Top Ten Tips
For the First 48 Hours
Top Ten Tips > First 48 Hours
3. Contact the DMV
Why is contacting DMV so important?
In most cases the Sonoma County arresting officer takes your driver's license and gives you a pink carbon copy of a notice of suspension and temporary license, unless you had an out-of-state license or the alleged DUI is only drug-related (with no evidence of alcohol whatsoever). Click here to see a real example of this type of notice: Pink Temporary License. The Pink Temporary License is discussed in greater detail in Tip #5 below.
The last paragraph of the pink (look for the heading "Hearing Information") states that you have only 10 days from the date you received the notice (usually the DUI arrest date, but not always) to ask the DMV for a hearing (it's called an Administrative Per Se "APS" hearing) in Santa Rosa or Petaluma in order to stop the DMV's automatic suspension or revocation of your driving privileges in the State of California. This DMV suspension or revocation is otherwise automatic on the day your pink license expires, and is entirely different and independent from the court's proceedings. For example, you might win in court later if your Sonoma County DUI attorney succeeds in having your case dismissed, but still lose your license because of this APS proceeding.
Click on Ten Tips To Get Your License Back on this site for a detailed explanation of the differences between the APS suspension and the Sonoma County court's separate conviction-related suspension. You will begin to see why hiring a local Santa Rosa DUI lawyer to defend you at the Santa Rosa DMV and in Sonoma County Superior Court is a good idea.
If you hire a DUI lawyer then the lawyer can (and should) contact the San Francisco DMV for you, but you or your lawyer must request this hearing within 10 days of your DUI arrest in order to be certain to preserve your right to challenge any DMV license suspension later at the Santa Rosa or Petaluma DMV. If you miss this deadline, then in most cases you lose any ability to completely protect your driving privileges. Usually, early in a DUI case before we know how the arresting officer will describe the incident, the best defensive strategy is to aggressively preserve all of your options by means such as a timely and proper request for a Santa Rosa DMV hearing as soon as possible after the DUI arrest.
Obtaining a stay on the pending suspension.
Typically the pink temporary gives the holder 30 days driving privileges. But what about after that? If your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer successfully requests the DMV hearing within the 10 days from the date of the DUI arrest, then the DMV is usually required to stay (postpone) the suspension which would have been imposed following expiration of the 30-day pink temporary, and send the arrestee a New Temporary License which is intended to allow driving until the outcome of the hearing. In Sonoma County, these new temporary licenses are usually issued once your Sonoma DUI attorney sets the date of hearing a couple weeks after first requesting the hearing, and this new temp usually last four months from the date of issue. The new temp can be extended or shortened by your DUI lawyer depending on when the DMV hearing issues are expected to be resolved.
Public defenders do not handle DMV.
If you decide you want a DUI attorney but you intend to ask for a public defender because you believe you qualify financially, understand that the Sonoma County public defenders do not handle DMV cases and do not have nearly as much experience as most private DUI lawyers defending DUI's at the DMV. And even if they could handle DMV in a different world, they are nearly always appointed only after you appear first in Santa Rosa court, usually well after the 10 days from arrest, but the fact is that Sonoma County public defenders only handle Sonoma County criminal cases, and Santa Rosa DMV is a separate administrative law proceeding to lose or protect your driver license.
How to request the hearing.
Note that different attorneys might provide different types of information to DMV about you and your incident depending on the unique circumstances of your case, so if you are going to hire a Sonoma County DUI attorney inside the ten-day period following arrest, then asking your attorney to accomplish this hearing request on your behalf allows him/her to proceed in your best interests.
If you still wish to do this yourself, then you may telephone the DMV at the number provided on your temporary license (or click here for info on how to Contact A DMV Driver Safety Office), and then follow up with such confirmation as a written certified return receipt mailing to the proper address on the temporary license. To be effective, you may want to include in the mailing your name, driver's license number, and date of arrest. To preserve all of your options, you may specifically request an "in-person" hearing in Santa Rosa or Petaluma (assuming you live in Sonoma County or will be hiring a local attorney). If you are still considering hiring an attorney, you may inform the DMV of this so that they can wait to schedule the hearing directly with your Sonoma County DUI attorney at a time that is mutually available.
