top ten tips: Getting your driver's license back
The First 48 Hours After a DUI | Getting Your Driver's License Back | Easing the Consequences of a DUI | Fighting a Sonoma DUI
- The DUI Suspension From Court
- The DUI Suspension From DMV
- SR-22 and Low-cost Insurance
- DUI Classes
- Traffic Tickets and Unpaid Fines
- Too Many Negligent Operator Points
- Physical & Mental Health Suspensions
- Senior Driver Suspensions
- Minors With DUI Suspensions
- Commercial Drivers With DUI Suspensions
Two Different Suspensions Result From a Sonoma DUI
The best Sonoma DUI lawyers understand that a DUI usually results in two different driver's license suspensions. One suspension is triggered by a DUI conviction in court (often called the "Mandatory Suspension" because of the mandatory nature of the suspension automatically imposed once DMV receives notice of the conviction), and the other suspension is triggered by the Pink Temporary License issued at the time of arrest, and governed separately by the DMV regardless of what happens in court (often called the "APS suspension," abbreviating the formal name of this separate Administrative Per Se process — see Tip #2 in this section). Many people will never know or care about the differences (including most attorneys and judges), but for many people who try to resolve a DUI case quickly, the bureaucratic requirements created by two very different suspensions can be confusing and a misstep may cause unexpected consequences.
In addition, the two suspensions often mandate different suspension periods with different rules for converting back to full or limited "restricted" driving privileges, and of course the longer of the two suspension periods determines the final outcome. Drivers have to address and resolve each suspension in order to be sure that driving privileges are restored at the earliest date. To understand these two different suspensions, compare the information on the court suspension here in Tip #1, to the separate DMV administrative suspension described in Tip #2 in this section, and then review the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer info on this page below, as well as the SR-22 info in Tip #3 and the DUI class info in Tip #4.
Client comment: "I do want to thank you for all your help. I couldn't have done this on my own, as much as I wanted to. I went to the DMV today and received my restricted license. Most of the people in my DUI program were surprised to find out their court suspension and DMV suspension were two different animals and have subsequently been [unnecessarily] off the road for up to 9 months in some cases. So thanks! You rule!"
Many people may find Ryan's flow chart to be an easier way to begin to understand the parallel but different DMV and court processes. If you get confused with the discussion below, then click on Anatomy of a Sonoma County DUI.
Laws and Legislation
Laws relating to mandatory suspensions due to court convictions may be found in Vehicle Code Section 13352, or for minors: Section 13352.6 and Section 13202.5 (and for juveniles: Section 13352.3).
Laws relating to the parallel administrative suspensions due to separate DMV actions may be found in Vehicle Code Section 13353.3, and for refusal cases in Section 13353 and Section 13353.1.
Laws relating to restricted licenses may be found, for first offenses in Vehicle Code Section 13352(a)(1), and Section 13352.1, and Section 13352.4, and in Section 13353.3(b)(1), and Section 13353.6, and Section 13353.7, and for second offenders in Section 13352(a)(3) (or third offenders, Section 13352(a)(5)), and Section 13352.5, and in Section 13353.3(b)(2), and Section 13353.75, and for minors in Section 13353.8, and also in Section 13202.5.
The latest 2019 complex law revisions eliminating mandatory driver's license suspension periods in favor of installation of the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer in most DUI cases may be found here: SB-1046. The earlier 2010 and 2012 law revisions allowing conversion of DUI license suspensions to early DUI restricted driving privileges for multiple offenders may be found here: SB-598 (for converting one-year suspensions or longer license revocations into 3 or 6-month suspensions followed by ignition interlock restricted license), SB-895 (adding SB598 license to separate DMV administrative suspension scheme), and AB-520 (adding Wet Reckless multiple offenders). Good Sonoma County DUI lawyers will explain all of these new laws to you, yet another reason to have access to a competent Santa Rosa DUI attorney.
The Court Conviction-Triggered Suspension
If you and your Sonoma County DUI lawyer are unable to win your case, the court is supposed to tell you at the time of sentencing (most judges don't), that a Santa Rosa DUI conviction results in a mandatory suspension of your driver's license by the DMV. This suspension is different than the DMV's separate administrative suspension. Your Santa Rosa DUI attorney should explain that this suspension which results from a Sonoma court conviction is administered by the DMV but triggered by what happens in the courthouse, whereas the other "DMV administrative suspension" (discussed in the next Tip #2), is triggered by the pink temporary license and can be imposed separately by DMV even if you and your Sonoma DUI attorney win in court or criminal charges are dropped by the Sonoma County prosecutor.
First you need to understand what the court suspension is exactly (and then compare to the DMV administrative suspension described in Tip #2):
First DUI Conviction
In a typical first offense DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test, no other alcohol-related suspensions in the last ten years) Veh Code 23152, an informed Sonoma County DUI lawyer should explain that the suspension triggered solely by the court conviction is likely to be six months (Veh Code 13352(a)(1)(A)), but could be ten months if the court orders enrollment in the nine-month DUI program because of a court finding that the alcohol level was at or above .20%, or a court finding of a refusal to give a required chemical test when requested by Sonoma County law enforcement (Veh Code 13352.1(a) and Veh Code 23538(b)(2)). Other factors, such as misdemeanor or felony DUI cases causing injury to others (Veh Code 23153, and Veh Code 13352(a)(2),(4),(6)) and your age (Veh Code 23136 and 23140) can affect the length of a court suspension, but in most cases your Santa Rosa DUI attorney can provide you with the advice you need to get back on the road immediately, even after a Sonoma County DUI conviction.
Restricted License — After 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is on or after January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical DUI case with no prior DUI convictions in the last ten years, a driver may immediately convert the conviction-triggered license suspension into either (1) an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time (but this license is only available if the DUI conviction is alcohol-related) Veh Code 13352(a)(1),(2), Veh Code 13352.1, or (2) a 12-month "work" license allowing driving only to/from, and in the course of employment and to/from the DUI classes (but this license is only available if the court failed to order installation of the IID breathalyzer during sentencing) Veh Code 13352.4.
In either option above, the restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office after paying certain fees, but only if DMV can confirm on their computers that the driver has (1) already filed the special SR-22 insurance (see Tip #3 in this section), (2) already enrolled in the correct DUI program (see Tip #4), and (3) if applicable, already installed the IID breathalyzer (see our IID info below). All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Santa Rosa DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly time each of these tasks.
The 12-month restricted work license (allowing driving to, from and in the course of employment and to and from the DUI classes) is only available if there are no prior convictions in the last ten years, and is not permitted if the court separately orders installation of an IID breathalyzer during sentencing Veh Code 13352.4. Typically, the IID-restricted license lasts at least six months (or ten months if the court orders the nine-month DUI classes because of a refusal or high alcohol level at or above .20%), or longer if the court so orders, and until the Sacramento DMV receives proof of completion of the DUI program classes.
Restricted License — Before 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical DUI case with no prior convictions in the last ten years, the same periods of suspension apply, but the process to obtain the restricted license is different. The driver is not required to choose between an IID breathalyzer restricted license and a work license in order to avoid a suspension, because there is no IID license option, only the work license option. Therefore, in the typical first offense DUI case, the driver may immediately convert the conviction-triggered suspension by simply filing the SR-22 insurance discussed here in Tip #3, and enrolling in the DUI classes discussed here in Tip #4, and then once DMV has electronic confirmation of these two tasks accomplished, a work license may be obtained after paying certain fees at any DMV field office. Timing is still critical to avoid any actual time off the road, and therefore the best Sonoma County DUI lawyers will help navigate you to perfectly time each of these tasks.
Second or More DUI Convictions
In a typical multiple offender DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test), then an experienced Santa Rosa DUI lawyer should explain that the mandatory minimum suspension period following a second Sonoma County DUI court conviction is typically two years, and the mandatory minimum suspension period following a third Sonoma County DUI court conviction is three years, etc. Veh Code 13352(a)(3),(5),(7).
Restricted License — After 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is after January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical multiple offender DUI case, a driver may immediately convert the conviction-triggered license suspension into an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time (but this license is only available if the DUI conviction is alcohol-related) Veh Code 13352(a)(3),(5),(7). The new 12-month "work" license for first DUI offenders is not an option for multiple DUI offenders, but may be an option for some second offenders who have not driven the first year Veh Code 13352.5.
As with first offenders, the IID restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office after paying certain fees, but only if DMV can confirm on their computers that the driver has (1) already filed the special SR-22 insurance (see Tip #3 in this section), (2) already enrolled in the correct DUI program (see Tip #4), and (3) already installed the IID breathalyzer (see our IID info below). All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Santa Rosa DUI lawyers will help navigate you to perfectly time each of these tasks.
Restricted License — Before 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then following a conviction in a typical DUI case, the same suspension periods apply, but the process to obtain the restricted license is different. Under the old law before 2010, which is still an option, some second offenders may obtain a restricted "work" license after the first year of suspension Veh Code 13352.5. Between 2010 and 2018, law changes provided that following 90 days of absolute suspension, most second offenders are eligible for an IID restricted license for the remainder of the suspension (21 months) if certain tasks are pre-accomplished, including installation of the IID ignition device, enrollment in the multiple offender DUI program, and filing the SR-22 insurance.
Understand that there are no hardship exceptions of any kind for driving during the initial suspension period (90 days or one year), even in the most compelling personal situations, regardless of the severest consequences to you or others.
For most third offenders, the 2010-2018 laws provide for a typical 6-month wait prior to becoming eligible for an IID breathalyzer restricted license. The best way to avoid this harsh result is to get charges reduced or dismissed in Sonoma County court with the capable skills of a good Santa Rosa DUI attorney, or win at trial.
Consult with a Sonoma County DUI attorney to see if your individual circumstances might prevent eligibility for one or more of these restricted licenses (for example, a drug DUI, chemical test refusal cases, under-21 cases, some probation violation cases, some pre-July 2010 arrest dates, and other atypical prior/present offense combinations, etc.).
The IID Breathalyzer
Many of the basic rules pertaining to installation, maintenance and use of IID breathalyzers may be found in Veh Code 13352(i)-(m), Veh Code 13353.6 (first offenders), and Veh Code 13353.75 (multiple offenders), and generally in Veh Code 23575.3, including income-based fee schedules, mandated durations, and definitions of certain violations.
For a comprehensive listing of local Sonoma County ignition interlock IID resources, click the following link to view our Sonoma DUI Lawyer IID Resources. Lifesafer is one of many companies offering these ignition devices for quick and affordable installation. Low Cost Interlock is another IID company, offering competitive pricing and a very smart soda can camouflage cover for the device (pictured here).
In most Sonoma County cases resulting in a DUI conviction involving drugs only, typically a conviction only for violating Veh Code 23152(f), none of the IID breathalyzer restricted licenses discussed above in first or multiple offense cases are available to help the driver convert the conviction-triggered suspension into restricted driving privileges. Instead, for most first offense drug DUI cases the driver may obtain a 12-month restricted work license (immediately after the suspension start date upon payment of fees at DMV, if the DMV already has electronic proof of SR-22 insurance filing and DUI program enrollment). (Veh Code 13352.4(b), Veh Code 13353.3(b)(1)).
For most multiple offense drug DUI cases the driver may only obtain a minimum 12-month restricted work license, but only after suffering one year of no driving whatsoever, regardless of extreme hardship to the driver or others. (Veh Code 13352(a)(3)(A)(i), Veh Code 13352.5, Veh Code 13353.3(b)(2).
Getting the Restricted License
In most cases, a driver is eligible for the restricted license immediately after a DUI conviction in the Sonoma County courts. But it is important to understand that the DMV does not mail or automatically issue the restricted license to you. A good Sonoma County DUI attorney will explain that you must accomplish certain tasks comfortably before the conviction date, such as those described above, and then go to the Santa Rosa or Petaluma DMV field office and pay a fee to obtain the restricted license.
