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Driver License Suspension in California
If you or someone you know has incurred a suspended license, that means your driving privileges have been temporarily withdrawn.
You can face suspensions from both the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and state/federal courts. Below you will find information about how to reinstate your California driver’s license and the associated restrictions.
There are many reasons your CA driver’s license could be suspended, including:
- Failing to appear (FTA) in court after receiving a traffic ticket. Your license will be suspended until you appear in court.
- Failing to pay a fine resulting from a FTA. Your license will be suspended until you pay the fine.
- Not having proof of car insurance.
- Failing to pay required child support payments.
- Being caught driving when you are physically/mentally unfit to do so.
For a complete list of actions resulting in a driver’s license suspension, see the California DMV Driver Handbook.
How Long is My License Suspended?
The duration of your suspension depends on the reason you received it. Typically, suspensions can run anywhere from as little as 30 days for a minor infraction to 1 year for more serious offenses, such as reckless driving.
You could lose your CA license indefinitely if you are not supposed to drive due to a mental or physical disorder. If you would like more information about your individual situation, you may contact the California DMV at (800) 777-0133.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
If you are convicted of a single DUI, the court will suspend your driving privilege for 6 months and require you to complete a DUI program prior to your license being reinstated. Note that you may face additional penalties from the DMV on top of what the court hands down to you.
If you are under 21 years old, different suspensions will apply to you. See “DUI Related Suspensions in California” below.
For more information regarding DUI related offenses, please refer to our DUI & DWI in California page.
Evading a Police Officer
If you attempt to evade a police officer performing their regular duties, you may be punished by imprisonment for not more than 1 year. If somebody is injured, you may be subject to:
- Up to 1 year imprisonment in a county jail OR up to 7 years in a state prison.
- A $2,000 to $10,000 fine.
- Both a fine and imprisonment.
Driver Record Points (Negligent Operator)
The California DMV keeps a public record of your driving history. Each incident will appear on your record for 36 months or more depending on the type of conviction and are recorded as points.
If you accumulate 4 points in a period of 12 months, your license will be suspended for 6 months and you will also be on probation for 1 year. Both your suspension and probation will come into effect 34 days after you receive your Order of Probation/Suspension in the mail.
- For more information about the point system in California, see the “Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS)” section below.
- For more information about point-related incidents, please visit our DMV Point System in California page.
If your CA driver’s license was suspended due to too many points on your driver record, you will receive a series of warning letters and sanctions before your CA driver’s license is suspended.
Under the Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS), you will receive a:
- Level 1 Warning Letter, if you accrue:
- 2 points within 12 months.
- 4 points within 24 months.
- 6 points within 36 months.
- Level 2 Notice of Intent to Suspend, if you accrue:
- 3 points within 12 months.
- 5 points within 24 months.
- 7 points within 36 months.
- Level 3 Probation/Suspension, if you accrue:
- 4 points within 12 months.
- 6 points within 24 months.
- 8 points within 36 months.
- Level 4 Violation of NOTS Probation and license suspension, if you:
- Commit a violation or collision while your driver’s license is suspended.
- Have Failure To Appear (FTA) or a Failure to Pay (FTP) violation during your probation period.
- Have a 1-point or 2-point violation or are responsible for a collision during your probation period.
- Are under 18 years old and violate a provisional probation due to a responsible collision, an FTA or FTP, or another reportable violation.
For more information about the NOTS program, please refer to the guidelines and actions list.
Admin Per Se Program
In 1990, California initiated the Admin Per Se (APS) program. This administrative license suspension program has served as a huge deterrent to drunk driving since its inception.
Under the APS program, if you are pulled over for a DUI, your license will be immediately confiscated if:
- Your BAC level is 0.01% or more while on DUI probation.
- Your BAC level is 0.04% or more while driving a commercial vehicle.
- Your BAC level is 0.08% or more while driving a non-commercial vehicle.
- You refuse to complete a BAC test.
In addition to the immediate driver’s license confiscation under the APS program, you may also receive any of the following penalties from the court system:
- Driver’s license suspension.
- Jail time.
- Other criminal penalties.
What Happens to My Driver’s License?
At the time of your arrest, your arresting officer should have given you an Order of Suspension/Revocation when they confiscated your license. If the officer did not provide you with an Order of Suspension/Revocation, the California DMV will send you one.
The order includes a temporary driver’s license that is valid for 30 days from the issue date. Your driver’s license suspension/revocation will begin at the end of this period of 30 days.
If, for some reason, you feel your APS suspension/revocation was an error, you have 10 days to request a hearing after receiving it.
Under 21 Years Old
If you’re under 21 years old, your driver’s license may be suspended for 1 year if you are caught with alcohol in your vehicle (unless the container is full, sealed, and unopened, and you are accompanied by a parent or other approved person).
If you are caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01% or higher, or are driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, your license will be suspended for 1 year.
In California, you can apply for a restricted driver’s license to use until your permanent license is reinstated, if your suspension was due to:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).
- Failing to have car insurance.
DUI and Restricted Licenses
If your California driver’s license was suspended due to a DUI, you may be eligible for a restricted license if:
- This is your only DUI-related offense within the last 10 years.
