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California's Administrative 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?


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 January of 1994, 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.


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.

While an arrest does not mean that a person is guilty of drunk driving, they could lose their driving privileges unless successfully contested at a DMV hearing. 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 the 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 the 30 days expires (the temporary license period), you will either have successfully contested your license suspension or you will begin serving a four month to one 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.

Can I Get a Restricted Driver License?

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

  • You must pay all necessary fines.
  • You must provide proof of insurance.
  • You must serve at least 30 days of a complete suspension (no driving).
  • You must provide proof of enrollment in an alcohol treatment program.

This restricted driver's license is only good for driving to and from alcohol education classes and one’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.