You just got pulled over for your first DUI. What does that mean? Well, you need to know some very important information to prevent long-term consequences.
Entities Involved in a DUI Arrest - The Criminal Court & DMV
First, you need to understand that there are two separate entities in California that you must contend with after a DUI arrest. The first is the criminal court. The second entity is the Department of Motor Vehicles. The criminal court handles the criminal consequences associated with a potential conviction for a DUI. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) handles the potential consequences associated with your privilege to drive. These two entities are separate and do not coordinate with one another, so it is essential that you understand what each agency does and the long-term consequences that may occur. Oftentimes, the DMV penalties associated with driving may outweigh the court penalties you receive after a DUI. This is why it may be beneficial to hire an attorney to represent you for each hearing.
DMV & the Notice of Suspension
When you are arrested on suspected DUI, the officer issues you a Notice of Suspension and a temporary license. You may drive for 30 days from the date of that order or revocation provided your driver’s license has not expired, or your driving privilege has not been suspended or revoked for any other reason. But this is only a temporary license. You or your attorney must schedule a hearing with the DMV within ten days of the arrest to have a hearing. If this does not occur, your license could be suspended for an extended period of time.
The DMV suspension of your driver’s license is in an immediate administrative action taken against your privilege to drive in California. This is called Administrative Per Se (APS). Any sanction imposed by the DMV under this administrative action is independent and separate from any court-imposed jail sentence, fine, or another criminal penalty if convicted in a California criminal court. Additionally, if the DMV sets aside the administrative action against your driving privileges, this does not affect the criminal portion of your DUI arrest. You still must appear in court regarding the criminal charges. The vital thing to remember is after a DUI arrest, you must make a DMV appointment to schedule the APS hearing within ten days of arrest.
Criminal Court Process
The second agency is the misdemeanor criminal court. At the time of your arrest, the officer issued you a notice to appear in court, often 30 days from the date of arrest. The criminal court process is separate from the DMV administrative process. The misdemeanor criminal court procedure begins with an arraignment hearing. Sometimes, at this first hearing, the district attorney will be provided an “offer” to plead guilty. If you have retained an attorney, they may advise you on the benefits and consequences of a guilty plea.
If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced and provided with probation terms and conditions of your sentence. However, you also have the ability to take the matter to a hearing where the officer will be required to prove you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Oftentimes an attorney can assist you in defending yourself and mount a legal defense that could reduce or even eliminate the conviction.
DMV After Criminal Court
It is important to remember that after the court process is completed, you still must coordinate with the DMV in regard to the status of your driver’s license. If you were acquitted of DUI charges in court, you must contact the DMV to ensure the reversal is completed regarding the suspension of your driver’s license. The DMV will determine if the court decision, in fact, equals an acquittal and your driver’s license can be restored.
If the court reduces your DUI charge to what is commonly known as “wet reckless,” it is still considered driving under the influence by the DMV, and your driving privilege may still be suspended. You are able to coordinate with the DMV to get a restricted license to drive to and from work.