The California DMV can suspend a person’s driver’s license after a traffic accident in five instances. 1) The driver is a negligent operator from accumulating too many points. 2) The driver is a negligent operator for contributing to an accident that causes serious injuries or death. 3) The driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 4) The driver had no insurance (VC 16028(a)). Or, 5) The driver did not report the accident.
In addition, failing to appear at required traffic court appearances or failing to pay fines will trigger a license suspension. And the DMV may suspend the licenses of people convicted of reckless driving (VC 23103), but it usually just tacks on points to their driving record instead.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. Can the California DMV suspend my license after an accident if I have too many points?
- 2. What about an accident causing a serious injury?
- 3. Does DUI trigger a license suspension?
- 4. Does not having car insurance trigger a license suspension after an accident in California?
- 5. Will I lose my license for not reporting the accident?
- 6. Will my license get suspended if I miss court?
- 7. Can reckless driving cause me to lose my license?
- 8. Can a driver challenge a suspension?
1. Can the California DMV suspend my license after an accident if I have too many points?
Yes. The California DMV can suspend a person’s driving privileges if the person caused an accident, and the accident resulted in the driver getting labeled a negligent operator for accruing too many points on their driving record.1
A motorist will receive points on his/her record for such things as:
- traffic accidents,
- moving violations (e.g., running a stop sign – in violation of Vehicle Code 22450 VC), and
- criminal driving offenses (e.g., breaking a California DUI law).
According to California’s negligent operator treatment system, the DMV can suspend driving privileges if someone earns:
- four points within any 12-month period,
- six points within any 24-month period, or
- eight points within any 36-month period.2
As to accidents, a driver earns one point if he caused an accident.3
Example: Jerome gets three speeding tickets in June, putting three points on his DMV driving record. The following month he causes an accident after driving into a neighbor’s mailbox. The event puts another point on Jerome’s record.
Here, the DMV can suspend his license because of the accident. The accident worked to put enough points on Jerome’s license, for the year, so that the DMV could order a suspension.
2. What about an accident causing a serious injury?
In addition to the above, the DMV can:
- declare a person a negligent operator, and
- do so even without that person having any points on his record.
The DMV can do this if a person causes just one traffic accident. But the accident must have resulted in serious injury or death.4
This all means that the DMV can suspend a motorist’s license if:
- he/ she caused an accident, and
- someone was seriously injured or killed in it.
Note that the driver does not have to be the primary cause of the accident for this to happen. The driver only has to have contributed to it.5
Some acts that may contribute to an accident include:
- traveling at high speeds on crowded roads,
- driving a car while under the influence,
- operating a vehicle recklessly,
- driving while engaged in a speed contest (VC 23109), or
- driving while attempting to evade a police officer (VC 2800.1).
2.1. What is a serious injury?
Examples of “serious injuries” in traffic accidents include:
- broken bones,
- lapse of consciousness,
- impairment of function of a bodily organ,
- wounds that require suturing, and
- brain injuries.
Example: Jose is speeding down a neighborhood street. He blows a stop sign and hits another driver that also failed to stop. The collision results in the other driver breaking his left arm.
Here, Jose contributed to an accident by running a stop sign. The accident also resulted in a serious injury – the driver’s broken arm. This all means that the DMV can suspend Jose’s license. This is true even if he had a clean driving record prior to the event.
3. Does DUI trigger a license suspension?
Yes. A first-time DUI in California typically carries a four-month suspension, whether or not there was an accident. If there was an accident that caused an injury, a misdemeanor DUI charge carries a one-to-three year suspension. And a felony DUI causing injury carries up to a five-year license suspension. (But the defendant may be able to continue driving with an ignition interlock device.)6
3.1. What if I refused to take a breath or blood test?
DUI arrestees who refuse to submit to a breath test or blood test face a license suspension of one year (or more if they have prior DUIs). It does not matter whether the driver was involved in an accident or not.7
4. Does not having car insurance trigger a license suspension after an accident in California?
Yes. People who get in a car accident and have no insurance face a four-year license suspension. But they may be able to resume driving after one year if they obtain proof of insurance and maintain it for three years.8
5. Will I lose my license for not reporting an accident?
Yes, the DMV will suspend the license of people who fail to report a car accident within 10 days if someone was injured or killed, or if property damage exceeds $1,000. It does not matter if the person was not at fault for the accident.9
6. Will my license get suspended if I miss court?
Yes. If a defendant fails to appear in traffic court when required to be there, the DMV will respond by suspending his/her license until the driver appears in court or resolves the case (usually by paying a fine).10
Note that missing court can also cause the criminal court to issue a bench warrant for the person’s arrest.
7. Can reckless driving cause me to lose my license?
The DMV may suspend a defendant’s license for reckless driving. But more commonly the DMV just adds two or more points to his/her driving record. (Note that accumulating four points in one year will trigger an automatic suspension.)11
8. Can a driver challenge a suspension/revocation?
A driver can request a DMV hearing to:
- challenge a negligent operator status, and
- get a driver’s license suspension set aside.12
This request must be made within:
- 10 days of receiving notice of suspension, or
- 14 days from the date of the notice, if the notice was mailed.13
DMV administrative hearings are separate from criminal hearings. They differ in three main ways:
- they are held at the DMV while criminal hearings are held in court,
- they are held before a hearing officer instead of a judge, and
- the standards used to consider evidence are less strict than those used in court.14
A hearing officer may decide the following after a hearing:
- a license suspension gets set aside.
- the motorist gets placed on negligent operator probation. This means a suspension does not go into effect. It will though if the driver commits a violation or an accident.
- the driver gets a suspension but is granted a restricted license, or
- a license gets suspended.15
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
- California DMV website – What is a Point?
- California Vehicle Code 12810.5; Negligent Operator Actions, California DMV.
- California Vehicle Code 12810.
- California DMV website – Guidelines and Actions.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Codes 13352, 23153, & 23556.
- California Vehicle Code 13353.
- California Vehicle Code 11110. See, e.g., Superior Court of California, Alameda County, Self-Help Services, General Information on Suspended Drivers License.
- California Vehicle Codes 16070 & 16072; Vehicle Collisions, California DMV.
- California Vehicle Codes 40509.5 & 40508(a).
- California Vehicle Codes 11110, 23103, 23104, 23105, & 12810; Negligence, California DMV.
- California Vehicle Code 14100.
- DMV website – Driver Safety Administrative Hearings Process (FFDL 26).
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 12813.