How to Reinstate a Suspended California Drivers License
Estimates from a AAA Foundation-sponsored study show that roughly 10% of drivers don’t have a valid license. Within that group are people who have had their licenses suspended. In California alone from 2006 to 2013 the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspended over 4.2 million licenses due to unpaid court fines. Thousands more were suspended for various other reasons.
It’s easy to forget a motor vehicle is a piece of heavy machinery that can do serious damage. When a person fails to prove they’re a safe driver that can obey the rules of the road the state DMV or local court may issue a license suspension.
Keep reading to learn why California licenses get suspended, what happens when a suspension order is laid down and how to get a license reinstated.
What Leads to a Suspended California Driver License
The California state DMV will suspend a license for a number of driving offenses. The top reasons people get a license suspension in California include:
- Driving under the influence (DUI)*
- Failing to pay court fines
- Failing to show up to a court hearing
- Failing to pay child support
- Habitual offense (repeating the same traffic violation)
- Felony involving a motor vehicle*
- Hit and run charge*
- Vehicular manslaughter conviction*
- Fleeing and evading police*
- Not having auto insurance
*Serious offenses can lead to an immediate license suspension. See the California DMV Driver Handbook for a list of all offenses that could lead to a license suspension.
License Suspension and Your Driving Record
One of the most common reasons people get their license suspended is point accumulation on their driving record. From the moment you get your license your drive record begins. Anytime you commit a traffic-related offense points will be added to your record. The points stay on your record for a specified number of years and can add up. Accumulate too many points and you’ll get slapped with a suspension.
If you get just 4 points in 12 months, you’ll receive a 6-month suspension.
But errors on your driver record could also trigger an unwarranted suspension. Another common issue is points being added for a traffic ticket that was dropped in court or dismissed because you completed traffic school. It’s just one more reason to check your California driver record periodically.
What to Expect If Your License is Suspended
If the DMV or a court deems a person to be a negligent operator the license suspension will go into effect. All driving privileges will be withdrawn for a specified period and you won’t be able to legally operate any type of motor vehicle. The severity of the suspension will depend on the reason it was issued.
A suspension could be short-term, which is the case if you fail to appear in court for a traffic violation. Until you appear your license could be suspended as a way to motivate you to show up. The same applies for failure to pay a fine or child support payments.
However, if you have a license suspension for point accumulation or serious traffic violation here’s what to expect:
- Your driving privileges will be suspended anywhere from 1-12 months.
- For suspensions due to point accumulation, the driver will receive an Order of Probation/Suspension from the state DMV. The suspension will go into effect 34 days from the date the order is received.
- Drivers who receive a suspension due to points will also be on probation for a year.
- As a part of the suspension you may be ordered to take driver courses. For example, a DUI conviction comes with a six-month license suspension and the driver must enroll in a driving-under-the-influence program.
- Serious offenses, such as evading a police officer, typically include jail time along with the license suspension.
- You may be issued a restricted license that can only be under certain circumstances.
- You may have to pay for a new non-driver id card.
- Depending on the reason for the suspension, the court may order that an ignition interlock device be installed in your vehicle.
If you violate the suspension orders or commit another traffic violation your license could be revoked entirely.
Getting Your California License Reinstated
Having your license suspended isn’t the end of the road of the majority of drivers. It’s possible for most drivers to get their California driver license reinstated. The license reinstatement process varies depending on the reason for the suspension. Drivers should contact the CA DMV for guidance.
Typically, reinstatement will include:
- Completing any mandated suspension, program and/or prison sentence.
- Visiting the local DMV office with necessary documentation.
- Provide proof of insurance.
- Paying the reinstatement fee.
- Paying any applicable court fees.
Getting a Restricted License
While waiting for your license to be reinstated, you may be able to apply for a restricted driver license if your license was suspended for a DUI or failure to have auto insurance. However, you’ll have to wait until the 30-day mandatory suspension period has passed. To receive a restricted license:
- Enroll in a DUI First Offender Program (if convicted of DUI) and file a Proof of Enrollment Certificate (Form DL-107)
- Visit your local DMV office to apply for a restricted license
- Show proof of financial responsibility (SR22)
- Pay any reissuance fees
This license can only be used for limited purposes that are outlined by the CA DMV.
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