Having a suspended driver’s license in California can be the result of different traffic violations, failure to appear in court, or unpaid court fines. Different consequences accompany suspended driver’s licenses. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Suspended Driver’s License?

A suspended driver’s license is a license that the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Secretary of State (SOS), or Department of Revenue (DOR) has suspended for different reasons, such as accumulating an excessive amount of driving record points, receiving multiple traffic violations, such as speeding tickets or receiving a DUI or DWI. In this scenario, Drivers who continuously drive with a suspended or revoked driver’s license will face more severe penalties.

Reasons a Driver’s License Can Be Suspended

A California driver’s license can be suspended or canceled for the following reasons:

  • DUI conviction
  • Failure to submit to a DUI chemical, blood, or urine test after being stopped by an official under the influence
  • Having a warrant for your arrest
  • Failure to appear in court
  • Having multiple offenses of traffic violations (habitual offender) or having accumulated too many points on your driver’s license
  • Being mentally or physically impaired that you can safely operate a motor vehicle
  • Neglecting to pay a traffic fine
  • Reckless driving
  • Failing to report to the CA DMV about an accident in which you were involved
  • Refusing to pay compensation after a trial for an auto accident
  • Operating a motor vehicle without a valid auto insurance policy
  • Refusing to pay court-ordered child support
  • Hit-and-run from the scene of the crime/accident

What Are the Penalties for Driving While Having a Suspended Driver’s License?

California Vehicle Code (VC 14601.1(a) provides different penalties for traffic violations and similar crimes depending on specific circumstances. Driving while having a suspended license is a means of more severe punishment. The penalties you could face depend on the following circumstances:

If you had your license suspended or revoked for the following:

  • Reckless, negligent, or incompetent driving (physical or mental disability). In this scenario, you could face the following penalties:
    • Informal probation for a maximum of up to 3 years
    • Custody in a state prison for a maximum of 6 years and/or a fine of a maximum of $1,000.
  • Conviction of a DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol). The California statute follows through on the following penalties:
    • Informal probation for a maximum of 3 years
    • A prison sentence in a CA county jail can range from 10 days to 6 months, in addition to a fine of up to a maximum of $1,000, and/or an installation of a vehicle ignition interlock device.
  • Committing traffic offenses often. Penalties for this offense(s) can result in the following:
    • Information probation for a maximum of 3 years
    • Custody in a CA county jail for a maximum of 30 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Refusal to take a chemical test or driving with an illegal blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least .08 can result in the following penalties:
    • Informal probation for a maximum of 3 years
    • Custody in a CA county jail for a maximum of 6 months and/or fine(s) up to $1,000
  • License suspended or revoked for other reasons. These penalties in California in this scenario can include the following:
    • Informal probation for a maximum of 3 years
    • Custody in a CA county jail for a maximum of 6 months and/or payment of a fine of up to $1,000.

If you have 2 or more DUI offenses, the penalties increase in severity. Re-offending in DUI circumstances carries a 2-year license suspension. Having a third DUI offense will result in a 3-year license suspension and a minimum of 120 days in a CA jail.

What Are the Fees for a Suspended License in California?

There are different fees you are responsible for paying when your license is suspended, and fees you must pay to have your CA driver’s license reinstated (if applicable). The following are the standard suspended license in California fees:

  • APS reissue fee (under 21 years of age): $100
  • APS reissue fee (at least 21 years of age): $125
  • DUI reissue fee: $55
  • DUI 2nd offense:
    • Add court restriction fee: $15
    • Remove court restriction fee: $20
  • Financial responsibility:
    • Penalty fee: $250
    • Reissue fee: $55

What Is the California DMV Point System?

In California, the DMV point system is a method that is used to punish individuals who are caught disobeying traffic laws and other violations. Multiple-time offenders have points added to their driving record. However, depending on the severity of the violation, points can be added to a driver’s driving record the first time for the offense.

A California driver’s license will be suspended if the driver accumulates:

  • 4 points within 1 year
  • 6 points within 2 years
  • 8 points within 3 years

Can You Get Your CA License Back If It Has Been Suspended?

You may be able to reinstate your CA driver’s license if it has been suspended. However, the reinstatement process is not the same for all offenses. The following are the standard reinstatement requirements in California:

  • Completing an obligatory suspension period
  • Paying a reissue fee to the CA DMV or fines to a CA court
  • Enrolling in a DUI treatment program and providing a certificate of completion
  • Filing a satisfactory Driver Medical Evaluation or other medical forms or information (if you have been diagnosed with a mental or physical disorder.)
  • Completing a possible imprisonment sentence

How Long Does Driving While License Suspended Offense Remain On Your Driving Record in California?

