to understand that the DMV does not mail or automatically issue the restricted license to you. A good Napa County DUI attorney will explain that you must accomplish certain tasks comfortably before the conviction date, such as those described above, and then go to the Napa or Santa Rosa DMV field office and pay a fee to obtain the restricted license.
In most cases it is best to wait until you receive the suspension notice in the mail so that you know the suspension has begun, rather than wasting time waiting in line only to discover that the court has not yet sent the record of conviction to DMV, so they don't have a suspension to convert to a restricted license yet.
Other requirements may apply in your unique situation; an experienced Napa DUI lawyer will be able to give you the specific eligibility criteria and timing requirements applicable to your own individual circumstances.
Old Napa County DUIs
Note if you have a past Napa County DUI and the Napa DMV refuses (or you are a resident of another state and your home state DMV refuses) to renew or return your license, or refuses to allow you to obtain even a restricted license (typically because the DUI program was not completed), contact a local Napa County DUI lawyer to review your matter and help you sort out the mess and clear your California record to get your license back.
Renew an Expired or Expiring License
Note if you receive a Renewal Notice or otherwise have an expired California license (or even out of state expired license) then in most cases it is best to renew your license prior to any resolution of a new DUI case in order to re-obtain driving privileges at the earliest opportunity. Contact a local Napa DUI attorney to review your driving record and provide specific advice for your particular circumstances.
Try to Get Your Case Dismissed or Settled for Less Than a DUI Conviction
Avoid a DUI conviction to avoid the mandatory suspensions described above. Usually your local Napa DUI lawyer will look for every opportunity to try dismissing your case in Napa County superior court, or reducing your DUI to a wet reckless conviction, dry reckless, or attempted DUI or drunk in public, or a moving violation infraction, which will accomplish the goal of completely avoiding this mandatory Napa court-generated suspension.
In most cases, to avoid any interruption of driving privileges at all, your Napa DUI attorney must also win the separate administrative suspension at the Santa Rosa DMV discussed in Tip #2.
The best Napa County DUI lawyers will explain to you that a typical DUI case results in two different driver's license suspensions.
One suspension is the mandatory suspension triggered by a DUI conviction in court (see Tip #1 in this section), and the other suspension is the APS suspension triggered by the pink temporary license issued at the time of arrest, and governed separately by the DMV regardless of what happens in court.
Many people will never know or care about the differences (including most attorneys and judges), but for many people who try to resolve a DUI case quickly, the bureaucratic requirements created by two very different suspensions can be confusing and a misstep may cause unexpected consequences.
In addition, the two suspensions often mandate different suspension periods with different rules for converting back to full or limited "restricted" driving privileges, and of course the longer of the two suspension periods determines the final outcome. Drivers have to address and resolve each suspension in order to be sure that driving privileges are restored at the earliest date.
Many people may find Ryan's flow chart to be an easier way to begin to understand the parallel but different DMV and court processes. If you get confused with the discussion below, then click on Anatomy of a Napa County DUI.
Delaying or Fighting the DMV Suspension
The court conviction-triggered suspension is delayed and fought in court, but this separate DMV suspension has it's own separate procedures. In most cases, if a driver is arrested for a DUI, they are handed a Pink Temporary License, which states on its face that the driver has ten days to call DMV and ask for a hearing, completely apart from any court proceedings, to show the DMV why their intended suspension is unjustified. Any experienced Napa County DUI attorney will accomplish this hearing request immediately on your behalf if we are hired in the first ten days from arrest.
A timely hearing request typically results in a "stay" (delay) of this separate DMV suspension until an independent administrative hearing is held to determine if DMV has enough evidence to conclude that the suspension should be reinstated. Of course the best Napa DUI lawyers will not only request the hearing for you, but we will also represent you at that separate hearing so that you don't have to figure it out yourself, or even attend.
In most cases, if this separate DMV hearing is not timely requested, or if the hearing is successfully obtained but DMV finds against the driver anyway, then the DMV's stay may be lifted and their intended suspension may be reimposed.
First DUI Suspension
In a typical first offender DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test, no other alcohol-related suspensions in the last ten years), the expected suspension period would be four months (Section 13353.3(b)(1)).
Restricted License — After 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is on or after January 1, 2019, then following a typical DUI arrest with no prior DUI suspension in the last ten years, most first offenders may convert the separate four-month DMV license suspension into restricted driving privileges by (1) immediately obtaining an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time, but only if the DUI suspension is alcohol-related (Section 13353.3(b)(1)), or by (2) waiting until the 30-day pink temporary license expires, then suffering a 30-day suspension with no available hardship exceptions, followed by a restricted "work" license allowing driving only to/from, and in the course of employment and to/from the DUI classes and activities (Section 13353.7), unless or until a court orders installation of the IID breathalyzer during sentencing.
The first offender restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office after paying certain fees, but only if DMV can confirm on their computers that the driver has (1) already filed the special SR-22 insurance (see Tip #3 in this section), (2) already enrolled in the correct DUI program (see Tip #4), and (3) if applicable, already installed the IID breathalyzer (see our IID info in Tip #1). All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Napa DUI attorneys will help navigate you to properly plan each of these tasks.
Restricted License — Before 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then the same periods of suspension apply, but a portion of this separate DMV suspension must be served with no restricted license, and the process to obtain the restricted license thereafter is different. Further, in first offense cases, the driver is not required to choose between an IID breathalyzer restricted license and a "work" license, because there is no immediate IID license option, only the 30-day mandatory suspension followed by a work license.
Specifically, regardless of the suspension dates specified in any subsequent DMV notices received in the mail (DMV notices are notoriously misleading), most first offenders may obtain a restricted Class C work license after the first 30 days from the DMV suspension start date, as soon as certain fees are paid at a local DMV office, and DMV receives electronic proof of DUI program enrollment and proof of filing special SR22 insurance.
The first offender restricted work license allows driving only to/from, and in the course of employment and to/from the DUI classes and activities. These first offender restricted driving privileges typically last five months and until the Sacramento DMV receives proof of completion of the Napa County DUI program drinking driver classes. Each of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Napa DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly plan these tasks.
Second or More DUI Suspensions
In a typical multiple offender DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test), the expected suspension period would be one year regardless of the number of prior DUI offenses (Section 13353.3(b)(2)), but don't panic, keep reading!
Restricted License — After 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is after January 1, 2019, then in the typical multiple offender case, most multiple offenders may convert the separate one-year DMV license suspension into restricted driving privileges by obtaining an immediate Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time, but only if the DUI suspension is alcohol-related (Section 13353.3(b)(2)).
The multiple offender restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office after paying certain fees, but only if DMV can confirm on their computers that the driver has (1) already filed the special SR-22 insurance (see Tip #3 in this section), (2) already enrolled in the correct DUI program (see Tip #4), and (3) already installed the IID breathalyzer (see our IID info in Tip #1). These restricted driving privileges typically last one year (unless the court orders a longer IID period). All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Napa DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly plan each of these tasks.
