Being arrested and charged with driving under the influence, or DUI, is usually a frightening experience. If you are ultimately convicted of DUI in California your driving privileges will likely be suspended for a significant length of time as part of the sentence. For many people, losing the ability to drive is not just inconvenient; it creates a serious financial hardship. Without the ability to drive, employment or schooling could be at risk. Fortunately, you might qualify for a hardship license in California if you find your license suspended.
Absent aggravating circumstances, such as an injury accident or a minor present in the vehicle, most motorists convicted of a first-time DUI in California are not sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Instead, most people receive a probation sentence and a driver’s license suspension. While this is certainly preferable to a sentence that requires time in jail, losing your ability to drive can be a serious problem if you use your vehicle to get back and forth to school, work, or important medical appointments. The State of California acknowledges this by allowing motorists to obtain a restricted license, or hardship license, if all eligibility requirements are met.
To qualify for a non-commercial restricted license, the following must be true:
- This is your first offense, defined by the California Department of Motor Vehicles as follows: “You must not have had another offense within 10 years of a separate DUI violation. This includes a charge reduced to reckless driving, vehicular manslaughter, or violation of CVC §23140, which resulted in a conviction or separate administrative determination that you were driving with a BAC of 0.01% or more while on DUI Probation, driving a noncommercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or more, driving a commercial vehicle at any age with a BAC of 0.04% or more OR you refused a chemical test.”
- You took the chemical test when requested
- You were 21 years of age or older (additional conditions apply if you were under 21)
- Your driving privileges are not suspended or revoked for another reason
If you were under the age of 21 at the time of the DUI offense you may qualify for a Critical Needs Restriction which allows you to drive to and from school, work, for a family illness or for a family business or enterprise. To qualify, the following criteria must be met:
- You took the chemical test
- The DMV determines that adequate public transportation is not available
- Operation of a vehicle by a minor is necessary as determined by the DMV
If you had a Commercial Driver’s License at the time of the DUI offense you must downgrade to a non-commercial license when applying for a restricted license. If you were driving a non-commercial vehicle at the time of the arrest you may receive a hardship license that allows you to drive to and from a treatment program and work. If you were driving a commercial vehicle your restricted license will only allow you to drive to and from a treatment program.
If your license has been suspended as a result of a DUI in California, consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney to find out if you qualify to obtain a restricted license until your suspension period terminates.
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