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Top Ten Tips > Getting Your License Back After a DUI

Motorcycle cop6. Too Many Negligent Operator Points

Drivers accumulate DMV bad driver "negligent operator" points when cited for certain vehicle code violations in Mendocino County. Most traffic citations are assigned one point, but major violations (such as a DUI or driving on a suspended license) are typically assigned two points. You can see which are two-point violations by reviewing 12810 VC. Typically you receive an Advisory Notice and then a Warning Letter from the San Francisco or Sacramento DMV as you approach the presumed negligent operator status of 4 or more points in 12 months, 6 or more points in 24 months, or 8 or more points in 36 months for most adults (12810.5 VC).

You may obtain more information about the points system by clicking here on DMV Bad Driver Points.

Although a Class A or B commercial driver without a special certificate (such as hazmat) may be allowed 2 additional points, a violation received in a commercial vehicle carries 1-1/2 times the point count normally assessed (12810.5(b) VC), and commercial drivers must ask for the same hearing discussed below to present the defense of commercial driving and ask for the additional points allowance, assuming that the trigger points were obtained while driving commercially.

A minor, under 18 years old, may receive a 30-day restriction for 2 points in 12 months, or be suspended for 3 points in 12 months (12814.6(b) VC). Click here to see an example of a juvenile driver's Provisional License Notice of Restriction and Intent to Suspend.

As with any governmental hearing, a local Mendocino County DUI lawyer can be extremely helpful guiding you through the process, especially since we work with the same type of process daily with DUI suspensions, and other types of driver license suspensions such as physical and mental suspensions, too many bad points suspensions, lack of skill suspensions, and other similar administrative proceedings at the DMV.

Before Points Are Assessed: the Traffic Court Hearing & Traffic School

Challenging a Traffic Citation. Consult with a local Mendocino DUI lawyer about the possibilities of fighting a traffic ticket to avoid further points on your record and spare you the risk of too many points and a negligent operator suspension.

Genearlly speaking, you may be eligible for traffic school if you have a valid Class C (non-commercial) California Driver License, your violation is only a one-point infraction unrelated to alcohol/drugs use/possession, not a speeding tickets greater than 25 mph over the posted limit, and you did not receive a citation within the last eighteen months for which you have attended traffic school, or are currently assigned to attend traffic school. To be sure you qualify, you may wish to discuss your specific situation with a local Ukiah DUI attorney.

According to the Mendocino County Traffic Division, if you wish to contest your citation, you may plead NOT GUILTY by using one of the following methods:

(1) You may schedule a future court trial on an infraction by mail or by appearing in person, at the Clerk's office by your due date. Bail is required for court trials. You must bring in your courtesy notice or information containing your Case Number, Docket Number or any DMV correspondence; or

(2) According to Local Court Rule 18.8, the defendant may elect to have a trial by declaration of any charged infraction. You have the option to conduct some correspondence with the clerk and court by mail, but you must appear in court should the infraction require a mandatory appearance. This Trial by Declaration should be requested on or before the due date shown on your ticket. Your case will be decided without requiring that you appear in court. You must post full bail prior to the trial date, and enter a plea of not guilty. The Judicial Council forms that are needed can be downloaded using the following links: Instructions to Defendant, Request for Trial by Written Declaration, Request for New Trial, Local Form - Advisement of Rights and Plea of Not Guilty. These forms may also be obtained in person at the clerk's office, photocopied from the county law library, or by requesting the forms by mail. When requesting forms by mail, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the court to mail the forms to you. Send in the completed forms and any witness statements or exhibits with the full amount owed on your ticket, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. You will be notified by mail of the judge's decision.

Be sure to speak with a Mendocino County DUI attorney comfortably prior to the citation due date before making any decisions. You may find excellent self-help resources on how to fight effectively fight a traffic ticket by going to Jake's DUI Resources section, or click on Jake's How to Fight Traffic Tickets.

Traffic School Alternative to Conviction/Points. If you have no realistic defenses to a traffic ticket, you may wish to elect traffic school during the time limit provided at the bottom of your original Mendocino County citation by asking for the traffic school alternative at the Mendocino County court.

According to the Mendocino court, to be eligible for the Traffic Violator School Confidential Conviction Program Program, you must meet certain requirements (California Rules of Court 4.104). You may qualify if:

(1) You currently possess a valid driver license;

(2) The violation(s) on your citation are eligible. A violation that carries a negligent operator point count of more than one point under Vehicle Code section 12810 or one and one-half points or more under Vehicle Code section 12810.5(b)(2);

(3) A violation that occurs within 18 months after the date of a previous violation and the defendant either attended or elected to attend a traffic violator school for the previous violation (Vehicle Code section 1808.7);

(4) Your citation is not for a violation of Vehicle Code section 22406.5(tank vehicles);

(5) Your citation is not related to alcohol use or possession or drug use or possession;

(6) You have not failed to appear under Vehicle Code section 40508(a) unless the failure-to-appear charge has been adjudicated and any fine imposed has been paid;

(7) You have not failed to appear under Penal Code section 1214.1 unless the civil monetary assessment has been paid;

(8) The violation is a speeding violation in which the speed alleged is not more than 25 miles over a speed limit as stated in Chapter 7 (commencing with section 22348) of Division 11 of the Vehicle Code;

(9) The violation did not occur in a commercial vehicle as defined in Vehicle Code section 15210(b); and

(10) You do not have a class A, class B, or commercial class C driver's license.

