California Driver Handbook - Actions That Result in Loss of Driver License
When you drive in California, you consent to have your breath, blood or, under certain circumstances, urine tested if you are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.
Under 21—Zero Tolerance for Alcohol Use. If you are under 21 years of age, you must submit to a hand-held breath test, Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS), or one of the other chemical tests if you have been detained and a police officer has reason to believe you were drinking alcohol. If your BAC measures 0.01% or higher on the PAS, the officer may take your driver license and issue you a temporary driver license for only 30 days, give you an order of suspension for one year, and then determine whether to release you, turn you over to juvenile authorities, or contact your parent(s) or guardian(s). You may request a DMV administrative hearing within 10 days.
If your PAS shows a BAC of 0.05%, the officer may require you to submit to either a breath or blood test. Some PAS devices provide a record which may be submitted to the court as evidence. Other PAS devices do not provide a record, so the officer may ask for a breath or blood test after the PAS. You do not have a right to consult with a lawyer before selecting or completing a test.
If a subsequent test reveals a BAC of 0.05% or higher, the officer will issue you an order of suspension, arrest you for DUI (CVC §23140), and detain you until you can be turned over to your parent(s), guardian(s), or juvenile authorities. If your BAC is 0.08% or higher, the police officer may arrest you (CVC § §23152 or 23153).
If the officer reasonably believes you are under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs and you have already submitted to a PAS and/or a breath test, you may still be required to submit to a blood or urine test because the breath test does not detect the presence of drugs.
If you refuse to submit to any of the tests, your driving privilege may be suspended because of your refusal. Even if you change your mind later and agree to a test, and your BAC measures 0.01% or higher on the PAS, your driving privilege may be suspended for both reasons, although both actions will run concurrently.
If you are convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of either alcohol and/or drugs or both, and you have an excessive BAC level, you may be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail and pay a fine between $390—$1,000 (plus about three times the fine in penalty assessments) the first time you are convicted. Your vehicle may be impounded and is subject to storage fees.
On the first conviction, the court will suspend your driving privilege for six months and require you to complete a DUI program before your driver license can be reinstated. The length of the program may vary. If your BAC is 0.15% or higher, and you already have a record of violations for other reasons or you refuse to submit to a chemical test, the court may order you to complete a ninemonth or longer program. If your BAC is 0.20% or higher and the court refers you to an enhanced DUI treatment program, your driver license will be suspended for 10 months. You could also be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle. A court may also order you to install an IID if your BAC is 0.15% or higher, or you have two or more prior moving violations, or you refuse a chemical test at the time of your arrest. An IID prevents you from starting your vehicle if you have any alcohol on your breath. If anyone is injured as a result of your DUI the suspension period is one year.
Effective July 1, 2010, through December 31, 2015, all first time and repeat DUI offenders convicted in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, or Tulare Counties are required to install and maintain, for a specific period of time, an IID on all vehicles they own and operate and pay a $45 administrative service fee to reinstate their driving privileges (CVC §23700).
In cases involving serious injury or death, you may be punished under the California Three Strikes Law. You may also face civil lawsuits. All DUI convictions will remain on DMV’s records for 10 years. The courts and/or the DMV may impose more stringent penalties for subsequent violations during that period.
A BAC below legal limits does not mean that you are safe to drive. Almost all drivers show impairment by alcohol at levels lower than the legal limit. The impairment you exhibit at the time you are stopped may be enough to convict you of a DUI even without a BAC measurement.
The completion of a DUI program is required for all DUI convictions.
Generally, if you are over 21 years of age, enroll in a DUI program, file a California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22), and pay the restriction and reissue fees, the DMV will issue you a restricted driver license, which allows you to drive to/from work and during the course of employment (unless you hold a commercial driver license) and to/ from a DUI program. However, if you are considered a "traffic safety" or "public safety" risk, if permitted to drive, the court may order the DMV to not grant you a restricted driver license. Other actions against you may also prohibit the issuance of a restricted driver license.
Second and subsequent DUI convictions result in increased penalties, including a two-year suspension or a revocation of up to four years. After you complete a prescribed period of your suspension/revocation and either enroll in, or complete a portion of, a DUI program, you may obtain a restricted license to drive anywhere necessary, if you:
- Install an IID on your vehicle.
- Agree not to drive any vehicle without an IID.
- Agree to complete the prescribed DUI program.
- File an SR 22.
- Pay the reissue and restriction fees.
The Designated Driver Program is an anti-DUI effort that works. This program encourages one individual to abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages during an outing, so he or she can be responsible for transporting other person(s) safely.
To participate as a designated driver, an individual:
- Should be at least 21 years of age and must possess a valid driver license.
- Must be part of a group of two or more persons and verbally identify himself or herself as the designated driver to the server.
- Must abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages for the duration of the outing.
- Must not be an otherwise impaired driver.
- Must understand that management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone at any time.
If you are stopped by a police officer and cited for a traffic law violation, you sign a promise to appear in traffic court. When you go to court, you may plead guilty or not guilty, or you may forfeit (pay) the citation fine. Paying the fine is the same as a guilty plea.
If you ignore the traffic ticket and do not keep your promise to appear in court, the failure to appear (FTA) goes on your driver record. If you fail to pay a fine (FTP), the court will notify the DMV and also show on your driver record. Even one FTA or FTP can cause the department to suspend your driver license. To end the suspension will cost you a driver license reissue fee of $55.
Each time you are convicted of a moving traffic law violation, the court notifies the DMV and the conviction is placed on your driver license record. Convictions reported by other states are also added to your driver record.
Any person who willfully flees or attempts to evade a police officer performing his or her duties is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year (CVC §2800.1).
If a person is convicted of causing serious bodily injury during the course of a police pursuit (CVC §2800.3(a)), he or she is subject to:
- Imprisonment in a state prison for three, five, or seven years or in a county jail for not more than one year.
- A fine that is not less than $2,000 or more than $10,000.
- Both a fine and imprisonment.
When a person is convicted of manslaughter resulting from evading police during a pursuit, he or she is subject to imprisonment in a state prison for a minimum of four to ten years (CVC §2800.3(b)).
The DMV keeps a public record of all your traffic convictions and collisions. Each occurrence stays on your record for 36 months, or longer, depending on the type of conviction.
The Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) is based on negligent operator points and consists of a computer generated series of warning letters and progressive sanctions against the driving privilege.
You may be considered a negligent operator, when your driving record shows one of the following "point count" totals:
- 4 points in 12 months
- 6 points in 24 months
- 8 points in 36 months
Some examples of one point violations:
- Traffic convictions
- At-fault collisions
Some examples of two point violations:
- Reckless driving or hit-and-run driving
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol/drugs
- Driving while driver license is suspended or revoked
If you get 4 points in 12 months, you will lose your driver license. A violation received in a commercial vehicle carries one and one-half times the point count normally assessed. For detailed point count information, refer to the California Commercial Driver Handbook.