How to Reinstate a Suspended California Drivers License
If you think driving without a valid license is rare, think again. Estimates from a AAA Foundation-sponsored study showed that roughly 10% of drivers don’t have a valid license. The majority of the people in that group have had their licenses suspended and technically shouldn’t be driving.
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 will issue a license suspension.
In California, drivers license suspensions are fairly common. A person’s driver license can no longer be suspended due to unpaid court fines, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) still suspends thousands of licenses every year.
Keep reading to learn why California licenses get suspended, what happens when a suspension order is laid down and how to get a drivers 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:
- Conviction for driving under the influence (DUI)
- Not reporting an accident
- Underage alcohol consumption
- Not having auto insurance
- Refusal to take drug and/or alcohol test
- Too many points on your driving record
- 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
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 driving record begins. Anytime you commit a traffic-related offense points will be added on your record. The points stay on your record for a specified number of years and can accumulate. When you accumulate too many points 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 an approved California 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 and length 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 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 California 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.
Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your California License Reinstated
Having your license suspended may be a major pothole that you have to work around, but it isn’t the end of the road for the majority of drivers. It’s possible for most drivers to get their California driver license reinstated as long as they follow the proper procedures.
Step 1. Wait Out the 30-Day Mandatory Suspension Period
There are possible ways to work around the suspension, but you won’t be driving the first 30 days. There’s a 30-day mandatory suspension period that you have to get through first.
If you think that a suspension isn’t warranted you can request a hearing with the DMV within 10 days of receiving the Order of Probation/Suspension. The hearing will not determine whether you are innocent or guilty of a moving violation, but the DMV may agree that the license suspension should be reversed for the time being.
Step 2. Look Into Getting a Restricted License
While you’re waiting out the rest of the suspension, 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.
To receive a restricted California drivers license:
- If convicted of DUI: Enroll in a DUI First Offender Program 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 re-issuance fees.
This license can only be used for limited purposes, like driving to work or school. All the driving parameters will be outlined by the CA DMV.
Step 3. Complete the Stipulations of the Suspension
When you get a suspension it takes more than waiting it out for a certain number of months. Depending on the conviction you may have to pay fine, do community service and attend drivers ed courses.
Step 4. Make Sure Your Have Up-to-Date Auto Insurance
You won’t be allowed to reinstate your drivers license without first showing proof that you have up-to-date, valid auto insurance.
Step 5. Submit the Required Documents at the Local DMV Office
You’ll need to make a trip to your local DMV office to submit the reinstatement paperwork. You’ll also need to submit an SR22 document showing that you have valid auto insurance.
Step 6. Pay the Required Fees
The final step to getting your California drivers license reinstated is paying the applicable fees. The fees can vary depending on the charge, but they’ll include the $14 reinstatement fee.
The license reinstatement process varies depending on the reason for the suspension. Drivers should contact the CA DMV for guidance regarding their specific case.
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