Restricted License — Before 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then in the typical multiple offender case, most multiple offenders may obtain a restricted IID breathalyzer license after the first 90 days (second offenders) or six months (third offenders) from the DMV suspension start date, and as soon as certain fees are paid at a local DMV office, and DMV receives electronic proof of installation of an IID breathalyzer, DUI program enrollment and proof of filing special SR22 insurance. Timing is always critical for first and multiple DUI offenders to avoid any longer time off the road than necessary, and therefore the best Napa County DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly plan each of these tasks.
Differences Between the DMV Suspension and the Court Suspension
Napa DUI attorneys would explain it to you this way: The DMV administrative suspension is different from the mandatory Napa County court conviction suspension in at least six ways:
(1) Differing outcomes in the same current matter: even if you win in court, or charges are reduced or never filed, this separate DMV suspension is usually still imposed if you and your Napa DUI lawyer fail to win separately at the Santa Rosa DMV hearing (requested within 10 days of arrest);
(2) Differing treatment of prior matters: even if court charges were never filed in a prior matter, or lesser charges were filed (such as under-21 zero tolerance but not .08% DUI), or the conviction was for something other than a DUI (like a "Dry Reckless" or a simple traffic infraction, but the DMV still suspended you for an alcohol-related reason in that prior matter, then the DMV may treat this new Napa County case as a second or higher DUI and impose a multiple offense one-year suspension period (without the possibility of a hardship or work license in some cases) even though your Napa DUI lawyer tells you that the Napa prosecutor is treating a new case as a "first offense" and is not charging the prior court matter in the current Napa County Superior Court proceedings;
(3) Required time off the road: if this is your first administrative suspension, then if you don't want to install an IID breathalyzer, you must serve the first 30 days of the DMV suspension without any driving privileges at all, unless your local Napa County DUI attorney can arrange credits or otherwise obtain a different result at the Santa Rosa DMV, whereas all of the Napa court-caused suspension is typically convertible into a work license; in a first DUI scenario, it is this DMV administrative suspension rather than the Napa court conviction-triggered suspension which typically causes the complete loss of driving privileges for any length of time.
(4) Chemical test refusal cases: if this is your first alcohol-related suspension, a good Napa County DUI lawyer will explain to you that a refusal to provide a chemical test at the time of arrest will likely result in a one-year loss of driving privileges with no work or hardship license allowed from Napa DMV (see example APS Refusal Notice), and more than one year if you have prior DUI suspensions, whereas the Napa County court suspension typically would be totally convertible into a restricted work license; in this case the DMV one-year suspension takes priority even though the Napa County court may dismiss the refusal allegation or otherwise allow a restricted license;
(5) Length of suspension in multiple priors cases: if this is not your first DMV suspension in the last ten years, then, except for the breathalyzer restricted license availability, the DMV administrative suspension is one year (more if you refused to give a chemical test) for any number of priors, but the Napa court-generated suspension increases to two years, three years, or more depending on the number of court priors; and
(6) Two different restricted work licenses: if your Napa DUI attorney resolves the Napa County criminal case in court first, and thereafter you obtain the work license from Napa DMV discussed in Tip #1 above, then usually DMV requires that you go back to the local DMV office to get a new restricted license after you are suspended again due to the administrative suspension (or vice versa). You should talk to your local Napa DUI lawyer about coordinating resolutions so that only one trip to Napa DMV is required.
Client comment: "The DUI Program said after I have DUI program enrollment and SR22 accomplished I can go to DMV in 3 working days to apply for a restricted license instead of waiting 30 days. I'll go next Wednesday."
Ryan's [pre-2019] answer to this client: "(Sigh) Yet another example for my website of wrong advice from the DUI program: remember that we started your DMV administrative suspension the same day as your conviction, but the administrative suspension hasn't been updated to your driving record yet; wait this first 30 days regardless of wrong advice from the DUI program, otherwise (1) you will be required to go to DMV twice to convert two suspensions separately, and (2) you may be caught driving on a suspended license if you are stopped between the dates when the administrative suspension is updated to your driving record and the date you receive notice of the new suspension in the mail. This myopic DUI program "advice" could have cost you a new arrest, impoundment of your vehicle, and a new court case for driving on a suspended license! Don't blindly follow DUI Program advice; wait the 30 days as we discussed."
Different Suspension Start Dates Beware allowing your Napa County court case to drag on far beyond any DMV re-imposition of suspension; if this happens you may find that your second restricted license, required after a court conviction, will result in additional months of restrictions as compared with the bare minimum restriction duration if you coordinate the start of both suspensions at once. Be sure that you thoroughly discuss this process with your Napa DUI attorney and that you are comfortable that the possible benefits of prolonging the court case outweigh the risk of a longer restriction period.
Similarities Between the Two Suspensions
(1) Napa DUI attorneys understand that as the agency in charge of drivers licenses, the DMV bureaucratically administers both suspensions and any restricted licenses. The DMV will send all of the license suspension notices to your address on record at the DMV (usually without clear information on which suspension is which, and with misleading information on what to do next).
DMV Mailing Address. Be sure you submit your current address to the Napa (or nearest satellite) DMV office unless there are compelling reasons not to do so. You can visit the Napa or Santa Rosa satellite DMV office to submit a Napa County change of address, or click here to Update Your Address Online, if DMV has an old address. Additionally, copies of some of the DUI-related notices are sent to your Napa DUI lawyer.
(2) The same Napa DUI program drinking driver classes and the same SR 22 insurance filing, and if applicable the same IID breathalyzer installation, satisfy the same requirements to get both restricted licenses once you are eligible.
(3) If you win at trial in Napa County, or your Napa DUI lawyer obtains a factual finding of innocence on the specific charge of being at or over .08% (or .01% in under-21 cases), or otherwise obtains a "Helmandollar Acquittal," then your Napa DUI lawyer will inform Sacramento DMV and win both court and DMV cases at once. Most likely, if the Napa DMV matter had already been decided against you, it may be overturned with such a win in the Napa County courthouse.
How Do You Know Which Suspension is Which?
Read the notices you receive (save them and ask a local Napa County DUI lawyer if you don't understand them). Your DUI attorney will explain that in a first DUI, if the duration of your suspension stated on the "Administrative Per Se" notice (first DUI) is four months, then this notice is referring to the Napa DMV's administrative suspension. If the duration is six or ten months, then this notice is the Mandatory Action "Order of Suspension" notice (first DUI) referring to the Napa court conviction-generated suspension.
If this is your second or higher DUI, and if the duration of your suspension on the "Administrative Per Se" notice (second DUI) is one year in a non-refusal case, then your Napa DUI attorney will explain to you that this is referring to the DMV's administrative suspension. If the duration is two years or more in a non-refusal case, then this notice is the Mandatory Action "Order of Suspension" notice (second DUI) referring to the Napa court-generated suspension.
