California Restricted License

Unlike Massachusetts, which has a lifetime DUI lookback period, the State of California has a 10 year lookback period. This means that the  California DMV purges its records after 10 years. Because of this 10 year lookback period, the California DMV will report "no convictions" if a person has a DUI conviction which is more than 10 years old. For this reason, MassDOT requires court records and not DMV records when there is a question regarding a prior OUI which is more than 10 years old. 

California Vehicle Code Sections 23152 (a) & (b) govern DUI license suspensions.They provide for a 6 month license suspension for a 1st offense DUI, a 545 day license suspension for a 2nd offense, and a 3 year license suspension for a 3rd offense California DUI conviction. In California, 4th offenders will have their licenses permanently revoked. Like in Massachusetts, the DMV may also take actions against those convicted of DUI, separate from the court and, as is the case in Massachusetts, the court has no control over DMV actions.

California Vehicle Code § 13353.7 provides for the issuance of restricted driver's licenses, in DUI cases, which are valid only for travel to and from the activities required by the California DUI Alcohol program and for employment purposes. Proof of enrollment in an approved 18 or 30 month California DUI alcohol program which has been certified under Health and Safety Code 11836 is required for restricted licenses issued as a result of DUI suspensions. Also the DMV requires the payment of a re-issue fee.

The California DMV will require proof of financial responsibility (SR-22) as a precondition to the issuance of any restricted license. The applicant must demonstrate that public or alternative transportation will not satisfy the applicant’s need and the applicant must serve at least 30 days of the license suspension prior to being issued a hardship or restricted California license.

In addition to work licenses, it may be possible to obtain a restricted medical treatment license. This type of hardship license is issued in cases where the applicant or a family member has a serious health condition and transportation is required for medical appointments or treatments, because there is no other means to getting there. The DMV will require documentation signed by a physician or other licensed health care provider.

Restricted licenses are not available for any of the following violations: failing to appear in court, failure to pay a citation or judgment, or non-payment of child support.

You can download an application for a Critical Need License or a restricted license for an uninsured accident suspension.

California hardship licenses appear to me far more restrictive than those issued in Massachusetts. For example, once a Massachusetts hardship license is issued, it can be used to legally drive anywhere, so long as the driving occurs during the permitted 12 hour period. In California, some hardship licenses are issued for very limited purposes, such as permitting the holder to drive only to and from his or her DUI first offender classes. Being caught driving in violation of the restriction is a criminal traffic offense.