Good question! If you have been convicted of a DUI, this offense can remain on your driving record for years, even decades! Here’s more detailed information about reinstating your CA driver’s license after suspension.

You may be eligible to use the following actions to reinstate your CA driver’s license:

DUI Criminal Record Expungement

By hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can possibly clear a DUI from your criminal record, which can be achieved once you complete the conditional period and probationary period. If you violate the conditions of your probation, you will not be eligible to apply for your record to be expunged from the court record.

Generally speaking, fulfilling the conditional period can take as little as 3 years or as many as 5 years, which is counted from the date of your DUI conviction. The cleaning of CA judicial records for a DUI allows the following:

  • Withdrawal of a guilty plea or no plea
  • Entering a plea of not guilty for a second time
  • Close the case

Be advised that if an investigation is conducted, a DUI conviction is likely to appear on your record. However, CA law prohibits an employer from using a DUI conviction against you as a means to fire you or deny employment.

In most scenarios, once the DUI is cleared from the CA court record, it’s as if the conviction never occurred. However, if you need a driver’s license or a professional license, the DUI conviction will appear. DUI convictions are expunged from your record, but may still be used against you in different situations, especially when driving is a required responsibility.

A Period of 10 Years to Expunge a California DUI Conviction

A DUI conviction in California can be expunged after 10 years, which means if you are convicted of a second or third DUI, it will not and cannot be used against you as a repeat offender.

Will My California License Automatically Be Reinstated at the End of the Suspension Period?

Automatic reinstatement of your CA driver’s license depends on the reason your driver’s license was suspended. If your license was suspended for a DUI, you must fully comply with the sentence that was given.

Once you comply with all sentencing requirements, you are responsible for providing the CA DMV with documentation that proves you have completed the traffic education programs, such as proof of a valid auto insurance policy, drug or alcohol programs, and other documentation.

How Do I Reinstate My Suspended California Driver’s License?

To legally be able to operate a motor vehicle in California after your driver’s license has been suspended, the CA DMV must reinstate your license. To reinstate your CA driver’s license, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete the suspension period
  • Pay the CA driver’s license reinstatement fee ($31) online, by mail, or in person
  • Provide evidence of completion of a required course, such as a DUI/substance abuse course, or traffic school)
  • Submit proof of a valid CA auto insurance policy and an SR-22 certificate (provided by your auto insurance carrier)

Be advised that your driver’s license reinstatement will depend on the cause of the suspension. You may be required to retake the CA written test or the in-car part of driving testing depending on the reason for your license suspension.

California Suspended License FAQ

When it comes to suspended licenses in California, it’s understandable if you have questions. Different scenarios can come to pass, so if you do unfortunately have your CA driver’s license suspended. We’ll answer some of the most common questions.

I Have Just Been Arrested for DUI. What Do I Do Now?

By law, police officers are required to immediately forward a copy of the completed notice of suspension or revocation form in addition to any driver’s license that was taken into possession with a sworn report to the CA DMV.

The CA DMV will automatically conduct an administrative review, which includes an examination of the police officer’s report, the suspension or revocation order, and the test results (if any), such as a breathalyzer.

You should note that you have the right to request a hearing from the CA DMV within 10 days of receiving the suspension or revocation order. During the review, if it is determined that there is no basis for the driver’s license suspension or revocation, the process will not be continued, and the CA DMV will notify you in writing IF the suspension or revocation process is not continued following the administrative review.

At the Time of My Arrest, the Office Took My Driver’s License. How Do I Get It Back?

Your CA driver’s license will be reinstated once the suspension or revocation period is complete and you pay the $125 reissue fee to the CA DMV. You must also provide proof of financial responsibility (a valid auto insurance policy). The CA driver’s license reissue fee will remain $100 if you were under the age of 21 and your license was suspended under the Zero Tolerance law. If it is deemed that there i no basis for the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, you are eligible to apply for a replacement at a CA DMV branch.

The Police Officer Issued Me an Order of Suspension and a Temporary Driver’s License. What Do I Do with This Document?

You are allowed to operate a motor vehicle 30 days from the date the order of suspension or revocation was issued, given that you have a valid CA driver’s license, or your driving privilege is not suspended or revoked for another reason.

If you have questions or concerns, you can contact the CA DMV at (800) 777-0133 during normal business hours, or head to your local CA DMV branch. Make sure you have your CA driver’s license number and any other information that is required, such as documentation sent to you from the CA DMV readily available.