The best way to avoid the DMV administrative suspension is to have a local Napa DUI attorney ask for the separate DMV administrative hearing in Santa Rosa within the allowable time, and then win the hearing. The best way to win the hearing is with a Napa DUI lawyer at your side who can address the issues which we know are most important to the DMV. These issues are not usually the personal or economic hardship issues which are most important to you, or the way you were treated by Napa County law enforcement, but rather, in most cases, what we know wins a case are the precise legal issues surrounding the legality of the law enforcement conduct, and the weight of evidence regarding your sobriety, and the accuracy and adequacy of the chemical tests and the police and DMV documents.
The Requirement. If you are convicted of a DUI or lose the DMV hearing, good Sonoma County DUI lawyers should warn you that you will likely be required to obtain an SR22 Insurance Policy from an insurance company to file with the DMV before becoming eligible for reinstatement of any kind of driving privileges. The typical required duration for an SR-22 in Napa County is three years.
What is an SR-22. Your Napa County DUI attorney should explain to you that this special form of insurance called an SR 22 is basically a promise from your insurance company to inform the DMV if you ever lose insurance; this is assurance, or a guarantee, from an insurance company to the DMV that you have insurance. Naturally, prior to this filing requirement, no one would have known whether you have insurance or not. The purpose of this new requirement following a Napa DUI conviction or DMV finding, is to empower DMV to suspend your license immediately upon you losing insurance or becoming uninsured. SR-22s are required for licensing several kinds of higher risk drivers, including those who suffer a DUI conviction or DUI-related license suspension in Napa County. For answers to many frequently asked questions about SR-22s, see CarInsurance SR22 Insurance FAQs.
How is it Filed? The SR-22 must be filed with DMV before you can re-obtain driving privileges of any kind following most Napa County DUI convictions. Some insurance companies transmit the form directly to Sacramento DMV in a matter of hours after your request, and others take up to several weeks and actually mail the original to you for you to file directly with the Napa DMV. DUI attorneys see SR-22s in lots of different shapes and sizes. Click on the picture to see a sample SR-22 form, or the following links to see older versions of SR-22 forms: Sample SR-22 Form, Triple A's SR-22 Form, Allstate's SR-22 Form, Sample Electronic SR-22 Receipt.
How Much Does it Cost? Napa County DUI lawyers will tell you to shop around. The simple fact of a DUI should not result in cancellation of your insurance policy. Some aggressive companies may cancel you (see for example this State Farm Cancellation for a single DUI) but offer you a different policy with a subsidiary company, and regardless, many insurance companies offer insurance, and this SR-22 form, to people with one or more DUIs, but this may be a good time to shop for the most affordable insurance for your unique situation.
In addition, Napa DUI attorneys will tell you that we believe it is the insurance industry which caused this reporting and filing requirement; if you were not required to call your insurance company to ask for this special DUI form, then your insurance company often would not know that you suffered a DUI conviction, at least until policy renewal, and sometimes not for years, and your rates would not double or triple as depicted in the Insurancequotes.com statistics pictured here (partial thumbnail pic; click link to see comprehensive article and click pic to see larger table).
If you do not wish to inform your current insurance company of a DUI conviction, or your company refuses to issue an SR-22 until you jump hoops or unless certain conditions are satisfied, then you may wish to seriously consider contacting a knowledgeable but different insurance company that will issue the SR22 at the time you want it, such as Breathe Easy Insurance Solutions, Your DUI Solutions, John Macdonald Insurance Service, or Serenity Insurance, without immediately increasing your rates with your current company (these are not endorsements but resources to check out for SR-22s if you like the company, their explanations, fees, and service). At least one of the above insurance companies states they can often prevent any increase at all if properly timed.
You should discuss with your Napa County DUI attorney the timing and manner of complying with insurance requirements; it is possible to save thousands of dollars with respect to insurance rates and increases. In most cases, it is a serious mistake to blindly call your insurance company, or respond to a "cold call" SR-22 advertisement or mailer following a Napa DUI arrest, when there are "thinking outside the box" solutions to the dramatic insurance increases depicted above.
You can find additional information on Ryan's Napa DUI lawyer website about SR-22 insurance by clicking on SR-22 Resources and then clicking on links under "Insurance" including an FAQ search engine which contains an answer bank for many common insurance and SR-22 questions such as rate increases, multiple vehicles or insured parties, interplay with other types of policies, out of state requirements, etc.
Low Cost Insurance (not SR-22)
If you simply need insurance to get your driver license back, but you cannot afford insurance, then click here on California Low Cost Auto Insurance Program for information about Napa County's participation in the state sponsored low income insurance program. Note: this program does not offer the SR-22.
What is DUI Class?
If you are convicted of a DUI in Napa County or anywhere else in California, you will likely be ordered to complete a California-licensed drinking driver DUI Program ("DDP"), now simply called the "DUI Program." The best Napa County DUI attorneys will explain to you that the DUI program is a series of once-per-week, two to three-hour classes consisting of an "Education Curriculum" with videos, lectures and group discussions including resource materials on DUI law, court requirements, substance abuse and problem drinking. Extended programs for higher alcohol levels or multiple DUI convictions include additional individual and group counseling as well as community re-entry activities.
Most DUI programs allow you to pick the day of the week and the time of day, and attend that same class weekly until completion. The court is required to order DUI program enrollment and completion in nearly all DUI cases (see "Court Probation" in Tip #6 in this section of Napa County DUI Lawyer: Easing the Consequences of a DUI). Your Napa DUI lawyer should tell you that timely enrollment (typically within 21 days of a DUI conviction) and completion is required by the court in order to avoid an arrest warrant for failure to comply with sentencing orders after a case is over, and also required separately by DMV in order to regain driving privileges at the earliest opportunity.
Napa, Sonoma, and Marin counties each have only one DDP. Mendocino has two, and Solano has several. Usually DUI programs have a waiting list to enroll, so if you wait too long then your required suspension period will be longer than necessary. If you are arrested for driving on a suspended license due to a DUI, typically the penalty risk is severe and expensive including a 10-day minimum jail sentence and loss of restricted work or hardship driving privileges. Click here for Sonoma or Marin DDP information. In addition to the information below, you can find more DDP info on this site at Top Ten Tips for Easing the Consequences of a DUI.
Online DUI Program Classes
Before the 2020 COVID pandemic, online classes were generally unavailable to California residents. An awesome Napa DUI lawyer like Ryan was able to obtain a rare online DUI program allowance from the court for certain kinds of cases or clients in certain situations (see, principally, "Non-California Residents" at the end of this discussion), but the California DMV did not recognize online DUI program enrollment or completion for purposes of reissuing a driver license following a DMV suspension due to a DUI conviction, and since most people prioritize getting their license back, the online program was not an option in most cases.