In most cases it is best to wait until you receive the suspension notice in the mail so that you know the suspension has begun, rather than wasting time waiting in line only to discover that the court has not yet sent the record of conviction to DMV, so they don't have a suspension to convert to a restricted license yet.
Other requirements may apply in your unique situation; an experienced Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will be able to give you the specific eligibility criteria and timing requirements applicable to your own individual circumstances.
Old Sonoma County DUIs
Note if you have a past Sonoma County DUI and the Santa Rosa DMV refuses (or you are a resident of another state and your home state DMV refuses) to renew or return your license, or refuses to allow you to obtain even a restricted license (typically because the DUI program was not completed), contact a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer to review your matter and help you sort out the mess and clear your California record to get your license back.
Renew an Expired or Expiring License
Note if you receive a Renewal Notice or otherwise have an expired California license (or even out of state expired license) then in most cases it is best to renew your license prior to any resolution of a new DUI case in order to re-obtain driving privileges at the earliest opportunity. Contact a local Santa Rosa DUI attorney to review your driving record and provide specific advice for your particular circumstances.
Try to Get Your Case Dismissed or Settled for Less Than a DUI Conviction
Avoid a DUI conviction to avoid the mandatory suspensions described above. Usually your local Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will look for every opportunity to try dismissing your case in Sonoma County superior court, or reducing your DUI to a wet reckless conviction, dry reckless, or attempted DUI or drunk in public, or a moving violation infraction, which will accomplish the goal of completely avoiding this mandatory Sonoma court-generated suspension.
The best Sonoma County DUI lawyers will explain to you that a typical DUI case results in two different driver's license suspensions.
One suspension is the mandatory suspension triggered by a DUI conviction in court (see Tip #1 in this section), and the other suspension is the APS suspension triggered by the pink temporary license issued at the time of arrest, and governed separately by the DMV regardless of what happens in court.
Many people will never know or care about the differences (including most attorneys and judges), but for many people who try to resolve a DUI case quickly, the bureaucratic requirements created by two very different suspensions can be confusing and a misstep may cause unexpected consequences.
In addition, the two suspensions often mandate different suspension periods with different rules for converting back to full or limited "restricted" driving privileges, and of course the longer of the two suspension periods determines the final outcome. Drivers have to address and resolve each suspension in order to be sure that driving privileges are restored at the earliest date.
Many people may find Ryan's flow chart to be an easier way to begin to understand the parallel but different DMV and court processes. If you get confused with the discussion below, then click on Anatomy of a Sonoma County DUI.
Delaying or Fighting the DMV Suspension
The court conviction-triggered suspension is delayed and fought in court, but this separate DMV suspension has it's own separate procedures. In most cases, if a driver is arrested for a DUI, they are handed a Pink Temporary License, which states on its face that the driver has ten days to call DMV and ask for a hearing, completely apart from any court proceedings, to show the DMV why their intended suspension is unjustified. Any experienced Sonoma County DUI attorney will accomplish this hearing request immediately on your behalf if we are hired in the first ten days from arrest.
A timely hearing request typically results in a "stay" (delay) of this separate DMV suspension until an independent administrative hearing is held to determine if DMV has enough evidence to conclude that the suspension should be reinstated. Of course the best Santa Rosa DUI lawyers will not only request the hearing for you, but we will also represent you at that separate hearing so that you don't have to figure it out yourself, or even attend.
In most cases, if this separate DMV hearing is not timely requested, or if the hearing is successfully obtained but DMV finds against the driver anyway, then the DMV's stay may be lifted and their intended suspension may be reimposed.
First DUI Suspension
In a typical first offender DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test, no other alcohol-related suspensions in the last ten years), the expected suspension period would be four months (Section 13353.3(b)(1)).
Restricted License — After 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is on or after January 1, 2019, then following a typical DUI arrest with no prior DUI suspension in the last ten years, most first offenders may convert the separate four-month DMV license suspension into restricted driving privileges by (1) immediately obtaining an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time, but only if the DUI suspension is alcohol-related (Section 13353.3(b)(1)), or by (2) waiting until the 30-day pink temporary license expires, then suffering a 30-day suspension with no available hardship exceptions, followed by a restricted "work" license allowing driving only to/from, and in the course of employment and to/from the DUI classes and activities (Section 13353.7), unless or until a court orders installation of the IID breathalyzer during sentencing.
The first offender restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office after paying certain fees, but only if DMV can confirm on their computers that the driver has (1) already filed the special SR-22 insurance (see Tip #3 in this section), (2) already enrolled in the correct DUI program (see Tip #4), and (3) if applicable, already installed the IID breathalyzer (see our IID info in Tip #1). All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Sonoma DUI attorneys will help navigate you to properly plan each of these tasks.
Restricted License — Before 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then the same periods of suspension apply, but a portion of this separate DMV suspension must be served with no restricted license, and the process to obtain the restricted license thereafter is different. Further, in first offense cases, the driver is not required to choose between an IID breathalyzer restricted license and a "work" license, because there is no immediate IID license option, only the 30-day mandatory suspension followed by a work license.
Specifically, regardless of the suspension dates specified in any subsequent DMV notices received in the mail (DMV notices are notoriously misleading), most first offenders may obtain a restricted Class C work license after the first 30 days from the DMV suspension start date, as soon as certain fees are paid at a local DMV office, and DMV receives electronic proof of DUI program enrollment and proof of filing special SR22 insurance.
The first offender restricted work license allows driving only to/from, and in the course of employment and to/from the DUI classes and activities. These first offender restricted driving privileges typically last five months and until the Sacramento DMV receives proof of completion of the Sonoma County DUI program drinking driver classes. Each of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Sonoma DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly plan these tasks.
Second or More DUI Suspensions
In a typical multiple offender DUI case (noncommercial, age 21 or older, alcohol-related, no allegation of injuries or refusal to give a chemical test), the expected suspension period would be one year regardless of the number of prior DUI offenses (Section 13353.3(b)(2)), but don't panic, keep reading!
Restricted License — After 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is after January 1, 2019, then in the typical multiple offender case, most multiple offenders may convert the separate one-year DMV license suspension into restricted driving privileges by obtaining an immediate Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license allowing driving anywhere at any time, but only if the DUI suspension is alcohol-related (Section 13353.3(b)(2)).
The multiple offender restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office after paying certain fees, but only if DMV can confirm on their computers that the driver has (1) already filed the special SR-22 insurance (see Tip #3 in this section), (2) already enrolled in the correct DUI program (see Tip #4), and (3) already installed the IID breathalyzer (see our IID info in Tip #1). These restricted driving privileges typically last one year (unless the court orders a longer IID period). All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Santa Rosa DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly plan each of these tasks.
Restricted License — Before 1/1/19
If the date of the DUI arrest is before January 1, 2019, then in the typical multiple offender case, most multiple offenders may obtain a restricted IID breathalyzer license after the first 90 days (second offenders) or six months (third offenders) from the DMV suspension start date, and as soon as certain fees are paid at a local DMV office, and DMV receives electronic proof of installation of an IID breathalyzer, DUI program enrollment and proof of filing special SR22 insurance. Timing is always critical for first and multiple DUI offenders to avoid any longer time off the road than necessary, and therefore the best Sonoma County DUI lawyers will help navigate you to properly plan each of these tasks.
Differences Between the DMV Suspension and the Court Suspension
Santa Rosa DUI attorneys would explain it to you this way: The DMV administrative suspension is different from the mandatory Sonoma County court conviction suspension in at least six ways:
(1) Differing outcomes in the same current matter: even if you win in court, or charges are reduced or never filed, this separate DMV suspension is usually still imposed if you and your Sonoma DUI lawyer fail to win separately at the Santa Rosa DMV hearing (requested within 10 days of arrest);
(2) Differing treatment of prior matters: even if court charges were never filed in a prior matter, or lesser charges were filed (such as under-21 zero tolerance but not .08% DUI), or the conviction was for something other than a DUI (like a "Dry Reckless" or a simple traffic infraction, but the DMV still suspended you for an alcohol-related reason in that prior matter, then the DMV may treat this new Sonoma County case as a second or higher DUI and impose a multiple offense one-year suspension period (without the possibility of a hardship or work license in some cases) even though your Sonoma DUI lawyer tells you that the Santa Rosa prosecutor is treating a new case as a "first offense" and is not charging the prior court matter in the current Sonoma County Superior Court proceedings;
(3) Required time off the road: if this is your first administrative suspension, then if you don't want to install an IID breathalyzer, you must serve the first 30 days of the DMV suspension without any driving privileges at all, unless your local Sonoma County DUI attorney can arrange credits or otherwise obtain a different result at the Santa Rosa DMV, whereas all of the Sonoma court-caused suspension is typically convertible into a work license; in a first DUI scenario, it is this DMV administrative suspension rather than the Sonoma court conviction-triggered suspension which typically causes the complete loss of driving privileges for any length of time;
(4) Chemical test refusal cases: if this is your first alcohol-related suspension, a good Sonoma County DUI lawyer will explain to you that a refusal to provide a chemical test at the time of arrest will likely result in a one-year loss of driving privileges with no work or hardship license allowed from Santa Rosa DMV (see example APS Refusal Notice), and more than one year if you have prior DUI suspensions, whereas the Sonoma County court suspension typically would be totally convertible into a restricted work license; in this case the DMV one-year suspension takes priority even though the Sonoma County court may dismiss the refusal allegation or otherwise allow a restricted license;
(5) Length of suspension in multiple priors cases: if this is not your first DMV suspension in the last ten years, then, except for the breathalyzer restricted license availability, the DMV administrative suspension is one year (more if you refused to give a chemical test) for any number of priors, but the Sonoma court-generated suspension increases to two years, three years, or more depending on the number of court priors; and
(6) Two different restricted work licenses: if your Sonoma DUI attorney resolves the Sonoma County criminal case in court first, and thereafter you obtain the work license from Santa Rosa DMV discussed in Tip #1 above, then usually DMV requires that you go back to the local DMV office to get a new restricted license after you are suspended again due to the administrative suspension (or vice versa). You should talk to your local Sonoma DUI lawyer about coordinating resolutions so that only one trip to Santa Rosa DMV is required.
Client comment: "The DUI Program said after I have DUI program enrollment and SR22 accomplished I can go to DMV in 3 working days to apply for a restricted license instead of waiting 30 days. I'll go next Wednesday."
Ryan's [pre-2019] answer to this client: "(Sigh) Yet another example for my website of wrong advice from the DUI program: remember that we started your DMV administrative suspension the same day as your conviction, but the administrative suspension hasn't been updated to your driving record yet; wait this first 30 days regardless of wrong advice from the DUI program, otherwise (1) you will be required to go to DMV twice to convert two suspensions separately, and (2) you may be caught driving on a suspended license if you are stopped between the dates when the administrative suspension is updated to your driving record and the date you receive notice of the new suspension in the mail. This myopic DUI program "advice" could have cost you a new arrest, impoundment of your vehicle, and a new court case for driving on a suspended license! Don't blindly follow DUI Program advice; wait the 30 days as we discussed."
Different Suspension Start Dates Beware allowing your Sonoma County court case to drag on far beyond any DMV re-imposition of suspension; if this happens you may find that your second restricted license, required after a court conviction, will result in additional months of restrictions as compared with the bare minimum restriction duration if you coordinate the start of both suspensions at once. Be sure that you thoroughly discuss this process with your Sonoma DUI attorney and that you are comfortable that the possible benefits of prolonging the court case outweigh the risk of a longer restriction period.
Similarities Between the Two Suspensions
(1) Santa Rosa DUI attorneys understand that as the agency in charge of drivers licenses, the DMV bureaucratically administers both suspensions and any restricted licenses. The DMV will send all of the license suspension notices to your address on record at the DMV (usually without clear information on which suspension is which, and with misleading information on what to do next).
