Top Ten Tips > Getting Your License Back After a DUI

1. The DUI Suspension From Court

Ukiah Mendocino County Court

Two Different Suspensions Result From a DUI.

The best Mendocino DUI lawyers understand that a DUI usually results in two different driver license suspensions. Many people will never know or care about the differences (including most attorneys and judges), but if you try to resolve your case quickly then the bureaucratic rules created by two very different suspensions can be very confusing and cause unintended consequences. You have to address and resolve each suspension in order to be sure your driving privileges are restored at the earliest date. To understand these two different suspensions, compare the information on the court suspension here in Tip #1 to the separate DMV administrative suspension described in Tip #2, and then review the SR-22 info in Tip #3 and the DUI classes info in Tip #4.

Client comment: "I do want to thank you for all your help. I couldn't have done this on my own, as much as I wanted to. I went to the DMV today and received my restricted license. Most of the people in my DUI program were surprised to find out their court suspension and DMV suspension were two different animals and have subsequently been [unnecessarily] off the road for up to 9 months in some cases. So thanks! You rule!"

Many people may find Jake's flow chart to be an easier way to begin to understand the parallel but different DMV and court processes. If you get confused with the discussion below, then click on Anatomy of a Mendocino County DUI.

In addition, laws relating to mandatory suspensions due to court convictions may be found in Vehicle Code Section 13352, or for minors: Section 13352.6 (or for juveniles: Section 13352.3) and Section 13202.5.

Laws relating to the parallel administrative suspensions due to separate DMV actions may be found in Section 13353.3, and for refusal cases in Section 13353 and Section 13353.1.

Laws relating to restricted licenses may be found, for first offenses in Section 13352.4 and Section 13353.7, and for second offenders in Section 13352(a)(3) (or third offenders, in Section 13352(a)(5)), and Section 13352.5, and Section 13353.3, and for minors in Section 13353.8, and Section 13202.5.

The latest complex 2010 and 2012 law revisions allowing conversion of DUI license suspensions to early DUI restricted driving privileges for multiple offenders may be found here: SB598 (for converting one-year suspensions or longer license revocations into 3 or 6-month suspensions followed by ignition interlock restricted license), SB895 (adding SB598 license to separate DMV administrative suspension scheme), and AB520 (adding Wet Reckless multiple offenders). Good Mendocino County DUI lawyers will explain all of these new laws to you, yet another reason to have access to a competent Ukiah DUI attorney.

If you and your Mendocino County DUI lawyer are unable to win your case, the court is supposed to tell you at the time of sentencing, but most judges don't, that a Ukiah DUI conviction results in a mandatory suspension of your driver license by the DMV. This suspension is different than the DMV's separate administrative suspension. Your Ukiah DUI attorney should explain that this suspension which results from a Mendocino court conviction is administered by the DMV but caused by, and governed by what happens in the Ukiah courthouse, whereas the DMV administrative suspension (discussed in Tip #2 below) can be imposed separately by DMV even if you and your Mendocino DUI attorney win in Mendocino County court or criminal charges are dropped by the Mendocino County prosecutor.

First you need to understand what the court suspension is exactly (and then compare to the DMV administrative suspension described in Tip #2):

First DUI Conviction.

If this is your first court conviction for a DUI (Vehicle Code Section 23152 for typical adult cases), then your Mendocino County DUI lawyer should explain to you that this suspension can be six or ten months, depending on how high were your blood alcohol test results, and whether you complied with the implied consent law at the time of arrest or refused the chemical test when requested by Mendocino County law enforcement (Vehicle Code Section 23577 and 23578). Other factors, such as misdemeanor/felony, accident/injuries (Vehicle Code Section 23153) and your age (Vehicle Code Sections 23136 and 23140) can affect the length of a court suspension, but in most cases your Ukiah DUI attorney can provide you with the advice you need to get back on the road immediately, even after a Mendocino County conviction.

If you had a valid California license prior to this incident, and you are age 21 or older, then regardless of the length of a first DUI court suspension, usually all of the Mendocino court's misdemeanor DUI suspension is immediately convertible into a restricted Class C "work" license by enrolling in Mendocino County DUI classes at the Ukiah DUI Program, filing an SR22 Insurance Form with the Ukiah DMV (Mendocino County DUI classes and the SR-22 are discussed in greater detail in Tip #3 & #4 below) and paying a reinstatement fee in person at DMV.

Typically, the restricted license lasts at least five months (ten months if there is a refusal associated with the conviction or if your blood alcohol level was at or above .20%) and until the Sacramento DMV receives proof of completion of the Ukiah DUI drinking driver DUI program classes.

LifeSafer IIDSecond or Higher Conviction.