However, since the closing of DUI programs and the first re-openings following the onset of the 2020 COVID pandemic, a number of specifically licensed online DUI programs have been approved by the California DMV. Be sure to confirm a DUI program is licensed by the state of California and approved by the California DMV to provide DUI license suspension relief upon enrollment and completion, or else a license suspension might not be lifted. Click here for a partial list of known and Local Licensed Online DUI Programs (rev. 7/2020), and here for a listing of all Claifornia Licensed DUI Programs.
First Offenders Six-Week Wet Reckless Program (SB 1176): 12 hour Education Program. Note that this program does not qualify most drivers for early restricted license privileges (See Veh. Code Sections 13353.7, 23538(b)) unless, per Veh. Code Section 13353.2(e), your Napa DUI attorney also wins the separate DMV administrative hearing (Veh. Code Section 23103.5(e)).
First Offenders Three-Month DUI Program (AB 541): 30 hours Education Program and Group Counseling. This is the most common DUI program ordered for first offense Napa County DUI convictions (Veh. Code Section 23538(b)(1)).
First Offenders Extended Six-Month DUI Program (AB 762): 45 hours Education Program and Group Counseling. Napa County requires this intermediate extended first offense DUI program for cases where alcohol levels were at or above 0.15% (Veh. Code Section 23578).
First Offenders (and Multiple Offense Wet Reckless Offenders) Extended Nine-Month DUI Program (AB 1353): 60 hours Education Program and Group Counseling. This program is typically ordered for first offense refusal cases (refused to give chemical sample at time of arrest), or first offense cases where alcohol levels were alleged at or above 0.20%, and for DUI cases with prior offenses alleged where the new case resolves as a "Wet Reckless" (Veh. Code Section 23538(b)(2), 23103.5(f)(1)).
Multiple Offenders 18-Month DUI Program (SB 38): 78 hours Education Program and Group Counseling. The Group Counseling component of the program combines 52 hours of weekly group process sessions with individual interviews every other week. The final six-month phase of the program consists of the Community Re-entry component with one-hour group sessions once per month and four hours per month of community re-entry activity. This is the most common DUI program ordered for multiple offense Napa County DUI convictions (in other words, new DUI case with prior DUI conviction(s) within 10 years of new arrest--10 year period measured from arrest date of old case to arrest date of new case). (Veh. Code Section 23542(b)(1)).
Multiple Offenders 30-Month DUI Program (SB 1365): 30-months of Education Program and Group Counseling. This program is offered in very few counties (not Napa County or any other North Bay county) and may be a significant alternative to increased jail time in certain multiple offense DUI cases (Veh. Code Section 23548(b)).
Client Comment: Ryan, at enrollment they told me to sign up for the 9-month class because my alcohol levels were above .20%, and the DMV might not give me back my license after 30 days if I don't sign up for the longer class required by DMV, but after sentencing you told me to sign up for the shorter class. What should I do? Ryan's Reply: DUI program "counselors" often believe that it's up to the DMV which class you take, but the law authorizes the Court to make the decision which class is required for first offenders, not the DMV. In your case I was able to get the high blood alcohol allegation dismissed and the shorter class ordered, so even though your counselor says it would be safer to take the longer (more expensive) class, he is absolutely wrong in your case. Following his advice would have landed nearly twice as much money for the DUI program, and cost you three times the number of classes, so I'm glad you checked with your Napa County DUI lawyer before following his directions.
Timing is critical to getting your driving privileges back. Be sure you are eligible for your license to be returned on the first possible day. Typically, the best way to do this is sign up immediately for the DUI program once a court or DMV-generated suspension begins. In Napa County, the DDP is located at 2020 Jefferson Street in the City of Napa.
Enroll In Your Own County Of Residence
If you live or work in a county other than Napa, talk to your lawyer or the DDP program about transferring to the most convenient program, such as Santa Rosa, Ukiah, San Rafael, Vallejo, or one of many programs in San Francisco. Typically every county has at least one licensed program, and many counties have more than one program.
You can find early contact information on this site by clicking on Resources and then under "DUI Compliance" click on one of the DUI Program links. Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Solano, Mendocino and all the state-licensed DDPs are listed. You may also use the tool below.
Current Traffic Tickets. Traffic tickets may often be handled in a number of different ways. Read the back of your citation to obtain information about how to handle current tickets. Click here to see a sample of a Calistoga Police Department Citation & Promise to Appear and scroll down to the back side to read about options or click on the traffic court link below.
Contesting a Trial. Most people would benefit by fighting a ticket if there are any viable defenses or one has the time to see if the arresting officer shows up at a trial in traffic court. Click here for Napa County's Traffic Trial Information. Usually a traffic defendant may contest citations in writing without having to appear in court. Click here for Trial by Declaration instructions, and here for an approved Request Form fillable online.
Traffic School. If there are no defenses to a traffic ticket, or you do not wish to fight it, you may wish to elect traffic school during the time limit provided at the bottom of your original Napa County citation by asking for the traffic school alternative at the Napa County Traffic Court. This may help you to avoid any additional points which would cause you to meet or exceed the point limits. Discuss your specific situation with a local Napa DUI attorney.
Suspended Driver License. You may receive a Collection Notice with respect to unpaid fines. If your driving privileges are suspended due to unpaid traffic tickets (failure to appear--FTA--or failure to pay--FTP), then if you pay off the tickets, the Napa County court in Napa will release its hold on your license and you will be able to reacquire your driving privileges.
The county where you got the ticket while driving is the county which must lift its hold, not the DMV or your county of residence if you live outside Napa County. Each county which has a hold on your license for a nonappearance (FTA) or nonpayment (FTP) must be addressed separately. One of the most efficient methods for ensuring you fix every problem causing a suspension is to go to the Napa DMV field office and ask for a long form H-6 driver license printout. Ask the counter clerk to circle each and every item causing a suspension, and the county where each item must be cleared.
Next, in Napa County it is usually best to visit the courthouse, or you may call the Napa County Court at (707) 299-1100, to determine the current status of your matters. Reference each citation number if you have documentation, but be sure to ask for a grand total of all matters including late charges, etc. You may also research your matters online at: Napa’s Online Court Case Lookup.
Amnesty Program: Unpaid Traffic Tickets
The best Napa County DUI lawyers know that on June 24, 2015, Governor Brown signed into law an 18-month amnesty program, which allows individuals with past-due court-ordered debt (but not DUIs) to receive a reduction in the amount owed and reinstate their driver licenses.
The amnesty program, for unpaid infraction tickets or failures to appear with fine due dates or court dates prior to January 1, 2013, is part of an effort to allow individuals who cannot afford to pay accumulated fines on old traffic and non-traffic tickets to start making payments in order to lift license holds and begin driving legally again. Napa DUI attorneys will tell you that, in addition, the state will start to recoup some of the billions of dollars outstanding for old fines and fees, win-win situation.
