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Understanding DMV

DMV will suspend and revoke licenses for a variety of reasons. These actions usually stem from incidents which the Department thinks will pose a risk to public safety. Court convictions or problems while driving are usually sufficient for DMV to start seeking a suspension. Additionally, some suspensions are a result of failing to perform certain duties. Specifically, failure to appear in court or failure to pay a fine or child support can result in a suspension. DMV personnel are professionals whose job is to suspend and revoke licenses. DMV Lawyer can help you understand how the system works and provide information about the best course of action to take to reinstate a suspended driving privilege.

Not Sure Why You Are Suspended?

We can research your status at DMV and explain your options. Whether you are suspended for failing to appear, lack of insurance, class requirements, medical conditions, lack of skill, or too many points, there are certain steps you must take to get your license back.

Legal Updates

Traffic School

For violations occurring on or after July 1, 2011, California courts started reporting a traffic school citation as a conviction on a driving record instead of a dismissal. If the driver is eligible and completes a traffic school course, this conviction will be masked on the record. Once a conviction is masked on the record, it will not become unmasked nor assessed a violation point.

A TVS conviction will not be masked if:

  • There is a prior TVS dismissal/conviction within the previous 18 months.
  • The conviction would result in a violation point count of more than one point.
  • The driver holds a commercial driver license or was operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the violation.

Sufficiency of Blood Alcohol Evidence at DMV

Two cases have recently discussed blood alcohol evidence at DMV hearings. Borger v. DMV held that "a defense expert's conclusion that there is a margin-of-error inherent in a blood alcohol level scientifically measured with an Intoxilyzer 5000, an approved Department of Motor Vehicles breath testing device, may not be used to defeat the legislative determination that a person who drives wit a reported blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher will suffer suspension of the privilege to drive." - March 2011

However, Brenner v. DMV held that "Although the arresting officer's testimoy and plaintiff's BAC results were sufficicient to establish the Department's prima facie case, plaintiff presented evidence that the instrument used to mesure his BAC produced results that were higher than the accurate values. Plaintiff thus rebutted the Departments's prima facie showng with evidence that the recorded test resus were inaccurate. Accordingly, the burden shifted back to the DMV to prove by preponderance of evidence that the test results were reliable." - November 2010

Ten Year Revocation

Driving Under the Influence (AB 1601/Hill) Effective in January 1, 2012, this bill authorizes a court to order a 10-year revocation of the driver license of a person convicted of a third or subsequent DUI violation, with possible reinstatement after five years if specified conditions are met

New Interlock Device Law for DUI Convictions

A pilot program will begin July 1, 2010, in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties. It will require an interlock device to be installed for first time and repeat DUI offenders anywhere from five to 48 months. - March 2010

Breath Tests

The California Supreme Court has held that breath tests may be attacked on the grounds that they could be in error for a percentage of the population. This does not affect the crime of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. It only applies to the charge of driving while impaired. PEOPLE V. TIMMIE LANCE McNEAL - July 2009

Vehicle Searches

Overruling previous decisions allowing police to search a vehilce whenever they arrest an occupant, the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. Gant held that police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to a recent occupant's arrest only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest. - April 2009

Texting Law

Starting January 1, 2009 a new law went into effect where writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication while driving will be against the law for all drivers in California. This new law applies to electronic wireless communications devices used to manually communicate with any person using text-based communication, including, but not limited to, communications referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail. Violating this law is punishable by a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. With the addition of penalty assessments, fines can be more than triple the base fine amount. - October 2008

DMV Continuances

At a DMV hearing, the hearing officer may continue the case to compel the testimony of an officer to establish that he was on duty at the time of a vehicle stop. The court held that such a continuance was supported by good cause because it was not reasonably anticipated that the respondent would object to the officer's written statement on the basis that it was not established that the officer was on duty at the time of the vehicle stop. - July 2008

  • Bussard v. Dept. of Motor Vehicles (2008) 164 Cal.App.4th 858

Suspensions For Boating Violations

DMV had been taking automatic suspensions of the driving privilege for boating under the influence convictions. Now, the Second Appellate District has said that DMV was not interpreting the law correctly by taking the suspensions. The case is not final but it looks as though under current law the suspensions are not valid and should be recinded. - June 2008


Old out-of-state DUIs are causing suspensions. DUIs from other states have been just recently added to California driving records. This means that people who have been driving legally in California for years are suddenly becoming aware that their licenses have been suspended retroactively. Some suspensions have been backdated as much as 10 years. There are solutions to this problem. Sometimes the privilege can be reinstated by showing that the driver had a valid out-of-state license at the time of the offense. In other cases, an alcohol class must be completed. - May 2008

Last Updated: March 28, 2013.