Around Town: DUI busts and the small print

The holidays approach. There are no sleigh bells ringing, yet our thoughts turn to DUI checkpoints.

When a person 21 years of age or older is arrested for driving under the influence, the police generally will confiscate the subject's driver's license. The defendant is given a sheet of paper entitled, "Administrative Per Se Suspension/Revocation Order and Temporary Driver License."

This document is a suspension order that takes effect 30 days after issuance. It is a two-sided form full of admonitions that are printed in very small type. Some of the print is in bold. Some is in italics.

The "Administrative Per Se Suspension/Revocation Order and Temporary Driver License" imposes a 10-day deadline for the driver involved to request a DMV hearing. Given the design of the page, most people miss the 10-day deadline.

If a defendant does not request the hearing within the 10 days, he or she loses the right to coordinate the DMV proceedings with the criminal proceedings. This is important because when a person is arrested for DUI, he/she faces both types of proceedings — DMV and criminal. If the person is released on bail or on own recognizance, or "promise to appear," the person's first criminal appearance could be weeks after the suspension takes effect. The person could suffer the loss of the license for a period of time, even if he or she prevails in the criminal case.

Even if the defendant seeks a negotiated plea bargain, his or her attorney will want to coordinate the DMV suspension with the criminal case so that the client can obtain a restricted license with the minimum suspension period. The attorneys can't do this unless the request for a DMV hearing was made within 10 days.

The "Administrative Per Se Suspension/Revocation Order and Temporary Driver License" contains other information, as well. The range of punishments for first, second and third offenses is listed on the back. The punishments for refusal of the chemical test are listed. The charges for administrative reissue fees are listed. The first-offender restricted-license program is described.

The "Administrative Per Se Suspension/Revocation Order and Temporary Driver License" also doubles as a temporary driver license, good for 30 days.

There are other nuances as well, but the important point is this: Don't drink and drive. If you do, and if you are arrested, make sure you request your DMV hearing within the 10 days.

Your lawyer will thank you.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at

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