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Chemical Test Refusals & License Suspensions in CA

Nearly thirty years ago, California joined twenty-seven other states when it decided to automatically suspend the driver licenses of those who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol. This is referred to as California’s “Administrative Per Se (APS)” law, but it’s also known as the “on-the-spot license suspension law.”

According to dmv.ca.gov, “The California APS law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend or revoke the driving privilege of persons who are arrested for driving with a BAC of .08% or more, or who refuse a chemical test, upon arrest.”

What you need to know about the APS law:

  • When a driver is arrested under the APS law, they receive a 30-day temporary license so they can challenge the license suspension through a DMV hearing.
  • If a DUI case is dismissed, the offender can request an APS dismissal hearing to seeks to have the APS action set aside.
  • If a first-time offender submits but fails a chemical test (blood, breath or urine), their license will be suspended for four months.

“But what if I refuse to submit to a chemical test? How long will my driver license be suspended for?” If you refuse to submit to a chemical test after a DUI arrest, your driver license will be suspended for one-year under California’s APS law, regardless if you had been drinking alcohol or not.

“For offenders refusing a BAC test, a 1-year license suspension is imposed for a first offense, a 2-year revocation is imposed for a second offense, and a 3-year revocation is imposed for a third or subsequent offense (within 10 years). There are no provisions for issuance of a restricted license following a BAC test refusal,” according to dmv.ca.gov.

To refuse or not to refuse a chemical test? If you refuse a chemical test, the refusal won’t necessarily stop the state from prosecuting you for DUI, nor will it prevent a license suspension. The state can proceed with a DUI prosecution even if it does not have blood or breath evidence, but impairment can be harder to prove.