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California's 'Per Se' DUI Law

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), in 1980 when MAAD was founded, about 25,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes each year. By 2014, the number of alcohol-related fatalities was cut by more than half.

Why such a drop in drunk driving fatalities nationwide? Lawmakers say that we have administrative per say and “zero tolerance” laws, and anti-drinking and driving educational campaigns to thank for the reduction in drunk driving deaths. But, what exactly is the administrative per se law?

California’s APS Law

The administrative per se (APS) law hasn’t been around forever. California adopted the law in 1990, becoming the 28th state to automatically suspend the driver’s licenses of impaired drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more. In other words: if you drink and drive, your license can be suspended on the spot.

In January of 1994, the state of California took it one step further by adopting the “zero tolerance law,” which automatically suspends the driver’s license of drivers under the age of 21 who are caught with .01% or more BAC. This means that a young driver can get a DUI if they have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.

Scheduling a DMV Hearing

Since driver's licenses are controlled by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the APS law requires the DMV to suspend a person's license as soon as they are notified by law enforcement of a DUI arrest. Although an arrest does not mean a person is guilty of drunk driving, they could still lose their driving privileges unless successfully contested at a DMV hearing.

Although APS allows for your license to be suspended upon arrest, do not think of this as a permanent suspension. In California, you have 10 days from the date of the DUI arrest to request an administrative hearing with the DMV. This is your only chance to contest license suspension.

If you do not request this hearing or are not successful at the hearing, your license will automatically be suspended for 30 days. After this 30 days is up (temporary license period), you will either have successfully contested your license suspension or you will begin serving a 4-moth or 1-year suspension period, depending if you have any prior DUI convictions.

California's "per se" law also applies to individuals who refuse to take a chemical test. Refusing to take a breath, blood or sometimes a urine test after you you’ve been arrested triggers an automatic driver’s license suspension. Like a DUI, refusing a chemical test will get your license suspended and this can only be contested within 10 days at a DMV hearing.

30-Day Temporary Licenses

Any individual who has had their license suspended by the DMV after a DUI offense will be issued a 30-day temporary license. This is so that you can drive until your DMV hearing takes place. Your license will be permanently suspended if you are unsuccessful at the DMV hearing, regardless of whether the full 30 days have passed.

Restricted Driver Licenses

California's per se law allows some individuals to obtain a restricted driver's license so that they can drive even before their license suspension is up. The conditions for obtaining a restricted driver's license are:

  • Serving at least 30 days of complete suspension (no driving)
  • Providing proof of insurance
  • Providing proof of enrollment in an alcohol treatment program
  • Pay all necessary fines

This restricted driver's license is only good for driving to and from alcohol education classes and the person's place of employment.

To learn more about California's administrative per se (APS) law, contact an Orange County DUI attorney at the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. We offer free consultations, so do not hesitate to call (949) 537-2202 today!