Who can participate. Any persons eligible to have a driver's license, including undocumented individuals who are eligible for a driver's license under AB 60, are entitled to participate in the traffic amnesty program if they meet the eligibility requirements. There are two groups of people who can participate in the amnesty program: (1) Persons with unpaid tickets whose fines were originally due to be paid or had a court date on or before January 1, 2013, are eligible to have their debt reduced by 50 or 80 percent depending on income, and have their driver's licenses reinstated. (2) Persons who are currently making payments for unpaid tickets both before and after January 1, 2013, are eligible to have their driver's license reinstated but are not eligible for a reduction in the amount they owe on their payment plan(s).
People ineligible due to timing may still have their driver’s license returned, but will not have their fines reduced. Otherwise eligible persons may be excluded from the amnesty program if they owe victim restitution on any case within the county or have certain outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants.
What kinds of tickets are eligible. Any infractions will qualify for amnesty. Unpaid tickets and related failure to appear violations with an initial payment due date or court date on or before January 1, 2013, are eligible. Individual superior courts and counties may extend this program to include some misdemeanors. This amnesty program does not apply to parking tickets, reckless driving, and DUI offenses.
How new payment amounts are determined. Under the amnesty program, eligible participants will not have to pay any civil assessments or penalties which accumulated for late payment or nonpayment of past tickets. Once the civil assessments are deducted, the remaining balance owed will be reduced by 50 to 80 percent depending on income level. The discount will be 80 percent for those who can certify that they make less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level — $14,712 for an individual, or $30,312 for a family of four — or who receive public assistance. The discount will be 50 percent for all other eligible participants.
Procedure to participate. Beginning on October 1, 2015, contact the superior court in the jurisdiction(s) where you received the traffic ticket(s) to determine your eligibility to participate in the traffic amnesty program. People who are eligible for amnesty will not have to see a judge. Courts or counties are permitted to collect an amnesty program fee of $50 payable to the superior court or county. The Department of Motor Vehicles will also charge a $55 driver's license reinstatement fee as it does for any license reinstatement. Payment plan options will be available through the superior court or the county and the payments under the plan will be based on the ability to pay.
Although Napa DUI lawyers may complain that there's no legitimate reason to disallow DUI fines and fees in this program, nevertheless, the best Napa County DUI lawyers applaud any program which helps millions of Californians to re-obtain legal driving privileges so they can better support their families and accomplish daily necessities. Check the Napa County Traffic Court site for updates. You may also find helpful information on the nonprofit website: Back on the Road CA. For a complete text of the larger bill establishing the amnesty program, see, Text of SB85.
Collection Problems and Unaffordable Late Fees (Outside or After the Amnesty Program)
Pending Court Matters
If you have a current criminal court case of any kind in Napa County (a serious case or another traffic ticket, or even just on probation for a past case), then the court has jurisdiction to hear you on these old matters, so you or your DUI attorney can try asking the Napa judge in the current Napa County case to examine your old tickets and dismiss some of them, and/or remove the late penalty fees assessed pursuant to Penal Code Section 1214.1, and set up a payment plan for the remainder of the fees so that you can afford to pay and successfully cause the removal of the Napa County hold on your license.
You or your Napa DUI lawyer can point out to the court that if you can drive legally, then you may not have as many legal problems in the future and you may be able to start getting your life back in order by addressing substantial personal challenges such as employment, child care, etc. If you are or were incarcerated, then you can ask the court for credit for time served to simply dismiss all of the tickets and release the hold on your license.
Failure To Appear
If you do not have a current court case but you receive a DMV Notice Of Suspension for failure to appear (rather than failure to pay after appearing) then usually you can arrange with the court collections department to pay one-half of the amount owed and obtain a payment plan for the remainder in exchange for the court lifting its license hold.
Failure to Pay
If you receive a DMV notice of suspension for failure to pay a ticket after appearing in court and promising to pay a fine, but you have a recognized reason for nonpayment within the allowed time, such as military service, incarceration, hospitalization, or death of a family member, then the collections department may lift its license hold if you can pay a satisfactory amount and arrange payments for the remaining owed. If you have a compelling reason not listed above, for example homelessness or drug addiction, then you may wish to consider writing a letter to the judge as described below, to ask for the same arrangements. You should consult with a local Napa County DUI attorney about your specific situations.
If you are suspended for failure to pay after appearing in court, and you are able to afford the original bail amount of the tickets, then you may wish to consider paying that amount at the Napa courthouse and petitioning the Napa County Traffic Court to waive the late penalty fees on any remaining totals. This approach typically works best when you have a recognized valid reason for nonpayment within the allowed time, such as military service, incarceration, hospitalization, or death of a family member. Any compelling hardship reasons should be included in such a petition to the Napa court, including economic and family hardship.
Click here to see an example of such a court request with the Sonoma County Petition, the Napa County Petition, the Solano County Petition, and the Mendocino County Petition to dismiss accumulated late fees and penalties.
Letter to the Judge
You may wish to write a letter to the Napa County traffic court judge to ask for leniency due to extraordinary circumstances which prevented you from appearing or paying in a timely fashion. A succinct, well-written letter which acknowledges responsibility and presents compelling reasons for nonpayment and offers an affordable payment plan may accomplish the reduction of a substantial amount of your accumulated total or even dismissal of tickets and release of your license.
You may obtain contact information on this site for the Napa County courts and the traffic, fines and collection departments in Napa by clicking here on Napa County Traffic Court.
Failure to Pay Judgement in Traffic or Accident-Related Lawsuit
A related "failure to pay" suspension involves a driver license suspension for someone who failed to pay a judgement awarded by a court in an action described in Vehicle Code Sections 16370-16381. Typically, a judgement creditor (presumably the person or entity whom you owe money) submits a Form DL30 to DMV swearing to certain facts about the judgement debt. Click here to see an example of an "Order of Suspension" describing the DMV action, the judgement and certain options. You can explore obtaining payments on a judgement as described in Section 16379 to get rid of the suspension, or explore obtaining a restricted license as described in Section 16072 to alleviate the hardship of a suspension. This section is included here because Napa County DUI lawyers confront all kinds of license suspensions.
Failure to Pay Child Support
Napa DUI attorneys will tell you that under California law, parents required to pay court ordered child support must pay on time and in full. If the payment is late or is not paid in full, the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) can suspend or withhold a California driver (or other) license, pursuant to Family Code Section 17520. When the parent required to pay child support is 30 days or more delinquent, their name is submitted by DCSS to the DMV for suspension of their license. DMV sends a letter giving the parent 150 days to work with DCSS to pay their past due support. If payment isn't made, the driver license suspension is imposed on the parent.
Further, if a notice of intent to suspend has been sent to the same parent in the past, the parent's license will automatically be suspended when a child support payment is late again or not paid in full. If your driver license has been suspended due to non-payment of child support, you may call your local child support agency to discuss a possible license release by re-establishing payment arrangements. You can find the location of your local child support agency by calling: (866) 901-3212. A Napa DUI attorney can help direct parents with these issues to the appropriate agency to help get their license back.
