How to Get a Revoked Driver’s License Back in California?

3/12/20 UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, all DMV hearings will be done over the telephone. People who prefer in-person hearings may request them, but they will be delayed indefinitely.

A person cannot get a revoked driver's license reinstated or restored in California. Rather, the driver must apply for a new license. This is done once the period of revocation is over. Application means the motorist will have to retake driving tests and pay applicable fees.

According to Vehicle Code 13101 VC, “revocation” means that a person's driving privileges are terminated. The revocation is usually for a period of time. The specific period of revocation varies. The time depends on the reason for why the DMV revoked the license.

The DMV can revoke a person's driving privileges for a variety of reasons. A few examples are:

  1. incidents of road rage,
  2. a physical or mental disorder,
  3. drug or alcohol addiction, or
  4. the commission of certain crimes.

Drivers can seek to avoid a revocation by presenting their case at a DMV hearing.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

revoked california driver's license
A person cannot get a revoked driver’s license reinstated or restored in California.

1. Why does the DMV revoke a driver's license?

The DMV can revoke a person's driving privileges for many reasons. Some of the most common include:

  1. road rage - 13210 CVC,1
  2. a physical or mental disorder,2
  3. lack of skill,3
  4. alcohol or drug addiction,4 and
  5. fraud.5

Note that a person commits driver's license fraud when he:

  • uses false identification or someone else's identity, and
  • does so to secure a California driver's license.6

Incidents of fraud may invite criminal charges for forgery, per Penal Code 470 PC.

The DMV can also revoke a person's license because of a crime. Some crimes that result in revocation are:

  1. second and subsequent DUI convictions,
  2. commission of a felony that involves the use of a motor vehicle,
  3. reckless driving causing bodily injury, per Vehicle Code 23104 VC, and
  4. vehicular manslaughter, per Penal Code 192c PC.

2. How long is a revocation for?

The DMV revokes a person's license for a period of time. The specific period will depend on the reason for the revocation.

In most cases, the DMV will notify the driver of:

  • the specific term of revocation,
  • upon revoking the driver's license.

In other cases, the DMV can revoke a license for an indeterminate period. The general policy in these cases is for the DMV to:

  1. not consider reinstating a person's driving privileges, and
  2. continue this policy for at least one year.

3. Can a revocation be avoided?

A driver can try to challenge a revocation decision.

A driver does this by requesting an administrative hearing. This request must be made within:

  • 10 days of receiving notice of revocation, or
  • 14 days from the date of the notice, if the notice was mailed.7

DMV administrative hearings are separate from criminal hearings. They differ in three main ways:

  1. They are held at the DMV while criminal hearings are held in court,
  2. they are held before a hearing officer instead of a judge, and
  3. the standards used to consider evidence are less strict than those used in court.8

A driver has certain rights during these hearings. Some of these include the right to:

  1. be represented by an attorney,
  2. review any evidence of the DMV and cross examine any witness for the DMV,
  3. testify in front of the hearing officer,
  4. subpoena witnesses and/or documents, and
  5. introduce evidence.9
people standing in line at the dmv
In order to get a license again, one must apply for a new license at the DMV.

4. How does a person get a license restored after revocation?

California does not reinstate a revoked driver's license. Rather, a person whose driving privileges have been revoked must:

  1. apply for a brand-new license, and
  2. do so once the period of revocation is over.

This means that the person must pass:

  • a written driving test,
  • a vision test, and
  • a driving test in the field with a DMV instructor.

A person will also be required to do the following to obtain a new license:

  • take any required courses (e.g., Alcohol and Drug Education),
  • provide the DMV with any required documentation (e.g., proof of insurance), and
  • pay any applicable reissue, administrative, and court fees.

Note that the conviction of some crimes will result in a permanent license revocation. Some of these crimes include:

5. What is the difference between license suspension and revocation?

In California, there is a difference between:

  • the DMV suspending a license, and
  • the DMV revoking a motorist's driving privileges.

A suspension is when the DMV:

  1. withholds a motorist's driving privileges, and
  2. does so for a defined period of time (usually from six months to four years).

“Withholds” also means freezes.

Revocation, on the other hand, is the outright termination of a motorist's driving privileges.

Termination means driving privileges are gone, or officially expired.

Like with a revocation, a driver can request a hearing to challenge a suspension.

For additional help...

california traffic law attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

We also have information on license suspension and revocation in Nevada. Please see our article on: “Avoiding a Driver's License Suspension or Revocation in Nevada.”


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