By state law, everyone who is arrested for driving a motor vehicle in the state of California with .08 % of alcohol by weight in their blood, or greater, will have their privilege to drive in the state suspended for at least four months. This law is known as the Administrative Per Se suspension, or the “stop and snatch” law. The length of any such suspension will vary depending on such factors as your age, whether you have previously been convicted of DUI, and whether you refused to take a chemical test (or failed to complete one). With the right legal counsel, you can greatly diminish the probability that your privilege to drive will be suspended for any length of time. This is particularly the case if you are at least 21 years of age, you did not refuse to take a chemical test after the arrest, and you have not been convicted of DUI within the last ten years. Otherwise, the period of suspension may last for a year or more.
A DUI arrestee only has 10 days from the date of the arrest to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of their desire to contest the Administrative Per Se driving privilege suspension. If the DUI arrestee fails to notify the DMV of their desire to contest the suspension, then they will have to stop driving as of the 31st day after arrest, period. The suspension, in such cases, will remain in effect indefinitely or until the arrestee has gone without driving for at least 30 days (on a first time DUI), and jumps through a number of hoops (i.e., enrolling in a DUI class, getting a special insurance policy called an “SR-22” and paying a re-issue fee).
Contesting the suspension involves an administrative hearing, either in-person or telephonic, which lasts about an hour and is held before an employee of the DMV who acts as both the prosecutor and judge. It is a good idea to be represented at any such hearing by a qualified lawyer as the defenses to the suspension action are technical and complex evidentiary issues are involved. Simply pleading to the hearing officer that you need a driving privilege to get to work will not be enough.
The DMV is so back-logged that the average wait time for a hearing and a decision is three months; moreover a stay on the automatic suspension of a valid license can be obtained until a decision is made.
So another reason why a DUI arrestee may choose to contest their driving privilege suspension is to delay the effective date of the suspension for several months. While the goal for most people is to beat the suspension, some simply need more time to prepare to go without driving for at least 30 days. TIP: While you may certainly notify the DMV of your desire for a hearing and a delay of the imposition of the suspension without the assistance of a lawyer, many DUI defense attorneys will offer to make the request on your behalf, without charging you a dime. The Law Offices of Mindy H. McQueen offers to notify the DMV for you free of charge and without obligating you to retain her services. For assistance, call Mindy at (805) 482-1961.