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How to Reinstate a Suspended Driver's License in California

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Sara Brody
· 6 min read
Getting your
California
driver’s license reinstated could be as simple as filling out a form and paying some fines. However, you’ll still need to wait until the end of your suspension period to do so. 
  • To reinstate your California license, you must pay a reinstatement fee of $14, as well as a license reissue fee ranging from $100 to $150. 
  • Typically, drivers with misdemeanor suspensions need to complete a mandated program and pay applicable court fees.
  • You can apply for a hardship license if you have a suspended license and rely on your car to get to work and pay your bills.
  • In every case of license suspension, a California SR-22 certificate must be obtained in order for your license to be reinstated.
  • If your license was revoked, you’ll have to restart the licensing process from scratch.
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How to get a license reinstatement in California

To reinstate a suspended license in California, you’ll first need to wait out your mandatory suspension period before you’re eligible to start the reinstatement process. 
After you’ve completed the mandatory suspension period, you’ll need to submit the required documentation and remit payment for the reinstatement fee of $14 to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You’ll also need to pay a license reissue fee ranging from $100 to $150. 
Keep in mind: The correct steps to get your license reinstated also depend on the reason for the suspension. 

Negligent driver

California defines a “negligent operator” as someone with an excess of driving record points, or four violation points in 12 months. If you’re deemed a negligent driver, you’ll need to follow these steps to get your license reinstated:
  • Wait out your mandatory suspension period: Your mandatory suspension period will last six months, and you’ll have one year of probation. 
  • Pay a reissuance fee: You’ll have to pay a reissuance fee ranging from $100 to $150 to the DMV. 
  • Demonstrate Proof of Financial Stability (Form SR-22): You must maintain this for three years.  
  • Pay a reinstatement fee: Finally, you’ll need to pay the $14 reinstatement fee. 

Driving under the influence (DUI) suspensions

For a DUI conviction, these are the steps you need to take in order to reinstate your license:
  • Wait out your mandatory suspension period: If it’s your first DUI offense, it’ll be six months; if it’s your second DUI offense, it’ll be one year; if it’s your third DUI offense, it’ll be two years; if it’s a felony DUI, it can be up to five years. 
  • Complete a DUI program: Typically, the length of the program is determined by your blood alcohol level (BAC) during the arrest and how many prior DUI violations you have on your record. These programs usually last between 18 and 30 months. 
  • Pay a reissuance fee: You’ll have to pay a reissuance fee ranging from $100 to $150 to the DMV. 
  • Demonstrate Proof of Financial Stability (Form SR-22): You must maintain this for three years. You’ll also need this to continue driving with an ignition interlock device (IID) installed.
  • Show proof of completed DUI treatment program: You’ll need to demonstrate that you successfully enrolled in and completed a DUI program by presenting your proof of enrollment and certificate of program completion to the DMV. 
  • Pay a reinstatement fee: Finally, you’ll need to pay the $14 reinstatement fee. 
Keep in mind: You can also get a license suspension from refusing to get a drug or alcohol test when a police officer or court ordered it.

Mental or physical conditions make you unfit to drive

If you’re a driver who’s received medical evaluation concluding that your mental or physical condition makes you unfit to drive, then you need to prove that you’re no longer a danger on the road by providing a satisfactory Driver Medical Evaluation.

Driving without insurance 

If you’re caught driving without insurance, these are the steps you need to take in order to reinstate your license:
  • Wait out your mandatory suspension period: Normally, you’ll have to wait one year if you’re caught driving without insurance by an officer. However, if you’re caught driving without insurance in the aftermath of an accident, then your license will be suspended for four years. 
  • Pay a reissuance fee: You’ll have to pay a reissuance fee ranging from $100 to $150 to the DMV. 
  • Demonstrate Proof of Financial Stability (Form SR-22): You must maintain this for three years.  
  • Pay a reinstatement fee: Finally, you’ll need to pay the $14 reinstatement fee at the DMV. 

Underage drinking

If you’re caught driving and drinking under the legal drinking age of 21, these are the steps you need to take in order to reinstate your license:
  • Wait out your mandatory suspension period: You must wait one year or until you turn 18 years old–whichever comes later. 
  • Complete an alcohol education program: If your BAC was above 0.5% when you were caught driving, then you’ll need to enroll in an alcohol education program (which lasts at least three months) and show proof of successful completion. 
  • Demonstrate Proof of Financial Stability (Form SR-22): You must maintain this for three years.  
  • Pay a reissuance and reinstatement fee: You’ll have to pay a reissuance fee ranging from $100 to $150 and the $14 reinstatement fee at the DMV.

