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Top Ten Tips > Getting Your License Back After a DUI

SRPD Motorcycle6. Too Many Negligent Operator Points

Drivers accumulate DMV bad driver "negligent operator" points when cited for certain vehicle code violations in Sonoma County. Most traffic citations are assigned one point, but major violations (such as a DUI or driving on a suspended license) are typically assigned two points. You can see which are two-point violations by reviewing 12810 VC. Typically you receive an Advisory Notice and then a Warning Letter from the San Francisco or Sacramento DMV as you approach the presumed negligent operator status of 4 or more points in 12 months, 6 or more points in 24 months, or 8 or more points in 36 months for most adults (12810.5 VC).

You may obtain more information about the points system by clicking here on DMV Bad Driver Points.

Although a Class A or B commercial driver without a special certificate (such as hazmat) may be allowed 2 additional points, a violation received in a commercial vehicle carries 1-1/2 times the point count normally assessed (12810.5(b) VC), and commercial drivers must ask for the same hearing discussed below to present the defense of commercial driving and ask for the additional points allowance, assuming that the trigger points were obtained while driving commercially.

A minor, under 18 years old, may receive a 30-day restriction for 2 points in 12 months, or be suspended for 3 points in 12 months (12814.6(b) VC). Click here to see an example of a juvenile driver's Provisional License Notice of Restriction and Intent to Suspend.

As with any governmental hearing, a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer can be extremely helpful guiding you through the process, especially since we work with the same type of process daily with DUI suspensions, and other types of driver license suspensions such as physical and mental suspensions, too many bad points suspensions, lack of skill suspensions, and other similar administrative proceedings at the DMV.

Before Points Are Assessed: the Traffic Court Hearing & Traffic School.

Challenging a Traffic Citation. Consult with a local Santa Rosa DUI lawyer about the possibilities of fighting a traffic ticket to avoid further points on your record and spare you the risk of too many points and a negligent operator suspension.

According to the Sonoma County Traffic Division, if you wish to contest your citation, you may plead NOT GUILTY by using one of the following methods:

(1) Post the amount of bail stated on your courtesy notice with the Declaration of Intent to Plead NOT Guilty and Request a Trial Date with the Court before the citation due date; you will be notified by the Court of a Court Trial date with the officer present; or

(2) Request a written Trial by Declaration by posting the bail amount stated on your courtesy notice with the Request for Trial by Written Declaration (TR-205); read the Instructions to Defendant before filling out the form and filing it with the Court, and pay the bail and file declaration before the due date listed on your courtesy notice; or

(3) Request a Court Trial by appearing in Walk-in Court.

Be sure to speak with a Sonoma County DUI attorney comfortably prior to the citation due date before making any decisions. You may find excellent self-help resources on how to fight effectively fight a traffic ticket by going to Jake's DUI Resources section, or click on How to Fight Traffic Tickets.

Traffic SchoolTraffic School Alternative to Conviction/Points. If you have no realistic defenses to a traffic ticket, you may wish to elect traffic school during the time limit provided at the bottom of your original Sonoma County citation by asking for the traffic school alternative at the Sonoma County traffic court, or Sign up Online. Click here for a list of Sonoma County's Home Study (on-line) and Classroom (in-person) Approved Traffic Schools (rev. 3/2016) (a current list of approved schools should be sent to you by the court upon payment, so you should always independently confirm the latest locally authorized schools before enrolling), successful completion of which would result in no further points if so ordered by the court. This may help you to avoid any additional points which would cause you to meet or exceed the point limits. The DMV provides an online listing of All Kinds of DMV-Licensed Traffic Schools.

You may be eligible for traffic school if you have a valid Class C (non-commercial) California Driver License, your violation is only a one-point infraction unrelated to alcohol/drugs use/possession, not a speeding tickets greater than 25 mph over the posted limit, and you did not receive a citation within the last eighteen months for which you have attended traffic school, or are currently assigned to attend traffic school. Discuss your specific situation with a local Santa Rosa DUI attorney.