- The results of your chemical test showed a BAC level of:
- 0.08% or more, if you were operating a non-commercial vehicle.
- 0.04% or more, if you were driving a commercial vehicle.
- 0.08% or more, if you were operating a non-commercial vehicle.
- You were 21 years old or older at the time of your arrest.
In order to obtain a restricted license from the CA DMV, you must enroll in a licensed DUI First Offender program. Notify the program provider that you are applying for a restricted driver’s license. After your 30-day mandatory suspension period:
- Ask the program provider to file a Proof of Enrollment Certificate (Form DL-107) with the CA DMV.
- Pay the $125 reissue fee.
- File proof of your financial responsibility, such as:
- California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22).
- $35,000 cash deposit.
- Surety bond.
- Self-insurer certificate.
- Request a “To/From/During Course of Employment and DUI Program” restriction.
Your restricted license will be valid for 5 months and will only allow you to:
- Drive to, from, and during the period of your employment.
- Drive to and from the location of your DUI program.
NOTE: If you don’t complete your DUI program, your CA driver’s license will be suspended for 4 months.
Failure to Have Car Insurance
If your driver’s license was suspended as a result of being in an accident and not having car insurance, you may be eligible for a restricted license to use during your mandatory 1-year suspension.
With a restricted license, you may only drive:
- To, from, and during work.
- To obtain medical care for yourself or your family members for any serious medical problem.
- To and from school for your minor dependents, if no public or alternate school transportation is available.
To apply for a restricted license, visit your local CA DMV office with:
- Proof of your financial responsibility (SR 22).
- Payment for the $250 financial responsibility fee and any additional driver’s license reissuance fee.
The procedures for reinstating a driver’s license in California vary depending on the reason why it was suspended; some of these reasons are outlined below. You should call the CA DMV at (800) 777-0133 for information regarding your specific situation.
To reinstate your CA driver’s license, visit your CA DMV office in person with the required documents and payment. You will also need to pay any applicable court fees.
If your license was suspended due to being a negligent operator, you’ll need to:
- Pay a reissue fee to the CA DMV. See “Fees for a Suspended CA Driver’s License” below.
- Pay the required fees to the court.
- File proof of insurance or financial responsibility.
- Complete the NOTS probation.
- You must not have any traffic violations or be involved in an accident during the probation period.
Driving Under the Influence
If your California driver’s license was suspended due to drunk driving:
- Fulfill your mandatory suspension period.
- Serve your prison sentence, if applicable.
- Pay the driver’s license reissue fee to the CA DMV. See “Fees for a Suspended CA Driver’s License” below.
- Pay any required fines to the court.
- Complete a DUI program and submit a Notice of Completion Certificate (Form DL-101).
- Supplied by your program provider.
- Submit proof of your insurance or financial responsibility with a:
- California Insurance Proof Certificate (Form SR-22), provided by your insurance carrier.
- $35,000 cash deposit.
- Self-insurer certificate under CVC.
- Surety bond.
Mental or Physical Disorder
If your driver’s license was suspended due to driving while having a mental or physical disorder, you can reinstate it by submitting:
- A Driver Medical Evaluation (Form DS-326).
- Any additional medical information stating that your condition no longer affects the ability for you to operate a motor vehicle safely.
Traffic Accident Without Insurance
If you were involved in an accident and did not have proof of your insurance, you can have your license reinstated by:
- Completing a mandatory 1-year suspension.
- Paying a reissue fee to the CA DMV. See “Fees for a Suspended CA Driver’s License” below.
- Submitting Proof of Financial Responsibility with a California Insurance Proof Certificate (Form SR-22).
- Provided by your insurance carrier.
You may also apply for a restricted California driver’s license to use during your suspension period. See “Restricted California Driver’s License” above.
Failure to Pay a Fine or Appear in Court
If you failed to pay a fine or failed to appear in court due to a traffic citation, you can have your CA suspended driver’s license reinstated by:
- Paying the reissue fee to the California DMV. See “Fees for a Suspended CA Driver’s License” below.
- Appearing in court or paying your citations.
- Once the fee is paid, you will be given an FTP/FTA abstract stating you fulfilled your court requirement.
There are many fees, fines, and costs associated with a driver’s license suspension in California:
- APS reissue fee (under 21 years old): $100.
- APS reissue fee (21 years old and older): $125.
- DUI reissue fee: $55.
- DUI 2nd offense:
- Add court restriction fee: $15.
- Remove court restriction fee: $20.
- Financial responsibility:
- Penalty fee: $250.
- Reissue fee: $55.
In addition to these miscellaneous fees, you’ll need to pay any additional court costs, fines, and penalties.
If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in California, you may receive a suspension if you commit an offense, including:
- Reckless driving.
- Making improper or dangerous lane changes.
- Following too closely to another vehicle.
- Causing a fatal accident by violating a traffic law.
- Driving a commercial vehicle without your CDL.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol.
In addition to state penalties, you may face additional federal penalties and charges. See the California Commercial Driver Handbook for a full list of state penalties and offenses.
For more information about federal CDL suspension laws, refer to the overview of the CDL program provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation.Other Topics in This Section