According to the court, prior to attending traffic school, you must pay the non-refundable traffic school fee of $57.00 plus the amount of bail by the due date either in person or by mail. If you pay the $57.00 traffic school fee, and it is determined that you are ineligibl to attend traffic school, this fee cannot be refunded. Upon receipt of bail plus the $57.00 traffic school fee, your case will automatically be extended by the clerk to 90 days from the original due date to allow for the completion of traffic school and receipt of the certificate of completion. Approved On-Line and Home Study traffic schools will report completions electronically to the court. Upon receipt of the completion certificate, the court will report a "confidential conviction" to DMV. If the court does not receive the proof of Traffic School completion by the assigned date, the Court will order your Traffic School fee converted to bail. The bail will be forfeited and the Court will order that no further proceedings shall be made on your case. A bail forfeiture/fine is a conviction and will be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Traffic schools are private businesses and will charge an additional fee. To locate a traffic school in your area, check your local yellow pages under Traffic School. You may stop by any courthouse or DMV Office in California to pick up a list of approved traffic schools, or choose one of the following: click here for a list of Mendocino County's Classroom (in-person) Approved Traffic Schools (a current list of approved schools should be sent to you by the court upon payment, so you should always independently confirm the latest locally authorized schools before enrolling), or Search Approved Traffic Schools Online, successful completion of which would result in no further points if so ordered by the court. This may help you to avoid any additional points which would cause you to meet or exceed the point limits.

Effective July 1, 2011, California courts must report traffic safety violations as convictions. If the driver is eligible and completes a Traffic Violator School (TVS) course, the conviction will be masked on the driver record. The driver record will be checked to determine a driver's eligibility to participate in a TVS course. A TVS conviction will not be masked if there is a prior TVS dismissal/conviction within the previous 18 months, or if the conviction is a major (2 point) violation, or if the driver holds a commercial driver license or was operating a commercial vehicle, at the time of the violation (see, DMV Policy Statement).

If you encounter problems with a traffic school you picked, you may file a complaint about a traffic school by clicking here for the DMV Traffic Violator School Complaint Form & Instructions. And you may click on the next link to find more information about the locally approved traffic school process to avoid additional points on your DMV driving record: Mendocino County Traffic Court.

Other Options. If you have already lost your license due to too many points, the only way to re-obtain your driving privileges prior to the expiration of an imposed suspension may be to seek help from a local Mendocino County DUI lawyer to obtain a court dismissal of one or more prior citations that caused the points on your driving record. This is particularly true if you were on DMV probation already and picked up yet another Mendocino County citation thereafter.

If the Mendocino County court is willing to dismiss past traffic tickets (usually when your Ukiah DUI lawyer can effectively show compelling personal situations or offer to resolve everything pending in court at one time) then typically we can go back to the the DMV and argue that your points reduction compels returning your license.

After Points are Assessed: the Suspension Notice & the DMV Hearing

DMV SuspensionIf you are not successful avoiding points due to convictions in court, and you reach or exceed the limits described above, then usually you will be sent a letter of reexamination or suspension from San Francisco or Sacramento DMV (click here to see a real example of a DMV Order of Probation and Suspension) which provides you the opportunity to have a hearing (sometimes called a "311 Hearing" or a NOTS Hearing). Mendocino DUI lawyers nearly always advise individuals to immediately request such a hearing within the allowable time listed in the notice in order to preserve your right to fight to keep your driving privileges before your right to fight expires. The hearing may be held at the DMV hearing office where one may contest the planned adverse action, or explain any extenuating or mitigating circumstances or unfairness (including any evidence that you were not at fault in an accident resulting in any of the points, or that a recent Mendocino County DUI resulted in 2 points which pushed you over the allowable totals but you were otherwise a long-time good driver, etc.), and explain that you understand the danger and illegality of breaking traffic laws, and how you intend to address and stop such violations in the future.

Typically you will be asked how long you have been driving, if you have any pending violations not reflected on your current Mendocino County driving record, where and how many miles you drive in a typical week, and whether you drink alcohol. Your Ukiah DUI attorney will explain to you that a restricted "work" license, or probation (a promise of no more violations for a certain period) are alternatives to an outright suspension.

If you and your Mendocino County DUI lawyer are effective in this hearing, then you may avoid or shorten an interruption of driving privileges. See here an example of a Successful DMV Decision Ordering Probation Only, and see here an example of an Adverse DMV Decision Imposing Six Months Suspension.

Normally it is advisable to request any hearing offered to you within the stated time given to request such a hearing. Hiring a lawyer is not necessary but having a local Mendocino County DUI lawyer by your side during a hearing in Santa Rosa or Petaluma will help you to understand, and effectively address, the issues which are important to the local DMV. Do not ignore DMV notices or the opportunities they provide to avoid or lessen the consequences of past conduct. An attorney may not be able to help you if you wait too long.

In most cases such as demonstrated in the example of the notice above, you will be suspended by DMV for 6 months and placed on probation (no more traffic violations at all) for one year. You may obtain information on exactly what the DMV considers at a hearing, and what options are available, by clicking here on DMV Negligent Operator Guidelines.

NOTS Probation Violation Hearings

Typically hearings set to contest a pending suspension due to a driver already on probation who accumulates another violation point (called "450 or 451 NOTS Probation Violation Hearings") are very difficult to win in any sense because the only permissible issues are whether the driver was on probation, and whether the driver violated that probation by obtaining an additional point. Clearly, a Mendocino County DUI or DMV attorney would increase chances of success in such hearings, either by winning the hearing, or by softening the consequences of an adverse decision by lessening the suspension period or obtaining other concessions. Click here to see an example of a DMV 450 Decision.


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