California legislators recently approved a slew of new laws that begin to take effect in 2023, including laws that pertain to driver’s license suspension. Under AB 2746, the Reform of License Suspension Law comes into effect. This law will mean that California state courts will no longer send notices to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for driver’s license suspensions in response to failure to appear beginning on January 1, 2023. The new law also requires the DMV to stop suspending driver’s licenses for failing to appear starting on January 1, 2027, allowing time for new computer programming changes.

When a driver’s license is suspended in California, it is essential for the affected driver to know their rights and responsibilities. It’s possible for the driver to have their license reinstated or for them to secure a hardship or restricted license, depending on their personal circumstances.

New Law on Suspended License in California

Common Reasons for License Suspension in California

Drivers in California are expected to meet specific responsibilities at all times, or they risk losing their driving privileges. A few common causes of driver’s license suspensions in California are:

  • Driving without auto insurance. Every driver in California is required to have auto insurance that meets the state’s minimum coverage requirements, and they must have proof of insurance every time they drive. If a driver is pulled over and cited for driving without insurance, the DMV will automatically suspend their license. In most cases, these drivers can get their licenses back once they produce proof of insurance to the DMV.
  • Driving without a license. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in California without a valid driver’s license. The driver in this situation would need to complete the penalties assigned by the court before they can apply for reinstatement or qualify to take a driver’s license exam.
  • Nonpayment of child support and/or alimony. A family court judge may suspend a driver’s license in response to failure or refusal to pay child support and/or alimony. The at-fault party will not qualify for reinstatement until they pay what they owe, and they could face additional penalties depending on the details of the case.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI). It is illegal for drivers to operate their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Penalties for doing so can include heavy fines and penalty assessments, jail time, mandatory driver education course, mandatory substance abuse treatment, and driver’s license suspension. In addition, upon completion of the suspension period, the driver will need to complete all other elements of their sentence before they can apply for reinstatement.

Prior to the passing of AB 2746, a driver could have their license suspended by the DMV if they failed to appear for a court date, but this no longer applies as of January 1, 2023. However, it should be noted that if the driver fails to appear for a court date, they will still have a warrant issued for their arrest for failure to appear.

Beyond the aforementioned specific actions that might lead to driver’s license suspension, it is also possible for a driver to lose their license if they accrue too many points on their license. Demerit points are issued in response to moving and traffic violations, such as speeding, reckless driving, performing illegal turns, and more. When a driver has points issued on their license, these points remain for three years in most cases. So, if the driver accrues 12 points, they face automatic suspension of their driver’s license.

FAQs About Suspended License Law in California

Can You Be Arrested for Driving With a Suspended License in California?

Yes, if you are stopped by a police officer for a traffic violation or any other reason, and you are found willfully driving with a suspended license, you are likely to be arrested. Driving with a suspended license is a misdemeanor offense under state law. Additionally, if you lose your license due to another offense, like driving under the influence, you are likely to face additional penalties.

Is There a Way to Get Around a Suspended License in California?

If you lost your driver’s license in California for some reason, you could have room to petition for a restricted license or alternative punishment. If you need to be able to drive to and from work to keep your job, a judge may be willing to suspend a suspended license in exchange for other penalties, such as conditional probation and a longer restricted driving period than your suspension.

How Do I Get My Driver’s License Back After a Suspension in California?

After having your driver’s license suspended for any reason in California, you will need to apply for reinstatement upon completion of the suspension period. This entails paying the reinstatement fee, producing proof of auto insurance coverage, and filling out the necessary forms for the California DMV.

How Long Will My Driver’s License Be Suspended in California?

The length of a driver’s license suspension typically hinges on the seriousness of the reason for the suspension. So, if you accumulate enough demerit points on your license to warrant a suspension, your license will be suspended for six months. However, if you were arrested for DUI and had your driver’s license suspended, the suspension period could be one year or longer, depending on the seriousness of your DUI offense and prior driving record.

Can an Attorney Help Me Avoid Driver’s License Suspension?

If you are arrested for DUI, driving without a license, or any other offense that typically leads to driver’s license suspension, it’s important to know the value of having legal counsel to defend you. Depending on the seriousness of your charges and whether you committed the offense or offenses in question, you could have more options for defending yourself than you initially realize. In addition, a good attorney can help avoid conviction if possible or mitigate your penalties if necessary.

The attorneys at Easton & Easton provide client-focused and compassionate legal counsel to clients throughout Southern California, and we have a solid track record of successful cases behind us. If you need experienced legal counsel for an impending personal injury case of any kind, contact us and set up a consultation with our firm today.