DMV Mailing Address. Be sure you submit your current address to the Santa Rosa (or nearest satellite) DMV office 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. Additionally, copies of some of the DUI-related notices are sent to your Sonoma DUI lawyer.
Santa Rosa DMV Field Office:
(2) The same Santa Rosa DUI program drinking driver classes and the same SR 22 insurance filing, and if applicable the same IID breathalyzer installation, satisfy the same requirements to get both restricted licenses once you are eligible.
(3) If you win at trial in Sonoma County, or your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer obtains a factual finding of innocence on the specific charge of being at or over .08% (or .01% in under-21 cases), or otherwise obtains a "Helmandollar Acquittal," then your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will inform Sacramento DMV and win both court and DMV cases at once. Most likely, if the Santa Rosa DMV matter had already been decided against you, it may be overturned with such a win in the Sonoma County courthouse.
How Do You Know Which Suspension is Which?
Read the notices you receive (save them and ask a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer if you don't understand them). Your DUI attorney will explain that in a first DUI, if the duration of your suspension stated on the "Administrative Per Se" notice (first DUI) is four months, then this notice is referring to the Santa Rosa DMV's administrative suspension. If the duration is six or ten months, then this notice is the Mandatory Action "Order of Suspension" notice (first DUI) referring to the Sonoma court conviction-generated suspension.
If this is your second or higher DUI, and if the duration of your suspension on the "Administrative Per Se" notice (second DUI) is one year in a non-refusal case, then your Sonoma DUI attorney will explain to you that this is referring to the DMV's administrative suspension. If the duration is two years or more in a non-refusal case, then this notice is the Mandatory Action "Order of Suspension" notice (second DUI) referring to the Sonoma court-generated suspension.
The best way to avoid the DMV administrative suspension is to have a local Sonoma DUI attorney ask for the separate DMV administrative hearing in Santa Rosa within the allowable time, and then win the hearing. The best way to win the hearing is with a Santa Rosa DUI lawyer at your side who can address the issues which we know are most important to the DMV. These issues are not usually the personal or economic hardship issues which are most important to you, or the way you were treated by Sonoma County law enforcement, but rather, in most cases, what we know wins a case are the precise legal issues surrounding the legality of the law enforcement conduct, and the weight of evidence regarding your sobriety, and the accuracy and adequacy of the chemical tests and the police and DMV documents.
The Requirement. If you are convicted of a DUI or lose the DMV hearing, good Sonoma County DUI lawyers should warn you that you will likely be required to obtain an SR22 Insurance Policy from an insurance company to file with the DMV before becoming eligible for reinstatement of any kind of driving privileges. The typical required duration for an SR-22 in Sonoma County is three years.
What is the SR-22? Your Sonoma County DUI attorney should explain to you that this special form of insurance called an SR 22 is basically a promise from your insurance company to inform the DMV if you ever lose insurance; this is assurance, or a guarantee, from an insurance company to the DMV that you have insurance. Naturally, prior to this filing requirement, no one would have known whether you have insurance or not. The purpose of this new requirement following a Sonoma DUI conviction or DMV finding, is to empower DMV to suspend your license immediately upon you losing insurance or becoming uninsured. SR-22s are required for licensing several kinds of higher risk drivers, including those who suffer a DUI conviction or DUI-related license suspension in Sonoma County. For answers to many frequently asked questions about SR-22s, see CarInsurance SR22 Insurance FAQs.
How is the SR-22 Filed? The SR-22 must be filed with DMV before you can re-obtain driving privileges of any kind following most Sonoma County DUI convictions. Some insurance companies transmit the form directly to Sacramento DMV in a matter of hours after your request, and others take up to several weeks and actually mail the original to you for you to file directly with the Santa Rosa DMV. DUI attorneys see SR-22s in lots of different shapes and sizes. Click on the picture to see a sample SR-22 form, or the following links to see older versions of SR-22 forms: Sample SR-22 Form, Triple A's SR-22 Form, Allstate's SR-22 Form, Sample Electronic SR-22 Receipt.
How Much Does it Cost? Sonoma County DUI lawyers will tell you to shop around. The simple fact of a DUI should not result in cancellation of your insurance policy. Some aggressive companies may cancel you (see for example this State Farm Cancellation for a single DUI) but offer you a different policy with a subsidiary company, and regardless, many insurance companies offer insurance, and this SR-22 form, to people with one or more DUIs, but this may be a good time to shop for the most affordable insurance for your unique situation.
In addition, Santa Rosa DUI attorneys will tell you that we believe it is the insurance industry which caused this reporting and filing requirement; if you were not required to call your insurance company to ask for this special DUI form, then your insurance company often would not know that you suffered a DUI conviction, at least until policy renewal, and sometimes not for years, and your rates would not double or triple as depicted in the Insurancequotes.com statistics pictured here (partial thumbnail pic; click link to see comprehensive article and click pic to see larger table).
If you do not wish to inform your current insurance company of a DUI conviction, or your company refuses to issue an SR-22 until you jump hoops or unless certain conditions are satisfied, then you may wish to seriously consider contacting a knowledgeable but different insurance company that will issue the SR22 at the time you want it, such as Breathe Easy Insurance Solutions, Your DUI Solutions, John Macdonald Insurance Service, or Serenity Insurance, without immediately increasing your rates with your current company (these are not endorsements but resources to check out for SR-22s if you like the company, their explanations, fees, and service). At least one of the above insurance companies states they can often prevent any increase at all if properly timed.
You should discuss with your Sonoma County DUI attorney the timing and manner of complying with insurance requirements; it is possible to save thousands of dollars with respect to insurance rates and increases. In most cases, it is a serious mistake to blindly call your insurance company, or respond to a "cold call" SR-22 advertisement or mailer following a Sonoma DUI arrest, when there are "thinking outside the box" solutions to the dramatic insurance increases depicted above.
You can find additional information on our Sonoma DUI lawyer website about SR-22 insurance by clicking on SR-22 Resources and then clicking on links under "Insurance" including an FAQ search engine which contains an answer bank for many common insurance and SR-22 questions such as rate increases, multiple vehicles or insured parties, interplay with other types of policies, out of state requirements, etc.
Low Cost Insurance (not SR-22)
If you simply need insurance to get your driver license back, but you cannot afford insurance, then click here on California Low Cost Auto Insurance Program for information about Sonoma County's participation in the state sponsored low income insurance program. Note: this program does not offer the SR-22.
What is DUI Class?
If you are convicted of a DUI in Sonoma County or anywhere else in California, you will likely be ordered to complete a California-licensed drinking driver DUI Program ("DDP"), now simply called the "DUI Program." The best Sonoma County DUI attorneys will explain to you that the DUI program is a series of once-per-week, two to three-hour classes consisting of an "Education Curriculum" with videos, lectures and group discussions including resource materials on DUI law, court requirements, substance abuse and problem drinking. Extended programs for higher alcohol levels or multiple DUI convictions include additional individual and group counseling as well as community re-entry activities.
Classes are typically held morning, afternoon and evening most days of the week (see sample Sonoma DUI class schedules below); you may pick the day of the week and the time of day, and attend that same class weekly until completion. The court is required to order DUI program enrollment and completion in nearly all DUI cases (see "Court Probation" in Tip #6 in Sonoma County DUI Lawyer: Easing the Consequences of a DUI). Your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer should tell you that timely enrollment (typically within 21 days of a DUI conviction) and completion is required by the court in order to avoid an arrest warrant for failure to comply with sentencing orders after a case is over, and also required separately by DMV in order to regain driving privileges at the earliest opportunity.
Sonoma, Napa, and Marin counties each have only one DDP. Solano and Mendocino have at least two. Usually DDP'S have a waiting list to enroll, so if you wait too long then your required suspension period will be longer than necessary. If you are arrested for driving on a suspended license due to a DUI, typically the penalty risk is severe and expensive including a 10-day minimum jail sentence and loss of restricted work or hardship driving privileges. If you must attend the 18-month multiple offender program then you will discover that the Sonoma County DUI program has satellite programs in various outlying cities where you may complete the latter segments of the DUI program. For example the Petaluma location is 1360 North McDowell, and the Guerneville location is 16390 Main Street. Click here for Napa or Marin DDP information.
Online DUI Program Classes
Before the 2020 COVID pandemic, online classes were generally unavailable to California residents. An awesome Santa Rosa DUI lawyer like Ryan was able to obtain a rare online DUI program allowance from the court for certain kinds of cases or clients in certain situations (see, principally, "Non-California Residents" at the end of this discussion), but the California DMV did not recognize online DUI program enrollment or completion for purposes of reissuing a driver license following a DMV suspension due to a DUI conviction, and since most people prioritize getting their license back, the online program was not an option in most cases.
However, since the closing of DUI programs and the first re-openings following the onset of the 2020 COVID pandemic, a number of specifically licensed online DUI programs have been approved by the California DMV. Be sure to confirm a DUI program is licensed by the state of California and approved by the California DMV to provide DUI license suspension relief upon enrollment and completion, or else a license suspension might not be lifted. Click here for a partial list of known and Local Licensed Online DUI Programs (rev. 7/2020), and here for a listing of all California Licensed DUI Programs.
First Offenders Six-Week Wet Reckless Program (SB 1176): 12 hour Education Program. Note that this program does not qualify most drivers for early restricted license privileges (See Veh. Code Sections 13353.7, 23538(b)) unless, per Veh. Code Section 13353.2(e), your Sonoma DUI attorney also wins the separate DMV administrative hearing (Veh. Code Section 23103.5(e)).
First Offenders Three-Month DUI Program (AB 541): 30 hours Education Program and Group Counseling. This is the most common DUI program ordered for first offense Sonoma County DUI convictions (Veh. Code Section 23538(b)(1), H&S Code Section 11837(c)(1)).
First Offenders Extended Six-Month DUI Program (AB 762): 45 hours Education Program and Group Counseling. Many counties require this intermediate extended first offense DUI program for cases where alcohol levels were alleged at or above 0.15% (Veh. Code Section 23578).
First Offenders (and Multiple Offense Wet Reckless Offenders) Extended Nine-Month DUI Program (AB 1353): 60 hours Education Program and Group Counseling. This program is typically ordered for first offense refusal cases (refused to give chemical sample at time of arrest), or first offense cases where alcohol levels were alleged at or above 0.20%, and for DUI cases with prior offenses alleged where the new case resolves as a "Wet Reckless" (Veh. Code Section 23538(b)(2), 23103.5(f)(1), H&S Code Section 11837(c)(2)).
Multiple Offenders 18-Month DUI Program (SB 38): 78 hours Education Program and Group Counseling. The Group Counseling component of the program combines 52 hours of weekly group process sessions with individual interviews every other week. The final six-month phase of the program consists of the Community Re-entry component with one-hour group sessions once per month and four hours per month of community re-entry activity. This is the most common DUI program ordered for multiple offense Sonoma County DUI convictions (in other words, new DUI case with prior DUI conviction(s) within 10 years of new arrest--10 year period measured from arrest date of old case to arrest date of new case). (Veh. Code Section 23542(b)(1)).
Multiple Offenders 30-Month DUI Program (SB 1365): 30-months of Education Program and Group Counseling. This program is offered in very few counties (not Sonoma County or any other North Bay county) and may be a significant alternative to increased jail time in certain multiple offense DUI cases (Veh. Code Section 23548(b)).
