More than 26 million motorists are licensed to drive in the state of California. All of them need to know what happens to a driver’s license when a driver is accused of driving under the influence in our state. If your driver’s license is suspended in this state as the result of a DUI arrest or a DUI conviction, will you be able to get a restricted license for driving to work or school?

With a DUI charge, your driving privilege can be suspended “administratively” by the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), or your license can also be suspended by a court as part of the penalty for a DUI conviction.

If you’re arrested and charged with driving under the influence in or near Orange County, arrange at once to meet with an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney. If you must be allowed to drive to meet your familial and financial obligations after a DUI arrest, you’re going to need experienced legal help.

For many in this state, a driver’s license suspension or revocation might create a genuine financial hardship. Fortunately, for those dealing with DUI charges, many will be eligible to obtain a “hardship license” during a period of license suspension.

Although a driving under the influence conviction in California means (at least) a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension, the “criminal” aspect of your DUI case isn’t your most pressing concern after an arrest.

Since 2011, California allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend automatically the driver’s license of a motorist who fails a DUI test. Under the “Admin Per Se” law, a police officer can seize a DUI suspect’s driver’s license and forward it to the Department of Motor Vehicles for suspension.


The Department of Motor Vehicles will “administratively” suspend your driver’s license if you don’t request a hearing – within ten days of the arrest – if you tested for DUI and your blood alcohol content (BAC) level measured at or above 0.08 percent. If you measured at or above the 0.08 percent legal limit, the only way you might keep your license is to have your lawyer request the DMV hearing and advocate there on your behalf.

If the Department of Motor Vehicles suspends your license, the suspension lasts four months. The process is entirely separate from the criminal justice process and from any action taken by the criminal courts in your DUI case.

You must act immediately, however, as the hearing must be requested within ten days of the arrest, and there are no exceptions to the ten-day deadline. But if you refused to be tested for DUI when you were taken into custody, there may be little an attorney can do to help. You can expect your driver’s license to be suspended for a year. In almost all cases, the state of California deals harshly with drivers who refuse to be tested for driving under the influence.

If you’ve been charged with DUI, don’t forget: the DMV procedure and the state’s criminal DUI prosecution are two completely separate actions. The DMV will only suspend your license and will do so only and solely on the basis of your BAC level (or your refusal to test) when you were arrested. A California criminal court’s job is to determine if you committed a crime, and if so, what penalties will be imposed.


If you are convicted for a “simple” first-offense, misdemeanor DUI charge in California, and if no one was injured and no other crimes were charged in the incident, you could serve up to six months in jail, but most first offenders are fined, sentenced to probation, and have their driver’s licenses suspended. The state allows those with suspended licenses to apply for a restricted or hardship license.

How can someone with a DUI conviction obtain a hardship license? You must meet these requirements:

– The driving under the influence charge is your first DUI offense or the first within the last ten years, including DUI charges that were reduced in plea bargain agreements.
– You took a chemical DUI test when and as requested.
– You were 21 years of age or older when you were arrested on the DUI charge.
– Your driving privilege was not revoked or suspended at the time of the arrest.

California drivers who are under the age of 21 when arrested for DUI may apply for a “Critical Needs Restriction” license that permits driving to and from work, school, necessary doctor and hospital visits, and DUI classes or other obligations imposed by the court.

To qualify for a Critical Needs Restriction license if you are under 21, you had to take a chemical DUI test when and as requested, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles must determine that public transportation is inadequate for your needs. Some states like Texas have different laws, so make sure to consult with a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney.


If you held a commercial driver’s license in California when you were arrested for driving under the influence, and if you are approved for a restricted license, that restricted license will be a non-commercial license. If you were driving a commercial vehicle at the time you were arrested for driving under the influence, that restricted license only lets you drive to a treatment program and back.

When a California court suspends a driver’s license as a penalty for a driving under the influence conviction, the offender may immediately seek a restricted license. If the Department of Motor Vehicles orders a license suspension, the offender cannot apply for a hardship license for thirty days. Restricted licenses are not provided to offenders who refused to submit to a DUI test at the time they were arrested.

If you are arrested and charged with driving under the influence in or near Orange County, it’s imperative to obtain a lawyer’s help at once. Remember, you have only ten days to request an administrative hearing with the California DMV.

An experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney can handle your DMV hearing and prepare a defense for your criminal case too. If your license is suspended by the DMV or by the courts as part of a DUI sentence, if you are eligible for a restricted or hardship license, your DUI attorney can help you obtain it.