When a person is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) in California, that person will generally face accusations and consequences from two different fronts; from the criminal legal system and from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as an administrative branch of the state. Under the criminal system, the DUI suspect faces jail time, fines, court ordered classes, etc. Under the DMV’s administrative system, a person suspected of DUI may have his or her driving privileges suspended or revoked, but that’s about the worst consequence that the DMV can hand down besides fees and penalties.

Isn’t That Double Jeopardy?

While it has been argued in the past, it has been ruled and upheld that this is not a form of double jeopardy. The rationale behind this thought is that the suspension of a privilege (driving is a privilege, not a right) is not punitive, unlike consequences from being found guilty in a criminal trial, which are very punitive, like being confined to a jail / prison cell, losing the right to vote, losing the right to possess a firearm, having to check in with a probation or parole officer, etc. If a consequence is punitive, it should serve some greater purpose, like deterrence, retribution, or compensation. Licenses are not suspended for deterrence, retribution, or compensation, they are primarily suspended to remove people from the roads that pose a risk to other motorists and pedestrians.

DMV Suspension is Automatic

Generally, a person charged with driving under the influence will be issued a notice of license suspension from the DMV. Most people throw this notice away and voluntarily suffer the consequences of not having a driver’s license, but what many don’t realize is that the notice contains clear instructions on appealing the suspension. An attorney should be retained to handle this appeal, which will be decided at a DMV hearing, so that the DUI suspect has the best chance possible of retaining driving privileges until a decision in criminal court is reached. If they try to handle this hearing on their own, those arrested for DUI may inadvertently say something that will hurt their case, or they may fail to provide testimony that would actually help the case. Either way, these are mistakes that DUI suspects can’t afford, both at DMV hearings and in criminal trial.

Conditional Licenses

Even if the DMV decides to uphold a suspension, a person suspected of DUI may still be able to apply for a conditional driver’s license that would allow the person to enjoy some driving privileges. A conditional license is attached to various conditions which must be respected or the holder of such a license faces further criminal prosecution and fines. In most cases, a conditional license will be granted to allow the holder to drive to and from work and/or school, with certain other destinations needing the approval of the courts.

An attorney can help those whose licenses have been suspended apply for a conditional license, which will be very helpful if the person facing DUI charges would experience some kind of hardship if driving privileges were suspended or revoked entirely.