Failure to Pay Taxes
Starting in January, 2012, the California State Board of Equalization and the Franchise Tax Board publish lists of the the 500 largest tax delinquencies. Persons and entities appearing on these lists are subject to driver (and other) license suspensions pursuant to Business & Professions Code Section 494.5. Successfully negotiating and resolving issues with the applicable tax authority results in lifting of any suspension imposed.
- 6. Too Many Negligent Operator Points
- 7. Physical & Mental Health Suspensions
- 8. Senior Driver Suspensions
- 9. Minors With DUI Suspensions
- 10. Commercial Drivers With DUI Suspensions
Drivers accumulate DMV bad driver "negligent operator" points when cited for certain vehicle code violations in Napa County. Most traffic citations are assigned one point, but major violations (such as a DUI or driving on a suspended license) are typically assigned two points. You can see which are two-point violations by reviewing 12810 VC. Typically you receive an Advisory Notice and then a Warning Letter from the San Francisco or Sacramento DMV as you approach the presumed negligent operator status of 4 or more points in 12 months, 6 or more points in 24 months, or 8 or more points in 36 months for most adults (12810.5 VC).
You may obtain more information about the points system by clicking here on DMV Bad Driver Points.
Although a Class A or B commercial driver without a special certificate (such as hazmat) may be allowed 2 additional points, a violation received in a commercial vehicle carries 1-1/2 times the point count normally assessed (12810.5(b) VC), and commercial drivers must ask for the same hearing discussed below to present the defense of commercial driving and ask for the additional points allowance, assuming that the trigger points were obtained while driving commercially.
A minor, under 18 years old, may receive a 30-day restriction for 2 points in 12 months, or be suspended for 3 points in 12 months (12814.6(b) VC). Click here to see an example of a juvenile driver's Provisional License Notice of Restriction and Intent to Suspend.
As with any governmental hearing, a local Napa County DUI lawyer can be extremely helpful guiding you through the process, especially since we work with the same type of process daily with DUI suspensions, and other types of driver license suspensions such as physical and mental suspensions, too many bad points suspensions, lack of skill suspensions, and other similar administrative proceedings at the DMV.
Before Points are Assessed: the Traffic Court Hearing & Traffic School.
Challenging a Traffic Citation. According to the court, there are three options for going to trial on a traffic citation in Napa County:
Option 1: Contact the court to post the fine amount as bail and have an arraignment and court trial held on the same day.
Option 2: Contact the court to schedule an arraignment which will not require bail to be posted. At the time of arraignment, a future date for a court trial may be set.
Option 3: Trial by Written Declaration (pursuant to VC40902): When requesting a trial by written declaration, the fine amount must be posted as bail. If found not guilty or if the charges are otherwise dismissed, the full amount of bail will be refunded.
Be sure to speak with a Napa County DUI attorney comfortably prior to the citation due date before making any decisions. You may find excellent self-help resources on how to fight effectively fight a traffic ticket by going to Ryan's DUI Resources section, or click on How to Fight Traffic Tickets.
Traffic School Alternative to Conviction/Points. Absent other defenses to a traffic ticket, you may wish to elect traffic school during the time limit provided at the bottom of your original Napa County citation by asking for the traffic school alternative at the Napa County traffic court. According to the court, the Courtesy Notice identifies if you are eligible for traffic school and the fees that must be paid to the Court before you may sign-up. These fees are the bail amount (varies by violation) and a State/Court administrative fee. An additional fee will be charged by the traffic school provider when you enroll in their class. Upon payment of the fees, the Court will provide a date on which the traffic school completion is due. If you fail to attend the traffic school, or if you do not successfully complete the course, your fine and administrative fee will be forfeited and a conviction will be reported to the DMV.
According to the the court, you may attend traffic school if you meet the following guidelines:
You have not attended a traffic school in the last 18 months since the date of last violation
You have a valid California driver's license (non-commercial)
Your speeding violation is not more than 25 mph over the speed limit
Your violation did not occur in a commercial vehicle
Click here for a 2012 list of Napa County's Traffic Violator Schools, (a current list of approved schools should be sent to you by the court upon payment, so you should always independently confirm the latest locally authorized schools before enrolling), or Search Approved Traffic Schools Online, successful completion of which would typically result in no further points if so ordered by the court. This may help you to avoid any additional points which would cause you to meet or exceed the point limits. Discuss your specific situation with a local Napa DUI attorney. If you encounter problems with a traffic school you picked, you may file a complaint about a traffic school by clicking here for the DMV Traffic Violator School Complaint Form & Instructions.
If you have already lost your license due to too many points, the only way to re-obtain your driving privileges prior to the expiration of an imposed suspension may be to seek help in obtaining Napa County court dismissal of one or more prior citations that caused the points on your driving record. This is particularly true if you were on DMV probation already and picked up yet another Napa County citation thereafter.
If the Napa County court is willing to dismiss past traffic tickets (usually when your Napa County DUI or traffic lawyer can effectively show compelling personal situations or offer to resolve everything pending in court at one time) then typically we can go back to the DMV and argue that your points reduction compels returning your license.
After Points are Assessed: the Suspension Notice & the DMV Hearing
If you are not successful avoiding points due to convictions in court, and you reach or exceed the limits described above, then usually you will be sent a letter of reexamination or suspension from San Francisco or Sacramento DMV (click here to see a real example of a DMV Order of Probation and Suspension) which provides you the opportunity to have a hearing (sometimes called a "311 Hearing" or a NOTS Hearing). Napa DUI lawyers nearly always advise individuals to immediately request such a hearing within the allowable time listed in the notice in order to preserve your right to fight to keep your driving privileges before your right to fight expires. The hearing may be held at the DMV hearing office where one may contest the planned adverse action, or explain any extenuating or mitigating circumstances or unfairness (including any evidence that you were not at fault in an accident resulting in any of the points, or that a recent Napa County DUI resulted in 2 points which pushed you over the allowable totals but you were otherwise a long-time good driver, etc.), and explain that you understand the danger and illegality of breaking traffic laws, and how you intend to address and stop such violations in the future.
Typically you will be asked how long you have been driving, if you have any pending violations not reflected on your current Napa County driving record, where and how many miles you drive in a typical week, and whether you drink alcohol. Your Napa DUI attorney will explain to you that a restricted "work" license, or probation (a promise of no more violations for a certain period) are alternatives to an outright suspension.
If you and your Napa County DUI lawyer are effective in this hearing, then you may avoid or shorten an interruption of driving privileges. See here an example of a Successful DMV Decision Ordering Probation Only, and see here an example of an Adverse DMV Decision Imposing Six Months Suspension.
Normally it is advisable to request any hearing offered to you within the stated time given to request such a hearing. Hiring a lawyer is not necessary but having a local Napa County DUI lawyer by your side during a hearing in Santa Rosa or Petaluma will help you to understand, and effectively address, the issues which are important to the local DMV. Do not ignore DMV notices or the opportunities they provide to avoid or lessen the consequences of past conduct. An attorney may not be able to help you if you wait too long.