If this is your second court conviction for a DUI in the last ten years, then your Ukiah DUI lawyer should explain to you that the mandatory minimum suspension period following the second Mendocino County DUI court conviction is typically two years (don't panic, keep reading).

Under the old law, which is still an option, most second offenders may obtain a restricted "work" license after the first year of suspension. Recent law changes (July, 2010) provide that following 90 days of absolute suspension, most second offenders are eligible for an "Ignition Interlock Restricted License" for the remainder of the suspension (21 months) if certain tasks are accomplished, including installation of the ignition device, enrollment in the multiple offender DUI program, and filing the SR-22 insurance.

Lifesafer (pictured, right) is one of many companies offering these ignition devices for quick and affordable installation. Low Cost Interlock is another IID company, offering competitive pricing and a very smart soda can camouflage cover for the device (pictured below). For a comprehensive listing of ignition interlock resources, click the following link to view Jake's Mendocino DUI Lawyer IID Resources.

Understand that there are no hardship exceptions of any kind for driving during the initial suspension period (90 days or one year), even in the most compelling personal situations, regardless of the severest consequences to you or your family.

Consult with a Mendocino County DUI attorney to see if your individual circumstances might prevent eligibility for one or more of these restricted licenses (for example, a drug DUI, test refusal cases, under-21 cases, some probation violation cases, some pre-July 2010 arrest dates, other atypical prior/present offense combinations, etc).

If this is your third or higher DUI, then the new laws provide for a typical 6-month wait prior to becoming eligible for an ignition interlock device restricted license. The best way to avoid this harsh result is to get charges reduced or dismissed in Mendocino County court with the capable skills of a good Ukiah DUI attorney, or win at trial.

Getting the Restricted License.

In most cases, you are eligible for the restricted license immediately after a first DUI conviction in the Mendocino County courts or a minimum 90 days if this is your second or higher conviction.

Understand that the DMV does not automatically send the restricted license to you; a good Mendocino County DUI attorney will explain to you that you must accomplish certain tasks, such as those described above, and then go to the Ukiah or Petaluma DMV field office and pay a fee to obtain the restricted license.

LowCostInterlockIn most cases it is best to wait until you receive the suspension notice in the mail so that you know the suspension has begun, rather than wasting time waiting in line only to discover that the court has not yet sent the record of conviction to DMV and they don't yet have a suspension to convert to a restricted license yet.

Other requirements may apply in your unique situation; an experienced Ukiah DUI lawyer will be able to give you the specific eligibility criteria and timing requirements applicable to your own individual circumstances.

The license issued to you at the Ukiah DMV will be a new 8-1/2 x 11 temporary license or smaller half-sheet "interim license" (click to see temporary license example) with restrictions on the back. Your regular plastic license (which looks like the one you had before the Mendocino County DUI arrest, except the restrictions are printed on the reverse) should be mailed to you from Sacramento within a few days following your DMV visit (click to see example of restrictions printed on reverse of new license). Once your restricted period is completed, the DMV computers should automatically remove the restrictions on your record, but if you wish to obtain a physical license without the printed restrictions on the reverse, you must return to a DMV field office and ask for a duplicate license without the print on the reverse.

Old Mendocino County DUIs.

Note if you have a past Mendocino County DUI and the Ukiah DMV refuses (or you are a resident of another state and your home state DMV refuses) to renew or return your license, or refuses to allow you to obtain even a restricted license (typically because the DUI program was not completed), contact a local Mendocino County DUI lawyer to review your matter and help you sort out the mess and clear your California record to get your license back.

Renew an Expired or Expiring License.

Note if you receive a Renewal Notice or otherwise have an expired California license (or even out of state expired license) then in most cases it is best to renew your license prior to any resolution of a new DUI case in order to re-obtain driving privileges at the earliest opportunity. Contact a local Ukiah DUI attorney to review your driving record and provide specific advice for your particular circumstances.

Try to Get Your Case Dismissed or Settled for Better Than a DUI or Wet Reckless.

Avoid a DUI conviction to avoid the mandatory suspensions described above. Usually your local Ukiah DUI lawyer will look for every opportunity to try dismissing your case in Mendocino County superior court, or reducing your DUI to a wet reckless conviction, dry reckless, or attempted DUI or drunk in public, or a moving violation infraction, which will accomplish the goal of completely avoiding this mandatory Mendocino court-generated suspension.

In most cases, to avoid any interruption of driving privileges at all, your Mendocino DUI attorney must also win the separate administrative suspension at the Santa Rosa DMV discussed in Tip #2.


Any result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

Our DUI Lawyers

Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, North Bay resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of North Bay DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.


Dave Jake Schwartz