California Drunk Driving Laws and Out-of-State Drivers
Article by Mark De Yoe
Each year millions of people come to California for vacation, travel and business purposes. For a number of reasons, many such visitors live it up a bit more than they might otherwise at home, and unfortunately wind up arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, and/or drugs (DUI). For many people, especially those from out-of-state, California drunk driving law can be confusing, and the prospect of facing a driving under the influence charge inconvenient, to say the least. However upsetting, DUI charges can and should be taken seriously, and responded to immediately. Due to time requirements concerning California DUI law, if you, a loved one or friend were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence while visiting California, it would be best to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney from the locality where the offense occurred at the very earliest opportunity (and by all means within ten calendar days). In most cases, such an attorney can schedule with the California DMV, make all of the required court appearances on the behalf of an accused, answer numerous questions concerning California DUI law and procedure and aim to avoid the offense from hitting the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records in the first place. This is the best defense to stop such records from ever being passed on to one’s home state by the California DMV.
Interstate Driver’s License Compacts and Agreements
Due to interstate compacts and agreements with other states, California affirmatively provides information on driving under the influence convictions, and other matters, to other states’ motor vehicle bureaus. This could possibly cause a California DUI license suspension sanction to be enforced against a driver in his or her home state. California is a member of the Driver License Compact, as are all but a handful of the fifty states. To protect ones home driving record, the best defense is a good offense. It is important to realize, however, that fast action is required, and that in selecting legal counsel, one should seek an attorney who is familiar with the particular Court (Judges and Prosecutors) where the offense occurred.
California Superior Courts and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Drivers facing DUI charges in California need to be concerned with two separate entities: the California Superior Courts and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The Superior Courts handle the criminal charge of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The DMV handles the administrative suspension of driving privileges, together with suspensions imposed through the application of provisions of the California Vehicle Code. The California DMV’s administrative action to suspend driving privileges proceeds independently of the criminal proceedings before the Superior Court. Both entities wield power over one’s driving privilege.
Administrative Suspension of Driving Privileges
If one is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in California and has a driver’s license issued by another State, the California peace officer should not seize the out of state driver’s license; however, upon release, one should still be issued a Notice of Suspension/Temporary Driver’s License Endorsement document. This document, which should be read carefully and completely, communicates the California DMV’s intent to suspend, critical time frames involved and one’s right to a hearing concerning the propriety of the suspension, based upon consideration of valid hearing issues. This process is known as DMV Administrative Per Se (APS) and, provided one acts within the requisite timeframe, he has the right to a hearing which will avoid the automatic suspension of driving privileges for those whose BAC was .08%, or more, and lead to an Administrative Per Se Hearing, and the possibility of having the order of suspension set aside. As a general rule, an Administrative Per Se Hearing must be scheduled within 10 calendar days of the date of arrest. The actual hearing itself, however, is typically conducted 30 or more days after the date of arrest. In many cases, legal counsel appears on behalf of his client at the DMV APS Hearing, without the client’s presence being required.
As stated above, California and all but a handful of the fifty states are members of the Driver License Compact (DLC). The DLC generally requires all members to enforce similar driving under the influence of alcohol laws, but allows states to choose whether to enforce administrative actions of other states. If one’s home state has chosen to enforce administrative actions of other members, it may enforce a California administrative suspension by suspending one’s driving privileges in his or her home state as well. Some states enforce an out-of-state administrative suspension by ordering a suspension for the same time period, while other states suspend driving privileges for the period required under its own laws.
DUI Convictions and Penalties
Pursuant to the DLC, once one’s home state is notified of a DUI conviction , it will enforce the conviction, often by imposing the penalty provided under its own driving under the influence law that is most similar to California’s. While the consequence imposed by some states may be less severe than those imposed by California, many states add additional and/or harsher penalties.
In California, one of the conditions for a DUI is the completion of a licensed California alcohol program. If one is convicted of a DUI in California, but is not a California resident, he or she may be able to satisfy the California Superior Court’s alcohol program requirement with a similar program in one’s home state, but in such instances, one should ultimately contact the California DMV in Sacramento, explain the situation and request an exemption from showing proof of completion of a California alcohol program. Of significant importance, an experienced California DUI defense attorney can assist one in clearing up his or her lingering California DMV requirements. This is essential for those wishing to renew their out of state driver’s license at some future renewal time, without a hitch.
If an out of state driver is arrested in California on suspicion of driving under the influence, he should know that he has a number of fundamental rights to challenge the charges. As a general rule, however, he must act quickly to avail himself of those rights. In such cases, it would be best to contact an experienced DUI attorney from the particular area where the offense took place, as soon as possible. That attorney can schedule the California DMV Administrative Suspension Hearing within the requisite timeframe, possibly make all required Court appearances on behalf of an individual from out of town or out of state, and answer a host of questions relative to the facts and circumstances in a particular case. There are many cases where a DMV suspension or Court conviction for a DUI is ultimately not justified, but one must not sleep on his rights. An experienced California DMV attorney can counsel those from out of state as to numerous subtle points which need to be addressed to maintain their license in their home state.
About the Author
San Diego DUI defense attorney Mark R. De Yoe has been successfully practicing DUI defense in downtown San Diego for over twenty years. He has extensive experience in drunk driving cases in all San Diego Courts, including downtown San Diego, Chula Vista, El Cajon and Vista. If you have been charged with a DUI , even if you’re a first time offender , call Mark De Yoe at (619) 894-8295 for a free consultation.
Related Drunk Driving Laws Articles