Client Comment: Ryan, at enrollment they told me to sign up for the 9-month class because my alcohol levels were above .20%, and the DMV might not give me back my license after 30 days if I don't sign up for the longer class required by DMV, but after sentencing you told me to sign up for the shorter class. What should I do? Ryan's Reply: DUI program "counselors" often believe that it's up to the DMV which class you take, but the law authorizes the Court to make the decision which class is required for first offenders, not the DMV. In your case I was able to get the high blood alcohol allegation dismissed and the shorter class ordered, so even though your counselor says it would be safer to take the longer (more expensive) class, he is absolutely wrong in your case. Following his advice would have landed nearly twice as much money for the DUI program, and cost you three times the number of classes, so I'm glad you checked with your Sonoma County DUI lawyer before following his directions.
The best Santa Rosa DUI lawyers understand that timing is critical to getting your driving privileges back. Be sure you are eligible for your license to be returned on the first possible day. Typically, the best way to do this is sign up for the DUI program classes once a court or DMV-generated suspension begins. In Sonoma County, there is only one DUI program, located at 1430 Neotomas Avenue in Santa Rosa, just off Highway 12, one block before Farmers Lane deadends at Bennett Valley Road (see map below). Click here for Sonoma County's Santa Rosa DUI Program Website and click here for the Sonoma County Map And Court Flyer handed out at sentencing, and here for more information on the Lengths, Costs And Requirements (and see this discussion below for sample schedules). At enrollment, participants are typically asked to fill out and sign an agreement containing more scheduling and information. Click here for a Sample First Offender Agreement.
Click here for Napa or Marin DDP information. The DUI Program for Sonoma County is pictured below, followed by a map of the location for the office.
Enroll In Your Own County Of Residence
If you live or work in a county other than Sonoma, talk to your lawyer or the DDP program about transferring to the most convenient program, such as Ukiah, Napa, San Rafael, Vallejo, or one of many programs in San Francisco. Typically every county has at least one licensed program, and many counties have more than one program.
You can find early contact information on this site by clicking on Resources and then under "DUI Compliance" click on one of the DUI Program links. Sonoma, Napa, Marin and all the state-licensed DDPs are listed. You may also use the tool below.
The Restricted License
As discussed in Tips #1 and #2 above, if you had a valid California license prior to this Sonoma County incident, and you are age 21 or older, and you have never been arrested or suspended for an alcohol- related driving incident before, and there is no allegation that you refused to give a breath or blood sample at the time of Sonoma County arrest, then in most cases you may obtain a restricted IID breath machine license immediately, or a "work" license (allows driving to, from, and in the course of employment, and to and from the DUI program classes) in a misdemeanor DUI case after the first 30 days of the DMV suspension, once Santa Rosa DDP has confirmed with Sacramento DMV (by transmitting a Form DL 107) that you are already enrolled in DDP classes and once you have an SR-22 insurance document (see "Insurance" in Tip #3 above) on file with the DMV, an IID breath machine installed for an IID license, and pay the reinstatement fee at a DMV field office. Once you complete the DUI program, the Santa Rosa DDP will confirm completion with Sacramento DMV (by transmitting a Form DL 101), and assuming a valid SR22 and no other stops or suspension issues, a full unrestricted license is the final resolution.
Beware Driver License Stings: Do Not Drive to the DUI Program if You Don't Have a License
Any good Sonoma DUI attorney will tell you not to drive if you don't have a driver license. But Sonoma County law enforcement actually have funding to perform license stings on persons attending the DUI program classes discussed here.
Client comment: "The police did a sting after class last week and arrested anyone coming out of class who was driving on a suspended license and didn't have their restricted license. Maybe something you want to pass on to people. I would never drive to the class without first having the restricted license but I guess they arrested about 7 people."
Be prepared and know what you're doing. In Sonoma County you must sign up in Santa Rosa within 21 days of sentencing if you have not already done so. Take all of your papers when you go to enroll. Take a check for the initial fee. Before you enroll, ask your Santa Rosa DUI attorney which program length is correct, rather than relying on information or "advice" from the DUI program staff. You may risk DMV rejecting re-licensing or other bureaucratic messes by enrolling in the wrong DUI program without competent legal advice from a Sonoma County DUI lawyer. You must start classes within 21 days of enrollment. 9 CCR 9848. Programs are required to offer a sliding scale for fees depending on ability to pay. 9 CCR 9879. Programs offer monthly payments to accomplish the DUI program fee. Be sure to keep your Payment Receipt.
Client comment: "Ryan, I survived DUI class initiation. It's kinda funny that they said everything you said they would; it was scary. I thought a few times that they were going to deny me."
Client comment: "As you said would happen, when I went to sign up for the DUI classes I was told it didn’t matter how the court ruled in my case, it is what the DMV has as my BAC when I was arrested that matters...I just told the social worker I would check it out and only signed up for the three-month course." Ryan replies: In this client's case, the DUI program was absolutely wrong in its interpretation of applicable law, and, coincidentally, would have collected more money from my client if he had followed the misleading advice from the program official rather than the correct advice from his Sonoma DUI lawyer.
Client comment: "Thanks for the letter and the instructions on how to proceed. I went to my DUI orientation class yesterday...I believe I was the only person in a the very full room who had not lost their license. I sat next to a woman with a heavy Russian accent who told me a bit of her story. At the end I concluded that either [a] she had been taken advantage of and had a truly terrible lawyer, or [b] she was lying convincingly. I gave her your name in case it was the former but she said that it was a done deal. There were lots of people who asked questions indicating that they had been misinformed or underinformed by their lawyers. The DUI Program staff people stated repeatedly that DUI lawyers don't know the law around this and call them with questions every day. I have to say, I knew the right answers to any questions that pertained to my own situation, though I did not offer this information. Thanks for helping me through this. I have not yet but will definitely write a recommendation for you to post on your incredible website if you like. Your resource lists and links are so extensive and detailed, they would make a social service agency proud."
Be sure you can supply your Sonoma County Superior Court Case Number, and either the court order showing your referral, or a Form H-6 driver license history which you can obtain for a nominal fee at the Santa Rosa or Petaluma DMV prior to enrollment (always make copies to leave at home). You should be permitted to enroll as long as you bring these materials. (see, State Letter Re: Enrollment Documents). If you hired a Sonoma County lawyer to handle your DMV hearing, then typically the Santa Rosa DMV already sent a copy of your H-6 printout to your lawyer and you may ask him/her for a free copy. If there are further questions about your ability to enroll, call your attorney while you are still at the DUI program office so that you can properly and timely accomplish your enrollment while minimizing your stress and inconvenience.
Client comment: "After that they gave me a hard time about where I got my "H6" form and acted like it wasn't good enough. In the end, it worked. (I used the DMV record you emailed with my case # written on it). They were somewhat flexible on the schedule. For somebody like me it sucks no matter what... at least it will be over in 10 weeks. They also pushed out my first class a bit to help assure I'd have my restricted license to get me to and from the classes on my own. I just wanted to let you know, so you could share with other clients who may ask specific questions."
It May Be Smart to Arrive Very Early for the First Visit (First Offenders in Sonoma County)
For some people it is critical to get signed up the day that you go for your first visit. If your DMV administrative process (not court) resulted in a mandatory first 30 days suspension (most people), and that period is over or nearly over, then early DUI program enrollment will increase the likelihood of the DUI program filing proof of enrollment with DMV in time for you to be eligible for your restricted license right at the end of the first 30 days suspension rather than suffering more suspension time than required.
But the Sonoma County DUI program states that, "Only the first few people will have intake appointments the same day as orientation. The remaining individuals will schedule an intake appointment for a later date. You are not fully enrolled in a DUI program until you complete an intake appointment. A proof of enrollment certificate, required to obtain a restricted license, will NOT be issued to the DMV until you complete this appointment."
Good Santa Rosa DUI lawyers advise most clients whose first 30 days of the administrative suspension started more than two weeks prior to the first visit, to arrive at least 2-1/2 hours early (every county is different; this information is only known to be true for the Sonoma County DUI program). The number of people showing for enrollment varies day to day and week to week, and the number of people enrolled on a particular day varies as well.
Client comment: "I'm all set up with the SR 22 and am enrolled with DUI classes. Good thing you told me to show up 2 hours early - they only enrolled the first two people!"
Client comment: "Ryan, I got enrolled in the program and have the SR22 now. Thanks for the tip to get there early. I was #3 of 5 enrolled that day. I got there 2 hours early; I remember the next guy arriving about 20 minutes later and the last lady maybe 10 minutes after him. Most of them showed in the last 30-45 minutes. Total of about 27 people. Everyone else will be enrolled next week. Just nice to not have to go back."
Client comment: "Hi Ryan, I was the first to arrive for the enrolment, almost two hours early, and it was worth it. They only accepted 4 people for the intake and all others were going to be scheduled for after March 26 (three weeks later). I am now enrolled and also have an S-22. I expect to pick up my restricted license on March 12, in time for my first DPP class on March 15. As an aside, I'm glad I picked up the H-6 ($5) at the DMV. Just one thing less to think about while I waited.
Client comment: "Ryan, I think you asked that I let you know anything interesting about the DUI class. I arrived 2-1/2 hours early, at exactly the same time as two others. About 1/2 hr later, a fourth person showed up. About 45 min before "the doors unlocked," some lady came out demanding to know the first three arrivals. (She was a counselor there). Long story short, they took the first four out of about twenty, the first three arrivals being 2-1/2 hours early (the rest given an appointment weeks later, so depending on timing, their restricted licenses will undoubtedly be delayed). This would be most important information for those trying to get a restricted license right after their first 30 days expired and before the classes begin."
Note that this timing tip is only applicable to the Sonoma County DUI program; if you are enrolling in a different county, then it is best to check ahead for your selected program's enrollment practices, including allowable dates/times, whether appointments are available/required, what forms of payment are accepted, and other initial documents and requirements.
Schedule of Classes
The Standard First Offender ("3-month") DUI Program in Sonoma County typically consists of two hours of class and one hour of group meeting per week in Santa Rosa for ten weeks, plus one orientation meeting and one exit interview. A participant who successfully enrolls the first week at orientation (by being one of the first 4-8 people to arrive -- usually requires showing up at least two hours early) and begins classes the following week, can complete the program in 12 weeks (including the 15-minute mid-program interview) if there are no missed weeks.
Typical First Offender Class Schedule. The Santa Rosa DUI program is available in three-hour blocks of classes, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., weekdays Monday through Friday. The three hours consists of one two-hour "Education Module," and thereafter, one one-hour group meeting. Participants typically pick one three-hour block of time on a chosen day, and go to that class at the same time and day each week. The following link shows a sample set of available times during the week: First Offender Class Schedules (there there are at least two weekly sets available, and of course they change, so examine all of the current schedule sets at enrollment and then select your individualized schedule). Below are links providing examples of past client class schedules which they selected.
Click any link below to get a sense of how an individual schedule works by viewing actual past examples of Sonoma County's standard first offender DUI program class schedules, and then click the pic for recent weekly schedules (3/2019):
Example #1 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Mon Morning)
Example #2 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Mon Eve)
Example #3 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Tues Eve)
Example #4 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Tues Eve)
Example #5 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Weds Afternoon)
Example #6 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Weds Eve)
Example #7 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Weds Eve)
Example #8 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Thurs Morning)
Example #9 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Thurs Afternoon)
Example #10 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Thurs Eve)
Example #11 for 3-Month DUI Program Schedule (Fri Eve)
Typical Extended First Offender, and Multiple Offender Class Schedule. Click here for examples of Sonoma County's typical extended first offender 9-Month Class Schedule (Tues Eve), 9-Month Class Schedule (Weds Eve), and 9-Month Class Schedule (Weds Late Morning) for first offenders with over .20% blood alcohol or refusal cases; or the first year of a typical multiple offender 18-Month Class Schedule (Thurs/Fri Eve Including Guerneville), or another 18-month Class Schedule (Mon Eve in Santa Rosa), or 18-month Class Schedule (Tuesday Eve in Santa Rosa), or 18-month Class Schedule (Fri Eve in Santa Rosa).
