When people are arrested for a DUI in California, many make the mistake of  focusing on the legal problem:  How to fight the charge in court, or how to  get the DA to drop the charges, or how to minimizing the sentence. But when you’re arrested for a DUI in California, you have got to fight a two-front war: First on the administrative front, and then on the legal front.

The administrative battle happens at the DMV. Not at the courthouse.

The danger is in forgetting about the separate, parallel administrative battle.  But once you get arrested for a DUI in California, you’ve got to take administrative action right away.

Look at Your “Pink Sheet.” 

If you got arrested on suspicion of DUI in California, the police should have given you a little pink piece of paper. Take a good look at it. That’s your Notice of Administrative Action and Temporary License.

Read the fine print. Right away. It’s important.

In fact, ignoring the information in the fine print on this sheet of paper can have potentially life-altering consequences for you and your family. None of them good.

Let’s go over what your pink sheet says:

1.) The California DMV will automatically suspend your drivers license 30 days after the arrest. 

Not the conviction. The arrest!

It’s an administrative suspension. So the state doesn’t need a conviction or court order to do it. They just do it.

The wheels of justice are already in motion.

They don’t care about guilt or innocence. They don’t care about you. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. And there’s only one way you can stop them. And you have to act fast.


2.) You can stave off that automatic suspension. And continue to drive, at least for a while. But only if you formally request an administrative hearing within 10 days of your arrest. 

Too many people spend too much time licking their wounds after getting arrested, and not taking positive action. Thinking they have time. Or concentrating on getting their car back. You don’t have time.

If you spend 2 days in jail after the arrest and you’re just reading this after you get released, then two of those ten days are already gone!

If you blow that 10-day window, then your license is automatically suspended. And it’s much more difficult costly to get a suspended license reinstated than it is to prevent the automatic suspension of the license to begin with.

Meanwhile, lots of people can’t get to work without a driver’s license. And even if they can, many people need a valid license to do their jobs.

If you get your request to the DMV within the 10-day winds, you can continue driving until the hearing date. Which might not be for months.

That gives you critical time to keep driving, keep working, and formulate a plan for what you’ll do if you aren’t able to get the charges dropped, dismissed, plead down to a lesser offense, or get a not guilty verdict.

Meanwhile, you can keep working, keep supporting your family if you need your license to work, and generally get on with life, pending the results of the legal case.

What happens when you miss the 10-Day deadline?

If you miss the 10-day deadline for putting in your special hearing request, your license will automatically be suspended. If you’re pulled over while operating a motor vehicle in California, you’ll be arrested again, and cited for driving without a license.

How long is my license suspended after a California DUI?

The length of the automatic suspension varies, but can range from of four months for a first offense, a year for a second DUI offense, and up to several years. In some cases, your license can be automatically suspended for life.

  • Are you over or under age 21?
  • Is it your first offense?
  • Did you refuse a breathalyzer or field sobriety test? 

If you get an administrative license suspension, you may not get it back automatically, even if the DA drops the charges, and even if you are found not guilty at trial.

Remember, the administrative battle is separate from the legal battle. The DMV and the courts don’t talk to each other very well. You have got to take positive action with the DMV right away  after getting arrested for DUI in California.

How to request a DMV hearing after a California DUI arrest

First, call the Office of Driver Safety for the county where you were arrested. This might be different from the county you live in. (Out of state residents, you might need to complete a 1650 waiver packet. Click here for more information.)

Give them your name, citation number, license number, and other information. Then you need to specifically request three things:

1.) A hearing.
2.) A stay on the automatic suspension of your license pending the hearing,
3.) Discovery. This forces the state to provide you or your lawyer with copies of the police report, breathalyzer reports, and other documents they’ll be relying on to prosecute you.

Have a copy of your pink sheet and your citation with you when you call.

DMV Hearings and Your Attorney.

If you don’t have an attorney, then you’ll have to request the DMV administrative hearing yourself.

If you have your own private lawyer representing you (it’s dumb not to!) they should be taking care of this for you. Any lawyer who regularly handles DUI cases knows this process inside and out. If they’ve never taken a DUI case before, you might need to find a different lawyer.

Your attorney can also represent you at the DMV hearing (ask in advance whether your attorney does this. This might have a lot to do with where your attorney practices. An out-of-county attorney or “DUI Mill” law firm might not have the resources.

If you have a court-appointed public defender, they probably will only do the legal stuff, and won’t be able to help you with the administrative work with the DMV.

How to Get California SR22 Insurance

If your license is suspended, the state may require you to obtain an SR22 from an insurance company. This is a form your insurance company files with the DMV, verifying that you have the state minimum liability insurance in place, and verifying that they will inform the California DMV if your insurance lapses – which would result in a prompt re-suspension of your license, should it occur.

Click here for more information on getting California SR22 insurance.

Further Reading

California SR22 Insurance

How To Avoid California 30-Day Vehicle Impound

California Non-Owner SR-22 Insurance 

California Ignition Interlock Device Laws