California License Suspension

June 16, 2022 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

California License Suspension

Each state has its own strategies for keeping the roads safe. Some reward safe drivers, some punish unsafe drivers, and some do both. 

California relies on strict car safety laws to keep dangerous drivers away from their vehicles. A negligent or reckless driver can have their license suspended if they do not follow the rules. As a California motorist, you should understand why your license could be suspended, how long it may be suspended for, and how you can take steps to have it reinstated. 

Can My License Be Suspended for an Accident?

A car accident alone does not mean that your license will be suspended. No matter the severity of the accident, you may be able to keep your license after the crash. It should be noted, however, that what matters is what happens after the accident.

The main goal of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is to keep drivers safe and ensure they are following traffic laws. The DMV is the government office in charge of regulating licenses. It can revoke or suspend your license if you are caught driving unsafely.

Reasons a License May Be Suspended After an Accident

More often than not your license suspension will come down to the damage you cause. If you cause death, bodily injury, or property damage greater than $750, you may be looking at a suspension of some kind. Especially if you also engage in one of the following behaviors listed below.

  • Driving under the influence (DUI): Your license will be suspended for six months if you get a DUI conviction. California has very strict DUI laws. If you get another DUI conviction, your license can be revoked for two to four years. 
  • Driving without insurance: If you are in a car accident and have no car insurance policy, your license will automatically be suspended. Regardless of the severity of the accident, you will typically have your license suspended for four years. If you prove to the DMV that you have obtained insurance after the accident, you may be able to begin driving again within only a year. 
  • Failure to pay a citation:– If you receive a ticket from an officer at the scene of an accident, but do not pay it or show up in court to argue it, your license may be suspended.
  • Failing to report an accident – You must report an accident, even if it is a minor one. Failure to notify the proper authorities could lead to a license suspension.
  • Refusing to take alcohol or drug test: When an officer arrives at the scene of an accident, they may suspect that drugs or alcohol were the cause of the crash. If they ask you to submit a test, your license can be suspended if you refuse. Even if you are not at fault, and even if you are not under the influence of a substance–if you refuse the test your license could be suspended. 
  • Reckless driving: In severe cases you may have your license suspended for being a reckless driver. This means you cause harm or injury to another person by breaking traffic laws or ignoring the rules of the road. 

How Many Points to Suspend a License in CA?

California also uses a point system to track drivery safety. The point system is meant to emphasize the value of safe driving and punish those who disobey necessary rules. An individual receives points for illegal maneuvers performed while the car is moving (speeding, running stop signs, etc.). 

When a police officer issues a ticket or citation for a moving violation, they are also assigning points to your license. If you pay the ticket, you accept those points and they will likely stay on your license for three years. 

Speeding over 100 mph and similar points will last on your record for seven years. For even more extreme violations, such as driving on a suspended license or DUIs, the points will last 13 years. 

If you accumulate a certain number of points in a specific time period, the California DMV will automatically suspend your driver’s license. Your license will be suspended for 6 months if you receive the following:

  • 4 license points in 1 year’s time
  • 6 license points in 2 years’ time
  • 8 license points in 3 years’ time

If you meet any of these limits, the state of California will consider you a negligent operator. A negligent operator is not allowed to drive a motor vehicle until they are further deemed suitable by the DMV.

The DMV will warn you in advance when your license is close to suspension from points. When you are two points from suspension in a given time period, you will receive a level one warning letter. And when you are one point from suspension in a given time period, you will receive a notice of intent to suspend.

It’s important to mention that only the DMV can suspend your license. Lawyers can help you fight suspension but they cannot take your driving privileges. Insurance companies can refuse coverage or raise rates, but they also cannot take your driving privileges. They can, however, report driving information to your local DMV that could result in a driving suspension. As such, be careful what information you share with insurance companies and opposing attorneys after a vehicle accident. 

How Long Does a Suspended License Last?

Until you can prove that you are a safe driver, you will lose all driving privileges if your license is revoked. However, if your license is suspended, after a set amount of time—and after meeting any other requirements—you will be able to get your driver’s license back. 

If you have a suspended license in California for unpaid tickets, the suspension will last until you resolve the issue. If you go over the allowed number of points, your California license will be suspended for six months. If you are the cause of a severe accident for one reason or another, your license can be suspended for any amount of time from 30 days to several years.

How Long Does a Suspended License Stay on Your Record?

You will always be able to see if your license has been suspended, but specific violations may be taken off your record after a set time depending on their severity. For example, a single DUI charge only stays on your record for 10 years. During this time it can be viewed by law enforcement and the DMV. After 10 years, you can ask to have it removed.

How to Reinstate a Suspended License in California

The ways in which you can get your suspended license back depend on the reason you lost it. If you were convicted of a DUI, you will need to complete the suspension period, pay a fee, and take a DUI treatment program. 

The higher your blood alcohol content (BAC) was at the time of the DUI, the longer your suspension period and program will be. There may also be additional requirements if you caused injury, death, or significant damage while under the influence.

If you lost your license from being in an accident without insurance, you will need to complete the mandatory suspension, pay a reissuance fee, and prove financial responsibility before you can get your license back. If you are required to purchase additional insurance coverage, the insurance company will be required to file form SR-22 with the DMV as proof. 

If you lost your license because of a physical or mental condition, you will need to provide information indicating that the condition no longer affects your ability to drive and provide an adequate Driver Medical Evaluation (DS-326) form. 

If you lose your license after failing to pay a citation or appear in court, you will need to follow through on those requirements and pay a reissuance fee to the DMV. 

Can a Driver Challenge a Suspended License?

If your license is suspended, you can request a DMV hearing to get the suspension set aside or challenge a negligent operator status. The request must either be made within 10 days of the suspension notice or 14 days after the date the notice was mailed. 

These DMV hearings are different than criminal hearings for the following reasons:

  • Criminal hearings are held in court, DMV hearings are held at the DMV.
  • Criminal hearings are in front of a judge, DMV hearings are held in front of a hearing officer.
  • Evidence standards are less strict in a DMV hearing.

After a DMV hearing, the officer can set aside a license suspension, place the motorist on negligent operator probation, suspend the driver with a restricted license, or follow through with the full suspension. 

Driving Without a License in California

If your license is suspended, do not operate your motor vehicle. The punishment for driving without a license can further prevent you from being a legal motorist. Not to mention the ramifications if you get into an accident without a valid driver’s license. Accidents with unlicensed drivers are complicated and stressful for all parties involved. 

Find a Reliable Bakersfield Car Accident Law Firm

For more information on California car accidents, check out our auto accident FAQs

If you have a pretty good idea of your circumstance and need assistance pursuing damages from an unlicensed driver or battling a license suspension after an accident, reach out to the Bakersfield car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark. We understand California state law and will do whatever we can to help you.