Effective July 1, 2011, California courts must report traffic safety violations as convictions. If the driver is eligible and completes a Traffic Violator School (TVS) course, the conviction will be masked on the driver record. The driver record will be checked to determine a driver's eligibility to participate in a TVS course. A TVS conviction will not be masked if there is a prior TVS dismissal/conviction within the previous 18 months, or if the conviction is a major (2 point) violation, or if the driver holds a commercial driver license or was operating a commercial vehicle, at the time of the violation (see, DMV Policy Statement).

If you encounter problems with a traffic school you picked, you may file a complaint about a traffic school by clicking here for the DMV Traffic Violator School Complaint Form & Instructions. And you may click on the next link to find more information about the locally approved traffic school process to avoid additional points on your DMV driving record: Sonoma County Traffic Court.

Other Options. If you have already lost your license due to too many points, the only way to re-obtain your driving privileges prior to the expiration of an imposed suspension may be to seek help from a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer to obtain a court dismissal of one or more prior citations that caused the points on your driving record. This is particularly true if you were on DMV probation already and picked up yet another Sonoma County citation thereafter.

If the Sonoma County court is willing to dismiss past traffic tickets (usually when your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer can effectively show compelling personal situations or offer to resolve everything pending in court at one time) then typically we can go back to the Santa Rosa DMV and argue that your points reduction compels returning your license.

After Points are Assessed: the Suspension Notice & the DMV Hearing

DMV SuspensionIf you are not successful avoiding points due to convictions in court, and you reach or exceed the limits described above, then usually you will be sent a letter of reexamination or suspension from San Francisco or Sacramento DMV (click here to see a real example of a DMV Order of Probation and Suspension) which provides you the opportunity to have a hearing (sometimes called a "311 Hearing" or a NOTS Hearing). Sonoma DUI lawyers nearly always advise individuals to immediately request such a hearing within the allowable time listed in the notice in order to preserve your right to fight to keep your driving privileges before your right to fight expires. The hearing may be held at the Santa Rosa or Petaluma DMV hearing office where one may contest the planned adverse action, or explain any extenuating or mitigating circumstances or unfairness (including any evidence that you were not at fault in an accident resulting in any of the points, or that a recent Sonoma County DUI resulted in 2 points which pushed you over the allowable totals but you were otherwise a long-time good driver, etc.), and explain that you understand the danger and illegality of breaking traffic laws, and how you intend to address and stop such violations in the future.

Typically you will be asked how long you have been driving, if you have any pending violations not reflected on your current Sonoma County driving record, where and how many miles you drive in a typical week, and whether you drink alcohol. Your Santa Rosa DUI attorney will explain to you that a restricted "work" license, or probation (a promise of no more violations for a certain period) are alternatives to an outright suspension.

If you and your Sonoma County DUI lawyer are effective in this hearing, then you may avoid or shorten an interruption of driving privileges. See here an example of a Successful DMV Decision Ordering Probation Only, and see here an example of an Adverse DMV Decision Imposing Six Months Suspension.

Normally it is advisable to request any hearing offered to you within the stated time given to request such a hearing. Hiring a lawyer is not necessary but having a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer by your side during a hearing in Santa Rosa or Petaluma will help you to understand, and effectively address, the issues which are important to the local DMV. Do not ignore DMV notices or the opportunities they provide to avoid or lessen the consequences of past conduct. An attorney may not be able to help you if you wait too long.

In most cases such as demonstrated in the example of the notice above, you will be suspended by DMV for 6 months and placed on probation (no more traffic violations at all) for one year. You may obtain information on exactly what the DMV considers at a hearing, and what options are available, by clicking here on DMV Negligent Operator Guidelines.

NOTS Probation Violation Hearings

Typically hearings set to contest a pending suspension due to a driver already on probation who accumulates another violation point (called "450 or 451 NOTS Probation Violation Hearings") are very difficult to win in any sense because the only permissible issues are whether the driver was on probation, and whether the driver violated that probation by obtaining an additional point. Clearly, a Sonoma County DUI or DMV attorney would increase chances of success in such hearings, either by winning the hearing, or by softening the consequences of an adverse decision by lessening the suspension period or obtaining other concessions. Click here to see an example of a DMV 450 Decision.

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Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, Sonoma County resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of Sonoma County DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.

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Dave Jake Schwartz