In most cases such as demonstrated in the example of the notice above, you will be suspended by DMV for 6 months and placed on probation (no more traffic violations at all) for one year. You may obtain information on exactly what the DMV considers at a hearing, and what options are available, by clicking here on DMV Negligent Operator Guidelines.
NOTS Probation Violation Hearings
Typically hearings set to contest a pending suspension due to a driver already on probation who accumulates another violation point (called "450 or 451 NOTS Probation Violation Hearings") are very difficult to win in any sense because the only permissible issues are whether the driver was on probation, and whether the driver violated that probation by obtaining an additional point. Clearly, a Napa County DUI or DMV attorney would increase chances of success in such hearings, either by winning the hearing, or by softening the consequences of an adverse decision by lessening the suspension period or obtaining other concessions. Click here to see an example of a DMV 450 Decision.
Why the Suspension?
Because we deal with the DMV so often, Napa DUI lawyers see lots of different types of suspensions, including those that arise out of medical conditions. Sometimes medical emergencies, or other physical or mental episodes, or unexplained or unskilled driving behavior will result in loss of driving privileges. Typically this occurs when police, doctors, or other professionals comply with their legal obligation to inform DMV if a condition or behavior appears to affect your ability to safely operate a vehicle. Often this process begins with a Napa County police officer serving on you a DS427 Notice of Reexamination (or see older 2008 version -- where driver fell asleep at the wheel then awoke, drove over raised median and wrong way into traffic -- or older 2003 version -- where erratic driving was alleged). Sometimes you don't get served with anything personally, but a suspension letter or one of the forms listed above just arrives in the mail. Often in these situations it is a treating physician who contacts the DMV about you, rather than law enforcement. See, generally, Driver Safety Information Medical Conditions and Traffic Safety.
A reexamination may be a "Priority Reexamination" or a "Regular Reexamination," depending on which box is checked on the front of the DS427 form above. A priority reexamination is generally indicated when the alleged condition or behavior is perceived by the reporting party as more severe, presenting an increased or immediate safety risk if continued driving is permitted (see Vehicle Code Section 21061). If the "Priority Reexamination" box is checked at the top of the DS427 form, then the driver only has a short amount of time (five working days) to contact DMV to arrange for a hearing and gather information and supporting documentation to contest a pending license suspension (see Vehicle Code Section 12819). More information about the reexamination process may be found online at DMV's Reexamination Process - A General Guide for Drivers Required to Appear for a Reexamination, or on the printable DMV's Reexamination Process Fact Sheet.
Typically licensees who have been served with such a notice by a police officer will receive a DS2010 Notice of Reexamination, with instructions, from the DMV within days of the driving or medical incident, informing the driver that an appointment must be made for an interview to discuss the allegations. Napa DUI lawyers can explain this process to a driver, and even sit in on this interview, but are not permitted to represent the driver unless the DMV decides to take an adverse (suspension) action after the interview. In many cases, hiring a Napa DUI attorney at this time may be very beneficial, especially if an adverse ruling is possible or anticipated, so that the driver has an informed lawyer familiar with the case from the very beginning.
Alternatively, or in addition, or following the reexamination interview discussed above, you may receive a DS2439 Notice of Physical/Mental Condition Suspension, or following an unfavorable medical report or unsuccessful new written and/or drive test you may receive a DS2439 Notice of Lack of Skill Suspension, stating a reason for the DMV's action and your rights to contest a suspension in an interview or hearing. Although the Napa DMV recognizes that these kinds of conditions are not usually your fault, still, a hearing may be required, not to make you defend anything per se, but rather to determine if your continued driving may be a hazard to the safety of you and those around you, and what kinds of options you may have to re-obtain all or essential driving privileges.
As with any DMV notice, it is critical that you read and understand the contents of anything served upon you by a Napa County peace officer or anything you receive in the mail from DMV. Discuss any notices with a local Napa DUI attorney (good DUI lawyers regularly work with DMV law and are often the best source of advice and assistance even when your matter does not involve a DUI). Be sure that the DMV has your current mailing address. Be sure that you act prior to any deadline for contacting DMV. Talk to a local Napa County lawyer such as Ryan immediately if you don't understand the process. Obviously, in these circumstances it is important to act quickly to remedy the condition if possible, or demonstrate adequate modification or accommodation which resolves concern for unsafe driving, or prove there is no legitimate driving-related concern.
The Medical Evaluation Form
Nearly every medical condition hearing in Napa is driven by an all important medical evaluation form. One of these may have been the initial reason for a current suspension. A Napa County DUI attorney will likely advise that a driver who is subjected to the Napa DMV's scrutiny typically must obtain a new medical report (now, or after a waiting period) from the original or primary treating physician which reflects the absence, elimination or adequate control of the condition which is causing DMV scrutiny.
You can fill out the medical evaluation online, print it to provide to the relevant original or main treating physicians, then be sure to get it back directly from your doctor(s) to complete yourself with supporting materials and send to a Napa County DUI lawyer for review. You or your local Napa DUI lawyer should generally review the report prior to use at an informal interview or formal hearing in order to ensure the timing is right and that the evaluation is fair and consistent. This type of DUI attorney review of the doctor's comments may often prevent an unnecessary continuing suspension if the form was completed inaccurately or illegibly by the doctor.
It can take weeks to get the form completed, and schedule a DMV hearing, so it is usually important to start this process as soon as you become aware of formal DMV proceedings. Click here for the form: DS 326 Driver Medical Evaluation.
Typically you will receive a notice of reexamination stating that you have an opportunity to present evidence as to your ability to drive. Usually it is imperative that you respond within the required time by asking for a hearing and then presenting any evidence, including the proper, fully completed DMV medical forms, to show your condition does not affect safe driving. A local Napa County DUI lawyer can help you through this process with the least possible stress.
You may be denied reinstatement of your license if there has not been adequate time or information to evaluate your condition. If you are denied reinstatement, typically you may request a new hearing or interview once adequate time has elapsed and you have new or more responsive or complete evaluations which show your condition no longer affects safe driving.
Typically if the written medical evaluation is satisfactory to the Napa DMV, you will be required to take a special drive test and/or written test to confirm your driving and cognitive skills.
Alternatives to a complete suspension may be appropriate and worth exploring with a Napa DUI lawyer, such as a restriction to daytime or limited driving (see Vehicle Code Section 12818).
Click here on DMV Physical & Mental Guidelines for additional information on what the Napa DMV considers in these types of hearings. Many conditions and considerations are listed.
Although California does not restrict drivers because of their age, nevertheless drivers who are 70 years or older must renew their licenses in person, must take a written test and must have their vision checked. General information regarding seniors and the DMV may be found on the DMV's website here: Senior Driver Information.