To be fully prepared, you may also request "discovery" which is the packet of information which will be used by local Santa Rosa or Petaluma DMV to support the ultimate decision whether to suspend your license. By asking for the discovery, you will be able to see what documents the DMV has collected to be used against you, including what the Santa Rosa or Sonoma County law enforcement officer said about your case, his/her reasons for pulling you over or first encountering you, your performance on any field sobriety tests, and the results of the blood or breath alcohol tests, etc.
Don't be discouraged by confusing or incomplete advice, or unexpected questions.
As discussed in Tip #10 ("Don't Follow Bad Advice") on this site, don't be discouraged from asserting your rights, for example, a Sonoma County police officer, or Sacramento or San Francisco DMV phone operator, or Santa Rosa DMV counter clerk stating that you don't "need to" or "have to" get a DUI DMV hearing and you should just "wait" until you receive a DUI suspension notice from DMV.
During a new client call, one Santa Rosa woman arrested for DUI told Sonoma DUI lawyer Jake Schwartz, "I called the number this morning and asked if I should have a hearing date, and the DMV lady said "It's up to you, why, are you disputing it?" So I said "No, I got a DUI so I guess not," and she said "Your license is valid now for 30 days, and then you'll be suspended for 30 more days, and after that you can go to the DMV and ask for a work license." So I was all confused and decided to call you."
Same story, different actors, on another new client DUI lawyer call, a Sonoma County DUI client told Jake, "I called the number on the pink temporary license, but the DMV operator said, "Is there any reason why you believe the DUI charges are not true?" The client then asked Jake, "Are they going to laugh at me during the hearing?"
Another client on her first DUI lawyer call told Jake that, when she tried to get her DMV hearing set up within the first 10 days after arrest, "They told me that I would have to set up an appointment but I should just wait until I go to court to figure out what to do with my license, so come back in 30 days to see if I can get a restricted license."
Another client, during his DUI attorney call, told Jake that, when he called for the DUI DMV hearing, "The guy said that if you have had a drink and then drive, then you are drunk driving; most people try to put it behind them and move on."
Another client, during her first DUI attorney call, related that when she called to ask for a hearing, the DMV employee stated "Here's what you do: get an SR-22 and you'll get your license back!"
A good Sonoma County DUI lawyer will explain to you that not only is this "advice" completely over-simplified, confusing and intimidating, but in addition, if you don't successfully ask for a hearing and challenge the Santa Rosa DMV administrative suspension, you will lose any possibility to take control of the process and you will lose the opportunity to protect yourself from a DUI license suspension. If you follow such advice, or fall victim to this manipulation, you will lose valuable rights that could have saved you.
Beyond 10 days?
If you believe you are already outside of 10 days from the date of your DUI arrest, you should contact a local Sonoma County lawyer immediately to see if you still have time or otherwise fall within a limited number of exceptions to the 10-day rule.
For example, even though the ten days have expired, the citing officer may have failed to serve you with, or incorrectly completed, the "Administrative Per Se Suspension/Revocation Order And Temporary Driver License," otherwise known as the "pink temporary" (see Tip #5). If the pink was never given to you, or was incorrectly filled out, the DMV may send you a "14-Day Re-Notice" with a renewed opportunity to request a DMV hearing to challenge the pending suspension (the important language is in the box above). Click here to see this "14-Day Re-Notice," or the same concept with a 10-Day DMV Re-Notice.
Another example is if your 10th day from date of DUI arrest falls on a Sunday or holiday, in which case you may have one or more extra days to preserve your right to fight the pending suspension. You can see that it may not be too late to try to save your license if it is about to be suspended. A Sonoma County DUI lawyer can help you move quickly and correctly in this regard.
Be sure DMV has your correct mailing address.
If DMV has an old mailing address (for example, outside of Sonoma County) then you might not receive critical notices providing a time-sensitive right to a hearing (sometimes only 10 days), or giving you a date for the start of a suspension, or sending you a new temporary or permanent license, which are usually sent to you at your address on record at DMV.
Because the vehicle code requires you to provide a change of address to DMV within 10 days of obtaining a new address, you are not permitted to complain if DMV sends important documents to an old address on record. In order to allow your Sonoma County DUI lawyer to react quickly and challenge wrong or unfair decisions or planned actions against you, you must ensure that DMV has your correct address, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so. You can visit the Santa Rosa or Petaluma satellite DMV office to submit a Sonoma County change of address, or click here to Update Your Address Online if DMV has an old address.