Missed Classes. Approved absences are permitted: 2 for wet reckless program, 5 for first offender program, 7 for the extended first offender program, and 10 for the multiple offender programs. 9 CCR 9876. Absences must be made up prior to completion of the program. Participants may submit prior written requests for absences (unless unable to do so) for any of the following reasons: military service, work requiring travel, personal or family illness, incarceration, recovery, personal or family extreme hardship, or vacation. 9 CCR 9876.5.
Follow the Rules; You Can't Afford to be Terminated
The DUI program may dismiss participants for a variety of alleged failures set out in 9 CCR 9886. Although the Santa Rosa drinking driver DUI Program will normally work with you on necessary absences if you contact the program in a timely fashion (i.e. prior to the absence), still, the Sonoma County DDP and the rules they enforce can be tough. You must show up on time (they often close their doors at start time and do not allow late attendance). You will be turned away or your enrollment terminated if you have alcohol on your breath or are otherwise under the influence. However enrollment at the Santa Rosa office, and completion of their whole program, is mandatory to return your driving privileges to normalcy, so you should be prepared to follow the rules and meaningfully participate.
If you are terminated from the Santa Rosa DUI program, you should receive a termination letter. For example if it is alleged that you failed to attend or contact the program, then you may receive a Non-Contact Termination Letter from the Santa Rosa DUI program, or if you are terminated for having alcohol on your breath (9 CCR 9874), then you may receive a Sobriety Failure Termination Letter. In most cases, these letters are also transmitted to the court where a Judge will decide whether to call you in for a possible violation of probation or other action. Typically, the DUI program will simultaneously transmit to DMV a Dl 101a Notice Of Non-Compliance, which, in turn generally results in a DMV "Order of Suspension" Letter, etc. Contact your Sonoma County attorney promptly to see about a re-referral, especially if this is your second or higher DUI (Sonoma County does not typically allow calendaring a re-referral for a first DUI). Rules on re-referrals vary among counties. Sonoma County will re-refer some terminations with a simple over-the-counter request at the court clerk's office.
DUI Program Policies And Decisions May be Challenged
Sonoma County DUI lawyers understand that many DUI program staff and administrators are not as informed about applicable laws and regulations as they think they are; some of the most stubborn operators and staff have been encountered in North Bay DUI programs, but their often rigid practices and decisions may be modified or reversed by DUI lawyer intervention, sometimes with assistance from state regulators required to formally explain correct practices to intransigent programs. For example, according to 9 CCR 9876.5, you and your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer may be able to provide proof to the Sonoma County DUI program of a legitimate qualifying absence and apply for a retroactive leave of absence (prior to two years from the date of your last attendance (9 CCR 9886(f)), where the Sonoma County DUI program can correct a wrongful (or mistaken) termination and reinstate you in good standing with the DMV and court without you having to return to court. The state agency listed below may be contacted by your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer if the Sonoma County DUI Program is unresponsive in such a situation. Click here to see a list of the Regulations Governing DUI Programs, and here to see applicable Health And Safety Code Sections 11836-11838.
DUI programs are accountable in court, where their decisions may be challenged, and at the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), Substance Use Disorder Compliance Division, Driving-Under-the-Influence (DUI) Unit, which licenses and performs compliance monitoring on all DUI programs in California (located at MS 2602, P.O. Box 997413, Sacramento, CA 95899-7413, (916) 322-2964) where DUI programs are regulated by state administrators. Don't allow yourself to be intimidated or suffer unnecessary consequences of inaccurate advice from DDP staff who may not fully comprehend the applicable law, and who are not motivated by your personal circumstances. The DDP and the courts can make inadvertent mistakes, or set policies which focus on their own agendas, but which often may be clarified, corrected or challenged. Your attorney is the best source of legal advice in this area.
Client Comment: Ryan, my Santa Rosa DUI program counselor told me that while I am on my three years DUI probation, I am not allowed to transport alcohol, even in the trunk of my car. You never told me about this, is it true? Ryan's Reply: No, I'm glad you checked with your Santa Rosa DUI attorney; every case is different, which is why program "counselors" should not give legal advice which may not apply in your case. Although some DUI sentences in Sonoma County do include prohibitions on alcohol possession and use (typically multiple offense cases or first offenses with very high alcohol levels), most first offense sentences, including yours, do NOT prohibit possession (or transportation) of alcohol.
Client Comment: Hi Ryan, I hope all is well. I had a quick question about my terms of probation. During a recent DUI class an instructor said that as long as you are on probation you are prohibited from drinking alcohol under any circumstances. I'm curious if this is true as it does not seem to be indicated in my sentencing order. I'm wondering in the instance that say a friend is driving and is pulled over for a minor violation and the officer learns I'm on probation and asks if I had been drinking and I say I had, would this be a probation violation? Thanks for your time, just want to make sure I am following all terms. Ryan's Reply: Your DUI "instructor" is wrong on the law. Although all Sonoma DUI sentences should include prohibitions on any alcohol in your blood when driving, and some DUI sentences do prohibit alcohol use at any time (typically multiple offense cases or first offenses with very high alcohol levels), most first offense sentences, including yours, do NOT prohibit consumption of alcohol if no driving is involved, so you were absolutely right to check your own sentencing orders before believing such generalized statements of law, and very smart to confirm your suspicions with your friendly Sonoma DUI lawyer.
Client Comment: Ryan, my DUI class teacher claimed that since I now have a DUI, if I am in the car with someone who is pulled over and charged with a DUI, I will get another one. Is this true? Ryan's Reply: Your DUI class "teacher" is wrong on the law; aside from heightened penalties if you get a new DUI conviction, the only change in rules which you suffer after a DUI conviction is that during your three-year probation period only, you are not permitted to drive with any alcohol at all in your blood. But no one is ever subject to a DUI arrest as a passenger in a vehicle unless suspected of interfering with its operation (like grabbing the steering wheel). You can’t drink and then drive, but you can be a passenger with no personal criminal risk related to the conduct or condition of the driver. It's really dumb to suggest otherwise.
People are often told by DUI program staff they may not enroll in a DUI program until convicted of a DUI, or at least until the separate DMV Admin Per Se hearing process is completed. This is incorrect (see the Department Letter Re: Pre-Conviction Enrollment) and following such advice may lead to a longer driver license suspension period than required by law. With proper documentation (typically the DMV H-6 driver license printout which may be obtained for $5 by going to any DMV field office before trying to enroll in a DUI program) anyone may "self-enroll" without papers showing a court conviction or DMV administrative decision. The Sonoma County DUI program has a Program Waiver to facilitate early enrollment when there is some question regarding type of enrollment. If you receive any legal advice from a DUI program, or if you believe you were wrongfully terminated from the Sonoma County program in Santa Rosa, then contact a Santa Rosa DUI lawyer to discuss alternatives and remedies.
If you live in a state other than California, then talk to your Sonoma County DUI lawyer about the possibility of either waiving the program altogether, or "self-enrolling" in a DUI program (meaning that the court will not require any compliance date for enrollment or completion), or attending an equivalent program in your home state, or satisfying the requirement with an approved Online DDP Program for nonresidents only; online programs will not satisfy California DMV requirements to lift license suspensions, but may satisfy Santa Rosa Court probation requirements, so it is important to discuss options, consequences and solutions with your local Sonoma County DUI attorney before relying upon any other advice.
Sonoma County DUI attorneys encounter driver license suspensions in a whole lot of different circumstances. One of the most common is when someone gets a traffic ticket for a moving infraction (such as a cell phone or speeding ticket), equipment failure (such as a broken tail light or modified exhaust), or registration violation (such as expired tags). If a ticket is never addressed, or an arranged payment plan fails, then the court may place a hold on your license which can cause a DMV suspension of driving privileges. Trying to lift the hold and get your license back can be a nightmare. See, Ryan Quoted in Recent Press Democrat Article About Sonoma County Traffic Court and Ticket Suspensions. Clearly, DUI lawyers would suggest that the best way to avoid such problems is to deal with traffic tickets in a timely fashion before they become license suspensions.
Current (New) Traffic Tickets. Sonoma DUI lawyers know that traffic tickets may often be handled in a number of different ways. Read the back of your citation to obtain information about how to handle current tickets. Click here to see a sample of a CHP Citation & Promise to Appear and scroll down to the back side to read about options, or click on the Sonoma Traffic Court link below. Additional information can be obtained on the Official California Courts website, at Traffic & Ticket Basics. Typically you must wait until you receive a "Courtesy Notice" from the court before you will know the total bail (cost of ticket) imposed and the actual date by which you must make a decision to pay or fight.
A good Santa Rosa DUI attorney will tell you that most people would benefit by fighting a ticket if there are any viable defenses or one has the time to see if the arresting officer shows up at a trial in traffic court. Click here for Sonoma County's Traffic Trial Information Flyer, and here for the court website's List of Traffic Citation Options. Usually a traffic defendant may contest citations in writing without having to appear in court.
Click here for Trial by Declaration Instructions, and here for an approved Trial by Declaration Request Form fillable online. Understand that the court will send a request for statement to the traffic cop (see, Cop Form, and Officer's Statement). If you don't like the traffic court's decision, you may Request a New Trial in person within 20 days of the mailing of the bad decision. The court will send you a Notice of Trial granting or denying your request. An experienced Sonoma DUI attorney or other criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you write a persuasive declaration resulting in a Winning Result. For more information on traffic trials, see the Official California Courts website description of Traffic Trials.
If there are no defenses to a traffic ticket, or you do not wish to fight it, a Sonoma DUI lawyer will tell you that you may wish to elect traffic school during the time limit provided at the bottom of your original Sonoma County citation by asking for the traffic school alternative at the Sonoma County Traffic Court. Click here for an example list of Sonoma County's On-line and In-person Approved Traffic Schools (rev. 3/1/19), and here for the current DMV Listing of Approved Schools (you must independently confirm any specific school is approved by Sonoma County Traffic Court before you pay any fee or before you enroll), successful completion of which would result in no further points if so ordered by the court. This may help you to avoid any additional points which would cause you to meet or exceed the point limits. Discuss your specific situation with a local Santa Rosa DUI attorney.
In Custody Request to Dismiss. Santa Rosa DUI attorneys should tell you that if you are in custody in the Sonoma County jail, you may request a Dismissal of Non Felony Traffic Citations and Warrants from a jail deputy to fill out and submit while still in custody. Be sure to include all outstanding Sonoma County traffic matters for consideration by a judge. Such a request is granted or not in the interests of justice as provided in Penal Code Section 1385. Most Sonoma DUI lawyers understanding the difficulty of paying traffic fines or addressing traffic warrants from jail would advise incarcerated clients to examine this procedure as an efficient and justified method to clean up traffic court problems in order to re-obtain driving privileges after release.
Suspended Driver License. You may receive a Collection Notice with respect to unpaid fines. If your driving privileges are suspended due to unpaid traffic tickets (failure to appear--FTA--or failure to pay--FTP), then if you pay off the tickets, the Sonoma County court in Santa Rosa will release its hold on your license and you will be able to reacquire your driving privileges.
The county where you got the ticket while driving is the county which must lift its hold, not the DMV or your county of residence if you live outside Sonoma County. Each county which has a hold on your license for a nonappearance (FTA) or nonpayment (FTP) must be addressed separately. One of the most efficient methods for ensuring you fix every problem causing a suspension is to go to the Santa Rosa or Petaluma DMV office and ask for a long form H-6 driver license printout. Ask the counter clerk to circle each and every item causing a suspension, and the county where each item must be cleared.
Next, in Sonoma County it is usually best to visit the Courthouse Collections Office (or GC services, located next door to the traffic division, which is a private collection agency with the same policies and procedures as Court Collections), or you may call the Sonoma County Court Collections Division at 707-521-6659 (or GC Services at 800-295-4695), to determine the current status of your matters. Reference each citation number if you have documentation, but be sure to ask for a grand total of all matters including late charges, etc. All old cases (except unsigned citations which resulted in FTA) reside in either court collections or GC services, not traffic court.
