California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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California drivers with a suspended license have to wait for the suspension period to end. Then they have to apply for reinstatement with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This includes paying license reinstatement fees and proving proof of adequate car insurance.
Some drivers may also have to provide evidence of completing certain courses, like traffic school or a DUI/substance abuse course.
A few common reasons why the DMV or the courts may suspend a license include:
Note that drivers who have a suspended license and do not reinstate it cannot legally drive. If they do drive, a police officer can pull the driver over and charge him/her with the misdemeanor crime of driving on a suspended license. Penalties can include:
Note, too, that a driver’s license revocation is not the same thing as a suspended driver’s license. A revocation means that the DMV or a court has terminated a person’s driving privileges. Drivers subject to a revoked license cannot reinstate it, but rather must apply for a new license.
The first step in getting a California license back after a suspension is for the affected driver to wait through the suspension duration.1
Once this period of time ends, a driver has to apply for reinstatement. Reinstatement is not automatic. Drivers must file a reinstatement application with the California DMV or a local DMV office.
Note that the reinstatement process is not the same for everyone. An application will differ for certain drivers depending on the reason their license was suspended.
With that said, there are several common requirements in many reinstatement applications. These include:
Prior to beginning the reinstatement process, drivers should check their license suspension order. The order will inform the driver of any special requirements that he/she needs to fulfill for reinstatement.
There are several reasons why the DMV or the courts may suspend a motorist’s driving privileges. Some of the most common include:
As stated above, the specific reason for a suspension will determine how long the suspension will last. It will also determine what the driver has to do to get his/her license reinstated.
Drivers who have a suspended license and do not reinstate it cannot legally drive.
If they do drive, they can get pulled over and charged with the crime of driving on a suspended license. This is true, even if the suspension period has expired.4
Driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor. The penalties for a conviction are:
No. In California, a driver’s license revocation (sometimes called a cancellation) means that the DMV or a court has terminated a person’s driving privileges.5
Drivers subject to a revoked license cannot reinstate it or restore the license. Instead, they have to apply for a new license.
A driver’s license can be revoked for several reasons, including if the driver:
Like a license suspension, a revocation is for a specific period of time. Once the revocation period has passed, the driver can apply for a new license. This involves passing a:
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.