Failure to report an accident

If you fail to file an accident report where someone was injured or killed, or where either party has over $1,000 in damages within the 10 days following the accident, then your license will be suspended. Here’s what you need to do to get it reinstated:
  • File the missing report: California law states that the license remains suspended until it’s terminated by receipt of the report of the accident or upon receipt of evidence of SR-22.
  • Pay a reissuance and reinstatement fee: You’ll have to pay a reissuance fee ranging from $100 to $150 and the $14 reinstatement fee at the DMV.
Important note: California imposes criminal penalties in the case of a fatal accident where no report was filed. In these cases, failure to report the accident to California Highway Patrol or the local police is considered a wobbler offense, and results in the following possible penalties:
  • Between 90 days and four years in jail
  • Between $1,000 and $10,000 in fines

Failure to pay child support

If you fail to pay your child support, your license will be suspended until you do the following:
  • Pay the overdue payments; OR
  • Implement a payment plan

Failure to pay taxes

If you fail to pay your taxes, your license will be suspended until you do at least ONE of the following:
  • Pay your overdue taxes
  • Implement an installment plan
  • Prove a financial hardship 

Traffic citations and court suspensions

In the state of California, your license cannot be suspended for failure to pay traffic tickets. 
However, your license can be suspended for a failure to appear in court after a traffic violation. In such a situation, you will be charged with a criminal offense (failure to appear) in addition to the original traffic charge.
If your license was suspended for a failure to appear in court after a traffic citation, you can usually get your license back by:
  • Pay your citation(s) or appear in court.
  • Complete a mandated program: You might need to complete a driving program, such as traffic school, depending on the nature of your citations. 
  • Demonstrate Proof of Financial Stability (SR-22): You must maintain this for three years.  
  • Pay a reissuance and reinstatement fee: You’ll have to pay a reissuance fee ranging from $100 to $150 and the $14 reinstatement fee at the DMV.

Revocations

California drivers cannot get a revoked license reinstated or restored
Instead, you’ll have to apply for a new license once the period of revocation is over. This means, essentially, that you’ll have to start the licensing process from scratch, retaking driving tests and paying the applicable fees. 
You can begin the process on the
California DMV website
Key Takeaway: In most cases of suspension, you can reinstate your driver’s license by paying fees, attending mandated programs, and providing proof of insurance. However, revoked licenses cannot be reinstated and instead require starting the licensing process from scratch.

How to get a hardship license in California

If you have a suspended license but you rely on your car to get to work and pay your bills, California allows drivers (with certain suspensions) to apply for a restricted license, also known as a
hardship license
. This license will allow you to drive to school and work, and complete other necessary tasks. 
If you wish to apply for a hardship license and you can certify that hardship circumstances exist—that is to say, you have no other transportation options for essential tasks—you can begin the process by filling out
this form from the California DMV
Keep in mind: You should expect to pay a driver’s license reissuance fee before receiving your restricted license.

When can you apply for a hardship license?

In most cases, you can apply for a restricted license in California after 30 days of your suspension period have passed. 
However: The process is more complicated if you were charged with reckless driving or driving under the influence. 

You must file an SR-22 when you reinstate your license

In many cases of license suspension in the Golden State,
a California SR-22 certificate
must be obtained in order for your license to be reinstated. 
Often referred to as “SR-22 insurance,” these certificates function as proof of financial responsibility and verify that you have met the
state’s requirements for auto insurance
You can ask your insurance company to file your SR-22 with the California DMV. Unfortunately, even though the fees are usually inexpensive, driving with an SR-22 certificate invariably leads to increased insurance premiums. Some insurance providers may even drop you or deny you coverage if they see your SR-22 as a high-risk red flag.  

What to do if your insurance goes up after your license reinstatement

If you’ve dealt with a license suspension or SR-22 filing, you might be feeling pessimistic about the projected cost of your car insurance. To find the best insurance rate, you’ll want to do a careful comparison of every option available, since each insurance company will use a slightly different methodology to
calculate your premium
.
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FAQs

The reinstatement fee for a suspended license is $14, but this doesn’t include the license reissue fee, which typically ranges from $100 to $150. 
When your license is put on a DMV hold, you’re allowed to keep driving until the DMV takes action. In CA, the DMV can hold your driver’s license if you fail to appear in traffic court after you receive a traffic ticket. Eventually, the hold can lead to a license suspension. 
Starting January 1, 2023, the Reform of License Suspension Law, also known as
AB 2746
, will start to be implemented. Under this new law, notices for driver's license suspensions will no longer be sent to the DMV by the state courts in response to a failure to appear. The goal is that by January 1, 2027, the DMV will be required to cease suspending driver's licenses for failure to appear.
You cannot legally drive. Driving without a driver’s license in California can result in hefty fines or jail time. 
Yes. After you receive an Order of Suspension from the California DMV, you have a 10-day window to request an administrative hearing at the DMV to challenge the suspension. During this hearing, you have the chance to present evidence supporting why you should be allowed to keep your driving privileges. 
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