Amnesty Program 2015-2017: Unpaid Traffic Tickets
The best Sonoma County DUI lawyers know that on June 24, 2015, Governor Brown signed into law an 18-month amnesty program, which allows individuals with past-due court-ordered debt (but not DUIs) to receive a reduction in the amount owed and reinstate their driver licenses. Click here for the Sonoma County Amnesty Program Participation Form to be presented at the traffic court or applicable court collections office.
The amnesty program, for unpaid infraction tickets or failures to appear with fine due dates or court dates prior to January 1, 2013, is part of an effort to allow individuals who cannot afford to pay accumulated fines on old traffic and non-traffic tickets to start making payments in order to lift license holds and begin driving legally again. Santa Rosa DUI attorneys will tell you that, in addition, the state will start to recoup some of the billions of dollars outstanding for old fines and fees, win-win situation.
Below is a summary of the 2015-2017 Infractions Amnesty Program. Be sure to click the official courts link at the end of this discussion for changes and updates to this program, and consult with a Sonoma DUI lawyer or traffic attorney regarding issues which may apply to your own unique situation before relying on this general program information.
Who can participate. Any persons eligible to have a driver's license, including undocumented individuals who are eligible for a driver's license under AB 60, are entitled to participate in the traffic amnesty program if they meet the eligibility requirements. There are two groups of people who can participate in the amnesty program: (1) Persons with unpaid tickets whose fines were originally due to be paid or had a court date on or before January 1, 2013, are eligible to have their debt reduced by 50 or 80 percent depending on income, and have their driver's licenses reinstated. (2) Persons who are currently making payments for unpaid tickets both before and after January 1, 2013, are eligible to have their driver's license reinstated but are not eligible for a reduction in the amount they owe on their payment plan(s).
People ineligible due to timing may still have their driver’s license returned, but will not have their fines reduced. Otherwise eligible persons may be excluded from the amnesty program if they owe victim restitution on any case within the county or have certain outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants.
What kinds of tickets are eligible. Any infractions will qualify for amnesty. Unpaid tickets and related failure to appear violations with an initial payment due date or court date on or before January 1, 2013, are eligible. Individual superior courts and counties may extend this program to include some misdemeanors. This amnesty program does not apply to parking tickets, reckless driving, and DUI offenses.
How new payment amounts are determined. Under the amnesty program, eligible participants will not have to pay any civil assessments or penalties which accumulated for late payment or nonpayment of past tickets. Once the civil assessments are deducted, the remaining balance owed will be reduced by 50 to 80 percent depending on income level. The discount will be 80 percent for those who can certify that they make less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level — $14,712 for an individual, or $30,312 for a family of four — or who receive public assistance. The discount will be 50 percent for all other eligible participants.
Procedure to participate. Beginning on October 1, 2015, contact the superior court in the jurisdiction(s) where you received the traffic ticket(s) to determine your eligibility to participate in the traffic amnesty program. People who are eligible for amnesty will not have to see a judge. Courts or counties are permitted to collect an amnesty program fee of $50 payable to the superior court or county. The Department of Motor Vehicles will also charge a $55 driver's license reinstatement fee as it does for any license reinstatement. Payment plan options will be available through the superior court or the county and the payments under the plan will be based on the ability to pay.
Although Sonoma DUI lawyers may complain that there's no legitimate reason to disallow DUI fines and fees to be eligible for relief in this program, nevertheless, the best Sonoma County DUI lawyers applaud any program which helps millions of Californians to re-obtain legal driving privileges so they can better support their families and accomplish daily necessities. For an accurate summary of the amnesty program, including the latest updates, click here for the official California Courts Website Amnesty Program description. Check the Sonoma County Traffic Court site for any updates. You may also find helpful information on the nonprofit website: Back on the Road CA. For a complete text of the larger bill establishing the amnesty program, see, Text of SB85.
Collection Problems and Unaffordable Late Fees (Outside or After the Amnesty Program)
Pending Court Matters. If you have a current criminal court case of any kind in Sonoma County (a serious case or another traffic ticket, or even just on probation for a past case), then the court has jurisdiction to hear you on these old matters, so you or your DUI attorney can try asking the Santa Rosa judge in the current Sonoma County case to examine your old tickets and dismiss some of them, and/or remove the late penalty fees assessed pursuant to Penal Code Section 1214.1, and set up a payment plan for the remainder of the fees so that you can afford to pay and successfully cause the removal of the Sonoma County hold on your license.
You or your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer can point out to the court that if you can drive legally, then you may not have as many legal problems in the future and you may be able to start getting your life back in order by addressing substantial personal challenges such as employment, child care, etc. If you are or were incarcerated, then you can ask the court for credit for time served to simply dismiss all of the tickets and release the hold on your license.
Failure To Appear. If you do not have a current court case but you receive a DMV Notice Of Suspension for failure to appear (rather than failure to pay after appearing) then usually you can arrange with the court collections department to pay one-half of the amount owed and obtain a payment plan for the remainder in exchange for the court lifting its license hold.
Failure to Pay. If you receive a DMV notice of suspension for failure to pay a ticket after appearing in court and promising to pay a fine, but you have a recognized reason for nonpayment within the allowed time, such as military service, incarceration, hospitalization, or death of a family member, then the collections department may lift its license hold if you can pay a satisfactory amount and arrange payments for the remaining owed. If you have a compelling reason not listed above, for example homelessness or drug addiction, then you may wish to consider writing a letter to the judge as described below, to ask for the same arrangements. You should consult with a local Sonoma County DUI attorney about your specific situations.
If you are suspended for failure to pay after appearing in court, and you are able to afford the original bail amount of the tickets, then you may wish to consider paying that amount at the Santa Rosa courthouse and petitioning the Sonoma County Traffic Court to waive the late penalty fees on any remaining totals pursuant to Sonoma County's Local Rule 8.12. This approach typically works best when you have a recognized valid reason for nonpayment within the allowed time, such as military service, incarceration, hospitalization, or death of a family member. Any compelling hardship reasons should be included in such a petition to the Sonoma court, including economic and family hardship.
Click here to see an example of such a court request with the Sonoma County Petition, the Napa County Petition, the Solano County Petition, and the Mendocino County Petition to dismiss accumulated late fees and penalties.
Letter to the Judge. You may wish to write a letter to the Sonoma County traffic court judge in Santa Rosa to ask for leniency due to extraordinary circumstances which prevented you from appearing or paying in a timely fashion. A succinct, well-written letter which acknowledges responsibility and presents compelling reasons for nonpayment and offers an affordable payment plan may accomplish the reduction of a substantial amount of your accumulated total or even dismissal of tickets and release of your license. A Sonoma County DUI lawyer can help with such a letter.
You may obtain contact information on this site for the Sonoma County courts and the traffic, fines and collection departments in Santa Rosa by clicking here on Sonoma County Traffic Court, or click here to get specific collections answers to Frequently Asked Collections Questions.
Failure to Pay Judgement in Traffic or Accident-Related Lawsuit
The best Sonoma DUI attorneys will tell you that a related "failure to pay" suspension involves a driver license suspension for someone who failed to pay a judgement awarded by a court in an action described in Vehicle Code Sections 16370-16381. Typically, a judgement creditor (presumably the person or entity whom you owe money) submits a Form DL30 to DMV swearing to certain facts about the judgement debt. Click here to see an example of an "Order of Suspension" describing the DMV action, the judgement and certain options. You can explore obtaining payments on a judgement as described in Section 16379 to get rid of the suspension, or explore obtaining a restricted license as described in Section 16072 to alleviate the hardship of a suspension. This section is included here because Sonoma County DUI lawyers confront all kinds of license suspensions.
Failure to Pay Child Support
Under California law, parents required to pay court ordered child support must pay on time and in full. If the payment is late or is not paid in full, the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) can suspend or withhold a California driver (or other) license, pursuant to Family Code Section 17520. When the parent required to pay child support is 30 days or more delinquent, their name is submitted by DCSS to the DMV for suspension of their license. DMV sends a letter giving the parent 150 days to work with DCSS to pay their past due support. If payment isn't made, the driver license suspension is imposed on the parent.
Further, if a notice of intent to suspend has been sent to the same parent in the past, the parent's license will automatically be suspended when a child support payment is late again or not paid in full. If your driver license has been suspended due to non-payment of child support, you may call your local child support agency to discuss a possible license release by re-establishing payment arrangements. You can find the location of your local child support agency by clicking on Local Child Support Agencies, or by calling: (866) 901-3212. A Santa Rosa DUI attorney can help direct parents with these issues to the appropriate agency to help get their license back.
Failure to Pay Taxes
Starting in January, 2012, the California State Board of Equalization and the Franchise Tax Board publish lists of the the 500 largest tax delinquencies. Persons and entities appearing on these lists are subject to driver (and other) license suspensions pursuant to Business & Professions Code Section 494.5. Successfully negotiating and resolving issues with the applicable tax authority results in lifting of any suspension imposed.
- 6. Too Many Negligent Operator Points
- 7. Physical & Mental Health Suspensions
- 8. Senior Driver Suspensions
- 9. Minors With DUI Suspensions
- 10. Commercial Drivers With DUI Suspensions
Drivers accumulate DMV bad driver "negligent operator" points when cited for certain vehicle code violations in Sonoma County. Most traffic citations are assigned one point, but major violations (such as a DUI or driving on a suspended license) are typically assigned two points. You can see which are two-point violations by reviewing 12810 VC. Typically you receive an Advisory Notice and then a Warning Letter from the San Francisco or Sacramento DMV as you approach the presumed negligent operator status of 4 or more points in 12 months, 6 or more points in 24 months, or 8 or more points in 36 months for most adults (12810.5 VC).
You may obtain more information about the points system by clicking here on DMV Bad Driver Points.
Although a Class A or B commercial driver without a special certificate (such as hazmat) may be allowed 2 additional points, a violation received in a commercial vehicle carries 1-1/2 times the point count normally assessed (12810.5(b) VC), and commercial drivers must ask for the same hearing discussed below to present the defense of commercial driving and ask for the additional points allowance, assuming that the trigger points were obtained while driving commercially.
A minor, under 18 years old, may receive a 30-day restriction for 2 points in 12 months, or be suspended for 3 points in 12 months (12814.6(b) VC). Click here to see an example of a juvenile driver's Provisional License Notice of Restriction and Intent to Suspend.
As with any governmental hearing, a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer can be extremely helpful guiding you through the process, especially since we work with the same type of process daily with DUI suspensions, and other types of driver license suspensions such as physical and mental suspensions, too many bad points suspensions, lack of skill suspensions, and other similar administrative proceedings at the DMV.
Before Points Are Assessed: the Traffic Court Hearing & Traffic School
Challenging a Traffic Citation. Consult with a local Santa Rosa DUI lawyer about the possibilities of fighting a traffic ticket to avoid further points on your record and spare you the risk of too many points and a negligent operator suspension.
According to the Sonoma County Traffic Division, if you wish to contest your citation, you may plead NOT GUILTY by using one of the following methods:
(1) Post the amount of bail stated on your courtesy notice with the Declaration of Intent to Plead NOT Guilty and Request a Trial Date with the Court before the citation due date; you will be notified by the Court of a Court Trial date with the officer present; or
(2) Request a written Trial by Declaration by posting the bail amount stated on your courtesy notice with the Request for Trial by Written Declaration (TR-205); read the Instructions to Defendant before filling out the form and filing it with the Court, and pay the bail and file declaration before the due date listed on your courtesy notice; or
(3) Request a Court Trial by appearing in Walk-in Court.