Sometimes an encounter with law enforcement or other situations may cause Napa County law enforcement to issue a DS427 Notice of Priority Reexamination (usually for alleged medical incidents), or see older 2004 version, or a DS427 Notice of Regular Reexamination (usually for alleged lack of knowledge or skill incidents). A concerned relative, friend or caregiver might have completed a DS 699 Request for Reexamination. In these situations, typically an informal telephone "reexamination" interview is conducted by a DMV driver safety hearing officer to determine if certain facts justify a suspension. It is always advisable to contact a local Napa DUI lawyer or DMV defense attorney to discuss the nature of this interview and how to approach and prepare for this first stage of the process.
The DMV hearing officer will complete a DS 2124 Driver Safety Report recommending a suspension, or set aside (removal of suspension) or another action. If the decision is suspension, then the driver typically receives a DS2439 Notice of Physical/Mental Condition Suspension, or a DS2439 Notice of Lack of Skill Suspension, which indicates that the driving privilege has been suspended as of a certain date and that the driver has a certain amount of time to request a formal hearing to challenge that suspension. If you are notified of such a reexamination, you should consider hiring a Napa County DUI attorney to request a hearing at the DMV within the time allowed for such a request so that you may have the opportunity to explain why the decision was unjustified, and ask for the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to drive safely.
As with medical suspensions, the DMV recognizes that your age and any need to sharpen safe driving skills are not your fault, and so these hearings are not meant to punish you or set you up for failure. The DMV wants everyone to maintain driving independence for as long as possible. But as our population ages, Napa County DUI lawyers know that, as with DUIs, accidents caused by driving error continue to make headlines (see for example: Crosswalk Accident Heightens Focus on Elderly Drivers), so police and the Napa DMV are increasingly pressured to act aggressively to promote safety, the singular focus of any DMV interview or hearing. This is an opportunity to show you are not a hazard on the Napa County roads.
And as with any governmental hearing, a local Napa County DUI lawyer can be extremely helpful guiding you through the process, especially since we work with the same type of process daily with DUI suspensions, and other types of driver license suspensions such as physical and mental suspensions, too many bad points suspensions, lack of skill suspensions, and other similar administrative proceedings at the DMV. As a Napa DUI attorney, Ryan has defended numerous seniors in license hearings at the DMV.
Often such a hearing will result in the opportunity to take one or more drive tests and a written knowledge test so that you can show safe driving and adequate cognitive ability. You may be tested annually thereafter.
Improve Your Chances of Success
The Napa DMV tests for certain identified indicators of safe driving when testing the elderly (such as performing merges into traffic, changing lanes and backing up), so a specialized practice and training course designed just for seniors and their unique challenges may minimize the chances of later disappointment. You may wish to examine the DMV Senior Guide for Safe Driving to study many common issues senior drivers face.
The best Napa DUI lawyers know that senior drivers can be among the safest operators on the road because of sheer experience, nevertheless, you may wish to consider reviewing the general written test handbook (click here to see the DMV Handbook) and taking a driver training course specializing in teaching the elderly safe driving techniques that may be more difficult to perform in later years, or may have been forgotten over the years. You may wish to study the Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation Guide too. In most cases, the DMV will facilitate a senior taking a refresher driving course by issuing a Special Instruction Permit which allows driving with an instructor in the vehicle until the next drive test is taken. See "AARP Driver Safety Program Training Better Drivers," and click here to find Local AARP Classes, and click here to find more DMV Approved Mature Driver Improvement Programs. Click here to read Jake quoted in the Napa Register newspaper discussing the importance of refresher courses and seniors keeping their licenses.
The most experienced Napa DUI attorneys will encourage you to think about how the test can be best taken: most drivers have certain times of day and certain areas of town in which they are most comfortable. It is always best to schedule your Napa County tests at times and in places where you are most able to demonstrate your skills rather than in unfamiliar or less comfortable conditions. For example, if you live in Napa, it would probably be best to practice driving all around the Napa DMV and don't schedule your drive test in Petaluma. If you're usually sleepy after lunch, schedule your test in the morning.
A local Napa County DUI lawyer can be very helpful in senior driver suspensions to literally hold your hand during the re-examination hearing, and to help obtain a provisional license to take a refresher course and to address the precise issues of concern to Napa DMV.
Click here on DMV & Senior Drivers to obtain detailed information on how the DMV approaches senior drivers.
The Critical Need Restricted Drivers License
If you are under age 21 and lost your license due to a first DUI or zero tolerance case, then you may wish to consider applying for a critical need license to drive in Napa County if you believe you can adequately show the Sacramento DMV that public transportation in your area of Napa County (or other area of residence) is not adequate to accomplish your transport to and from work or school or you are the primary means of transporting a family member to medical appointments.
The legal authority for the DMV to order a critical need license is contained in Vehicle Code Section 13353.8, and for the court to order a critical need license, in Vehicle Code Section 13202.5. Because courts rarely make a specific order of suspension at sentencing, and because the analysis for a successful critical need application is the same for both the DMV and the courts in most cases, only the DMV application is discussed here.
It is often extremely helpful to ask a local Napa County DUI lawyer to provide and review this application so that eligible minors may minimize the possibility of a rejected application. A Napa DUI lawyer will be able to ensure that the entire application is completed, including all required signatures from parents, school officials, employers and/or doctors.
Napa DUI attorneys review applications to be sure that there is adequate supporting information which we know the Sacramento DMV office looks for, such as bus schedules, supplemental explanations, and additional documentation of any kind which may support the application.
Tougher DUI Laws
The best Napa DUI attorneys will explain to you that California law changed in 2005 to comply with federal mandates tied to highway grant money, so that most commercial drivers (Class A or B licenses, or endorsements) now face a mandatory one-year loss of commercial driving privileges upon conviction for a first offense DUI or DMV suspension. Vehicle Code Section 15300. A driver with a second such incident or combination of certain other convictions likely faces lifetime loss of commercial driving privileges if convicted of a new DUI in court, or suspended by Napa DMV, or both, if the prior date of arrest was after September 20, 2005. Vehicle Code Section 15302.
Restricted Noncommercial License
Most commercial drivers who suffer the one-year loss of commercial privileges may elect to obtain a restricted Class C license during this period, but then the commercial license may be re-obtained only after successfully re-applying and passing all of the written and drive tests again, and resubmitting all required documentation (whereas waiting out the one-year suspension without obtaining a Class C license during that time typically would allow a driver to simply resume his/her commercial privileges without re-qualifying).
Although most drivers can obtain a restricted Class C license under the same eligibility guidelines as other Class C drivers, your Napa DUI attorney should explain to you that there is no hardship exception for Class A or B commercial privileges during the one-year commercial suspension following a Napa DUI, even in the most compelling situations of personal or economic catastrophe.
The best way to avoid such a suspension is to hire a local Napa DUI attorney to try to beat the DMV, and beat the Napa County court case or obtain a reduction of criminal charges. Typically you and your Napa DUI lawyer must win both the DMV case and the court case to completely protect your commercial driving privileges.