Be sure to speak with a Sonoma County DUI attorney comfortably prior to the citation due date before making any decisions. You may find excellent self-help resources on how to fight effectively fight a traffic ticket by going to Ryan's DUI Resources section, or click on How to Fight Traffic Tickets.
Traffic School Alternative to Conviction/Points. If you have no realistic defenses to a traffic ticket, you may wish to elect traffic school during the time limit provided at the bottom of your original Sonoma County citation by asking for the traffic school alternative at the Sonoma County traffic court, or Sign up Online. Click here for a list of Sonoma County's Home Study (on-line) and Classroom (in-person) Approved Traffic Schools (rev. 3/1/19) (a current list of approved schools should be sent to you by the court upon payment, so you should always independently confirm the latest locally authorized schools before enrolling), successful completion of which would result in no further points if so ordered by the court. This may help you to avoid any additional points which would cause you to meet or exceed the point limits. The DMV provides an online listing of All Kinds of DMV-Licensed Traffic Schools.
You may be eligible for traffic school if you have a valid Class C (non-commercial) California Driver License, your violation is only a one-point infraction unrelated to alcohol/drugs use/possession, not a speeding tickets greater than 25 mph over the posted limit, and you did not receive a citation within the last eighteen months for which you have attended traffic school, or are currently assigned to attend traffic school. Discuss your specific situation with a local Santa Rosa DUI attorney.
Effective July 1, 2011, California courts must report traffic safety violations as convictions. If the driver is eligible and completes a Traffic Violator School (TVS) course, the conviction will be masked on the driver record. The driver record will be checked to determine a driver's eligibility to participate in a TVS course. A TVS conviction will not be masked if there is a prior TVS dismissal/conviction within the previous 18 months, or if the conviction is a major (2 point) violation, or if the driver holds a commercial driver license or was operating a commercial vehicle, at the time of the violation (see, DMV Policy Statement).
If you encounter problems with a traffic school you picked, you may file a complaint about a traffic school by clicking here for the DMV Traffic Violator School Complaint Form & Instructions. And you may click on the next link to find more information about the locally approved traffic school process to avoid additional points on your DMV driving record: Sonoma County Traffic Court.
Other Options. If you have already lost your license due to too many points, the only way to re-obtain your driving privileges prior to the expiration of an imposed suspension may be to seek help from a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer to obtain a court dismissal of one or more prior citations that caused the points on your driving record. This is particularly true if you were on DMV probation already and picked up yet another Sonoma County citation thereafter.
If the Sonoma County court is willing to dismiss past traffic tickets (usually when your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer can effectively show compelling personal situations or offer to resolve everything pending in court at one time) then typically we can go back to the Santa Rosa DMV and argue that your points reduction compels returning your license.
After Points are Assessed: the Suspension Notice & the DMV Hearing
If you are not successful avoiding points due to convictions in court, and you reach or exceed the limits described above, then usually you will be sent a letter of reexamination or suspension from San Francisco or Sacramento DMV (click here to see a real example of a DMV Order of Probation and Suspension) which provides you the opportunity to have a hearing (sometimes called a "311 Hearing" or a NOTS Hearing). Sonoma DUI lawyers nearly always advise individuals to immediately request such a hearing within the allowable time listed in the notice in order to preserve your right to fight to keep your driving privileges before your right to fight expires. The hearing may be held at the Santa Rosa or Petaluma DMV hearing office where one may contest the planned adverse action, or explain any extenuating or mitigating circumstances or unfairness (including any evidence that you were not at fault in an accident resulting in any of the points, or that a recent Sonoma County DUI resulted in 2 points which pushed you over the allowable totals but you were otherwise a long-time good driver, etc.), and explain that you understand the danger and illegality of breaking traffic laws, and how you intend to address and stop such violations in the future.
Typically you will be asked how long you have been driving, if you have any pending violations not reflected on your current Sonoma County driving record, where and how many miles you drive in a typical week, and whether you drink alcohol. Your Santa Rosa DUI attorney will explain to you that a restricted "work" license, or probation (a promise of no more violations for a certain period) are alternatives to an outright suspension.
If you and your Sonoma County DUI lawyer are effective in this hearing, then you may avoid or shorten an interruption of driving privileges. See here an example of a Successful DMV Decision Ordering Probation Only, and see here an example of an Adverse DMV Decision Imposing Six Months Suspension.
Normally it is advisable to request any hearing offered to you within the stated time given to request such a hearing. Hiring a lawyer is not necessary but having a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer by your side during a hearing in Santa Rosa or Petaluma will help you to understand, and effectively address, the issues which are important to the local DMV. Do not ignore DMV notices or the opportunities they provide to avoid or lessen the consequences of past conduct. An attorney may not be able to help you if you wait too long.
In most cases such as demonstrated in the example of the notice above, you will be suspended by DMV for 6 months and placed on probation (no more traffic violations at all) for one year. You may obtain information on exactly what the DMV considers at a hearing, and what options are available, by clicking here on DMV Negligent Operator Guidelines.
NOTS Probation Violation Hearings
Typically hearings set to contest a pending suspension due to a driver already on probation who accumulates another violation point (called "450 or 451 NOTS Probation Violation Hearings") are very difficult to win in any sense because the only permissible issues are whether the driver was on probation, and whether the driver violated that probation by obtaining an additional point. Clearly, a Sonoma County DUI or DMV attorney would increase chances of success in such hearings, either by winning the hearing, or by softening the consequences of an adverse decision by lessening the suspension period or obtaining other concessions. Click here to see an example of a DMV 450 Decision.
Why the Suspension?
Because we deal with the DMV so often, Sonoma DUI lawyers see lots of different types of suspensions, including those that arise out of medical conditions. Sometimes medical emergencies, or other physical or mental episodes, or unexplained or unskilled driving behavior will result in loss of driving privileges. Typically this occurs when police, doctors, or other professionals comply with their legal obligation to inform DMV if a condition or behavior appears to affect your ability to safely operate a vehicle. Often this process begins with a Sonoma County police officer serving on you a DS427 Notice of Reexamination. Sometimes you don't get served with anything personally, but a suspension letter or one of the forms listed above just arrives in the mail. Often in these situations it is a treating physician who contacts the DMV about you, rather than law enforcement. See, generally, Driver Safety Information Medical Conditions and Traffic Safety.
A reexamination may be a "Priority Reexamination" or a "Regular Reexamination," depending on which box is checked on the front of the DS427 form above. A priority reexamination is generally indicated when the alleged condition or behavior is perceived by the reporting party as more severe, presenting an increased or immediate safety risk if continued driving is permitted (see Vehicle Code Section 21061). If the "Priority Reexamination" box is checked at the top of the DS427 form, then the driver only has a short amount of time (five working days) to contact DMV to arrange for a hearing and gather information and supporting documentation to contest a pending license suspension (see Vehicle Code Section 12819). More information about the reexamination process may be found online at DMV's Reexamination Process - A General Guide for Drivers Required to Appear for a Reexamination, or on the printable DMV's Reexamination Process Fact Sheet.
Typically licensees who have been served with such a notice by a police officer will receive a DS2010 Notice of Reexamination, with instructions, from the DMV within days of the driving or medical incident, informing the driver that an appointment must be made for an interview to discuss the allegations. Sonoma DUI lawyers can explain this process to a driver, and even sit in on this interview, but are not permitted to represent the driver unless the DMV decides to take an adverse (suspension) action after the interview. In many cases, hiring a Santa Rosa DUI attorney at this time may be very beneficial, especially if an adverse ruling is possible or anticipated, so that the driver has an informed lawyer familiar with the case from the very beginning.
Alternatively, or in addition, or following the reexamination interview discussed above, you may receive a DS2439 Notice of Physical/Mental Condition Suspension, or following an unfavorable medical report or unsuccessful new written and/or drive test you may receive a DS2439 Notice of Lack of Skill Suspension, stating a reason for the DMV's action and your rights to contest a suspension in an interview or hearing. Although the Santa Rosa DMV recognizes that these kinds of conditions are not usually your fault, still, a hearing may be required, not to make you defend anything per se, but rather to determine if your continued driving may be a hazard to the safety of you and those around you, and what kinds of options you may have to re-obtain all or essential driving privileges.
As with any DMV notice, it is critical that you read and understand the contents of anything served upon you by a Sonoma County peace officer or anything you receive in the mail from DMV. Discuss any notices with a local Santa Rosa DUI attorney (good DUI lawyers regularly work with DMV law and are often the best source of advice and assistance even when your matter does not involve a DUI). Be sure that the DMV has your current mailing address. Be sure that you act prior to any deadline for contacting DMV. Talk to a local Sonoma County lawyer such as Ryan immediately if you don't understand the process. Obviously, in these circumstances it is important to act quickly to remedy the condition if possible, or demonstrate adequate modification or accommodation which resolves concern for unsafe driving, or prove there is no legitimate driving-related concern.
The Medical Evaluation Form
Nearly every medical condition hearing in Santa Rosa is driven by an all important medical evaluation form. One of these may have been the initial reason for a current suspension. A Sonoma County DUI attorney will likely advise that a driver who is subjected to the Santa Rosa DMV's scrutiny typically must obtain a new medical report (now, or after a waiting period) from the original or primary treating physician which reflects the absence, elimination or adequate control of the condition which is causing DMV scrutiny.
You can fill out the medical evaluation online, print it to provide to the relevant original or main treating physicians, then be sure to get it back directly from your doctor(s) to complete yourself with supporting materials and send to a Sonoma County DUI lawyer for review. You or your local Santa Rosa DUI lawyer should generally review the report prior to use at an informal interview or formal hearing in Santa Rosa in order to ensure the timing is right and that the evaluation is fair and consistent. This type of DUI attorney review of the doctor's comments may often prevent an unnecessary continuing suspension if the form was completed inaccurately or illegibly by the doctor.
It can take weeks to get the form completed, and schedule a Santa Rosa DMV hearing, so it is usually important to start this process as soon as you become aware of formal DMV proceedings. Click here for the form: DS 326 Driver Medical Evaluation.
Typically you will receive a notice of reexamination stating that you have an opportunity to present evidence as to your ability to drive. Usually it is imperative that you respond within the required time by asking for a hearing in Santa Rosa and then presenting any evidence, including the proper, fully completed DMV medical forms, to show your condition does not affect safe driving. A local Sonoma County DUI lawyer can help you through this process with the least possible stress.
You may be denied reinstatement of your license if there has not been adequate time or information to evaluate your condition. If you are denied reinstatement at the Santa Rosa or Petaluma hearing office, typically you may request a new hearing or interview once adequate time has elapsed and you have new or more responsive or complete evaluations which show your condition no longer affects safe driving.
Typically if the written medical evaluation is satisfactory to the Santa Rosa DMV, you will be required to take a special drive test and/or written test to confirm your driving and cognitive skills.
Alternatives to a complete suspension may be appropriate and worth exploring with a Sonoma DUI lawyer, such as a restriction to daytime or limited driving (see Vehicle Code Section 12818).
Click here on DMV Physical & Mental Hearing Guidelines for additional information on what the Santa Rosa DMV considers in these types of hearings. Many conditions and considerations are listed.
Although California does not restrict drivers because of their age, nevertheless drivers who are 70 years or older must renew their licenses in person, must take a written test and must have their vision checked. General information regarding seniors and the DMV may be found on the DMV's website here: Senior Driver Information.
Sometimes an encounter with law enforcement or other situations may cause Sonoma County law enforcement to issue a DS427 Notice of Priority Reexamination (usually for alleged medical incidents), or see older 2004 version, or a DS427 Notice of Regular Reexamination (usually for alleged lack of knowledge or skill incidents). A concerned relative, friend or caregiver might have completed a DS 699 Request for Reexamination. In these situations, typically an informal telephone "reexamination" interview is conducted by a DMV driver safety hearing officer to determine if certain facts justify a suspension. It is always advisable to contact a local Santa Rosa DUI lawyer or DMV defense attorney to discuss the nature of this interview and how to approach and prepare for this first stage of the process.
The Santa Rosa DMV hearing officer will complete a DS 2124 Driver Safety Report recommending a suspension, or set aside (removal of suspension) or another action. If the decision is suspension, then the driver typically receives a DS2439 Notice of Physical/Mental Condition Suspension, or a DS2439 Notice of Lack of Skill Suspension, which indicates that the driving privilege has been suspended as of a certain date and that the driver has a certain amount of time to request a formal hearing to challenge that suspension. If you are notified of such a reexamination, you should consider hiring a Sonoma County DUI attorney to request a hearing in Santa Rosa within the time allowed for such a request so that you may have the opportunity to explain why the decision was unjustified, and ask for the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to drive safely.
As with medical suspensions, the Santa Rosa DMV recognizes that your age and any need to sharpen safe driving skills are not your fault, and so these hearings are not meant to punish you or set you up for failure. The DMV wants everyone to maintain driving independence for as long as possible. But as our population ages, Sonoma County DUI lawyers know that, as with DUIs, accidents caused by driving error continue to make headlines (see for example: Sonoma Crosswalk Accident Heightens Focus on Elderly Drivers), so police and the Santa Rosa DMV are increasingly pressured to act aggressively to promote safety, the singular focus of any DMV interview or hearing. This is an opportunity to show you are not a hazard on the Sonoma County roads.
And as with any governmental hearing, a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer can be extremely helpful guiding you through the process, especially since we work with the same type of process daily with DUI suspensions, and other types of driver license suspensions such as physical and mental suspensions, too many bad points suspensions, lack of skill suspensions, and other similar administrative proceedings at the DMV. As a Santa Rosa DUI attorney, Ryan has defended numerous seniors in license hearings at the DMV.
Often such a hearing will result in the opportunity to take one or more drive tests and a written knowledge test so that you can show safe driving and adequate cognitive ability. You may be tested annually thereafter.
Improve Your Chances of Success
The Santa Rosa DMV tests for certain identified indicators of safe driving when testing the elderly (such as performing merges into traffic, changing lanes and backing up), so a specialized practice and training course designed just for seniors and their unique challenges may minimize the chances of later disappointment. You may wish to examine the DMV Senior Guide for Safe Driving to study many common issues senior drivers face.
The best Sonoma DUI lawyers know that senior drivers can be among the safest operators on the road because of sheer experience, nevertheless, you may wish to consider reviewing the general written test handbook (click here to see the DMV Handbook) and taking a driver training course specializing in teaching the elderly safe driving techniques that may be more difficult to perform in later years, or may have been forgotten over the years. You may wish to study the Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation Guide too. In most cases, the DMV will facilitate a senior taking a refresher driving course by issuing a Special Instruction Permit which allows driving with an instructor in the vehicle until the next drive test is taken. See "AARP Driver Safety Program Training Better Drivers," and click here to find Local AARP Classes, and click here to find more DMV Approved Mature Driver Improvement Programs. Click here to read Ryan quoted in the neighboring Napa Register newspaper discussing the importance of refresher courses and seniors keeping their licenses.
The most experienced Sonoma DUI attorneys will encourage you to think about how the test can be best taken: most drivers have certain times of day and certain areas of town in which they are most comfortable. It is always best to schedule your Sonoma County tests at times and in places where you are most able to demonstrate your skills rather than in unfamiliar or less comfortable conditions. For example, if you live in Santa Rosa, it would probably be best to practice driving all around the Santa Rosa DMV and don't schedule your drive test in Petaluma. If you're usually sleepy after lunch, schedule your test in the morning.
A local Sonoma County DUI lawyer can be very helpful in senior driver suspensions to literally hold your hand during the re-examination hearing in Santa Rosa or Petaluma, and to help obtain a provisional license to take a refresher course and to address the precise issues of concern to Santa Rosa DMV.
Click here on DMV & Senior Drivers to obtain detailed information on how the DMV approaches senior drivers.
The Critical Need Restricted Drivers License
If you are under age 21 and lost your license due to a first DUI or zero tolerance case, then you may wish to consider applying for a critical need license to drive in Sonoma County if you believe you can adequately show the court and the Sacramento DMV that public transportation in your area of Sonoma County (or other area of residence) is not adequate to accomplish your transport to and from work or school or you are the primary means of transporting a family member to medical appointments.
The legal authority for the DMV to order a critical need license is contained in Vehicle Code Section 13353.8, and for the court to order a critical need license, in Vehicle Code Section 13202.5. Because courts rarely make a specific order of suspension at sentencing, and because the analysis for a successful critical need application is the same for both the DMV and the courts in most cases, only the DMV application is discussed here.
It is often extremely helpful to ask a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer to provide and review this application so that eligible minors may minimize the possibility of a rejected application. A Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will be able to ensure that the entire application is completed, including all required signatures from parents, school officials, employers and/or doctors.
Santa Rosa DUI attorneys review applications to be sure that there is adequate supporting information which we know the Sacramento DMV office looks for, such as bus schedules, supplemental explanations, and additional documentation of any kind which may support the application.
Improve the Chances of Being Approved
Make no mistake: the best Sonoma County DUI lawyers will tell you that the DMV only grants under-21 restricted licenses for truly critical need, rather than simple inconvenience or disruption. So it may be necessary to establish the grounds for this special license by getting a job and/or enrolling in school in order to increase the chances of readily qualifying for one of the specified categories permitting the limited license. The number and severity of Sonoma County transportation hardships involving conflicts between school and employment increase the chances of being approved, particularly when coupled with inadequate or completely impractical family/public transportation alternatives.
Click here to browse local college classes at Sonoma State University, and Santa Rosa Junior College, and Empire College. You may also wish to consider applying for a building trades apprenticeship. Click here for comprehensive list of available California Apprenticeship Programs, or here for the Building Trades Apprenticeship Website, including contact information. Some apprenticeship programs are available in Santa Rosa and surrounding Sonoma and Napa County, such as cement masons, electricians, operating engineers, plumbers & refer mechanics, and sound & communication. Another viable option may be Santa Rosa's Redwood Empire Beauty College, or click here for information on the Culinary Institute of America St. Helena campus.. Quantity and quality of school and employment transportation hardships or conflicts increase the chances of being approved, particularly when coupled with inadequate or completely impractical family/public transportation alternatives in Sonoma County.
To get this critical need license, you must be able to demonstrate that alternate and public transportation are inadequate to travel to work and/or school, and, although Sonoma County transit is actually adequate in many areas (click here for Sonoma County Transit Schedules), you may be in a better position to qualify for a critical need license if you live in outlying areas of Sonoma County such as the Russian River, Bodega, Occidental or Sea Ranch, or even more rural areas where public transportation is remote or nonexistent and a combination of work and school requirements may necessitate your continued driving following a DUI arrest and conviction.
The Application Form
The critical need application form can be filled out online, then printed, then completed with supporting materials, and sent to a Santa Rosa lawyer for comments, reprinted if necessary, and finally, obtain signatures and mail to the proper Sacramento DMV office.
The form usually takes at least two weeks to prepare and complete, plus attorney review time, and at least a week or two for the Sacramento DMV to consider, so it is usually best to start this process as soon after determining the one-year DMV suspension is likely. Even if the application is approved, one must still suffer the mandatory first 30 days suspension, so around the start date of the 30-day suspension is often the best time to start and complete the application process. Click here for the under age-21 form: DS694 Application for Critical Need License.
More Tips for a Successful Application
Understand the application before starting. Your Sonoma DUI lawyer understands and can explain precise DMV guidelines for approval set forth in the California Code of Regulations, 13CCR118.00. Next, study the application carefully to understand how it is organized and layed out, and what is expected in each section. Complete it fully, or else you risk delay when the DMV returns it for incompleteness. Sonoma County DUI lawyers typically advise clients that all applicable sections must be fully completed, including all boxes, dollar and hours blanks, etc. DUI lawyers often advise using extra paper to fully explain answers if needed, rather than providing short, half-hearted explanations.
Write it to impress those who will read it. Santa Rosa DUI lawyers often advise to be mindful of who will read the submitted application and thus mindful of the eligibility requirements at all times. This is not an application to avoid substantial, or perhaps even severe, inconvenience to the applicant and/or family, but rather a sworn statement under penalty of perjury that the applicant has a truly critical need to drive for which the applicant's family depends upon the applicant financially or medically, or for which the applicant depends for his/her own financial support, or to attend school in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County or elsewhere.
Inadequate public transportation and inadequate alternate family transportation are a required part of each area of need for which one may qualify. Therefore it is very, very important to be sure to fully address this fundamental requirement. Review the Tips above under "Improve The Chances."
If an applicant lives by him/herself in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, or elsewhere, and his/her income is essential to support him/herself (rent, food, energy and phone bill, repairs, etc) then typically the DMV will treat the applicant as his/her own family unit to qualify on page one of the application. The financial information in such cases would typically be the applicant's rather than the parent(s).
The license is not for driving during work. Note that the DMV typically does not allow this type of restricted license for driving during the course of employment, just to and from employment. Therefore it is likely that the DMV will automatically reject an application which includes an assertion that driving is required during a job.
Be sure to get all required signatures. The application pictured here (confirm the latest revision of your form is the same) indicates a place where the applicant and parent must sign at the end of Section I (on page two just above Section II) and either physician, principal and/or employer must complete their applicable Section(s) on page 2 and then sign in Section V. Regardless of which revision you are using, it is always true that blanks or missing signatures are likely to result in delay due to a returned application and further effort on the part of the Sonoma County applicant.
Consult with a lawyer first about your individual circumstances. These Tips are almost always given to clients, but they are not legal advice because they are necessarily generalized for this discussion. Your individual circumstances may vary and actual legal advice which is tailored to your specific life situation may be different for you. Therefore it is always best to hire a Sonoma DUI lawyer for a reasonable fee, such as Ryan, to review your entire situation and give you the best advice to confirm your eligibility and maximize your chances of obtaining driving privileges from the DMV during a suspension due to a pending or recent Sonoma County DUI.
Tougher DUI Laws
The best Sonoma DUI attorneys will explain to you that California law changed in 2005 to comply with federal mandates tied to highway grant money, so that most commercial drivers (Class A or B licenses, or endorsements) now face a mandatory one-year loss of commercial driving privileges upon conviction for a first offense Sonoma DUI or DMV suspension. Vehicle Code Section 15300. A driver with a second such incident or combination of certain other convictions likely faces lifetime loss of commercial driving privileges if convicted of a new DUI in court, or suspended by Sonoma DMV, or both, if the prior date of arrest was after September 20, 2005. Vehicle Code Section 15302.
Restricted Noncommercial License
Most commercial drivers who suffer the one-year loss of commercial privileges may elect to obtain a restricted Class C license during this period, but then the commercial license may be re-obtained only after successfully re-applying and passing all of the written and drive tests again, and resubmitting all required documentation (whereas waiting out the one-year suspension without obtaining a Class C license during that time typically would allow a driver to simply resume his/her commercial privileges without re-qualifying).
Although most drivers can obtain a restricted Class C license under the same eligibility guidelines as other Class C drivers, your Santa Rosa DUI attorney should explain to you that there is no hardship exception for Class A or B commercial privileges during the one-year commercial suspension following a Sonoma DUI, even in the most compelling situations of personal or economic catastrophe. See the rules and procedures for obtaining a restricted Class C driver's license in most cases in this section under Tip #1 and Tip #2, above.
The best way to avoid such a suspension is to hire a local Santa Rosa DUI attorney to try to beat the DMV, and beat the Sonoma County court case or obtain a reduction of criminal charges. Typically you and your Sonoma DUI lawyer must win both the DMV case and the court case to completely protect your commercial driving privileges.