I Got Arrested for a DUI, Do I need an SR-22 now?

I Got Arrested for a DUI, Do I need an SR-22 now? Why am I getting phone calls from sales people trying to sell me SR-22 certificates? Lately, this is a question I’ve been hearing often. The answer is NO, at least NOT YET, and perhaps NEVER. 

The bottom line:  consult with a qualified DUI defense attorney before you purchase an SR-22.  An experienced DUI defense attorney will advise you if you need to get an SR-22, and if so, when you need to get it

Here’s some background:

What is an SR-22?

An SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility that ensures that you are meeting the state’s car insurance requirements, and that you will continue to meet these requirements for a specified amount of time, usually 3 years.

Do I need an SR-22?  Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t.

Let me explain.  When arrested for an alcohol related DUI where the driver is alleged to be at least .08% blood alcohol concentration, the procedure is that the arresting officer takes away the driver license on the spot and will give the driver a “pink” DMV document titled ‘Administrative Per Se Suspension/Revocation Order and Temporary License.’  This document is notice to the arrested driver that their driving privilege will be suspended in 30 days.  The driver may continue to drive for the 30-day period using this temporary license.  After the 30 days, the pink temporary license will expire, and a suspension will go into effect automatically.  The length of the suspension depends on whether the driver has prior DUI convictions or other alcohol related suspensions.

If the driver preserves his DMV hearing rights within 10 days of receiving the pink temporary license/ order of suspension, the DMV will stop all suspension action against the driving privilege, and the driver will be entitled to a hearing to determine if a suspension is justified.   In other words, the DMV hearing gives the driver an opportunity to contest the license suspension.  If the driver fails to preserve the DMV hearing rights within the first 10 days, the driver waives his right to have a hearing to contest the license suspension, and the suspension will go into effect automatically after the 30-day period.

After the DMV hearing process is completed (and this can take many months depending on the case), the DMV will determine whether to impose the license suspension.

If the suspension is imposed, the DMV will give the driver notice of when the suspension will go into effect.  Again, the length of the suspension depends on whether the driver has prior DUI convictions or other alcohol related suspensions.

Once the driver license suspension is in effect, the driver will, at some point in the future, be eligible for a restricted driver license.  When the driver will be eligible for a restricted license depends on a few factors, such as if the driver has prior DUI convictions or other DMV alcohol related suspensions.

Before the DMV will issue a restricted license, the driver must now file an SR-22 with the DMV.     By the time a driver is eligible for a restricted license, 6 months or more may have passed from the original arrest date.   Here are some examples:

Scenario 1:  Let’s say a driver is arrested on November 1 for a first-time DUI, and fails to preserve his DMV hearing rights within the required 10-day period.  In this situation the pink temporary license will expire 30 days from the date of arrest and a 4-month suspension will go into effect on December 2.  After the first 30 days of that 4-month suspension has passed, the driver will be eligible for a restricted license (about January 2).  To get the restricted license, the driver must file an SR-22 with the DMV, and be enrolled in the required alcohol class.   So, under this scenario, the driver would not need an SR-22 until 60 days or so after the original date of arrest. If the driver chose to sit out the entire 4-month suspension, then the driver would not need to file an SR-22 with the DMV until after the 4-month suspension ends before he can get his unrestricted driver license.   So, to purchase an SR-22 immediately after the arrest, is a waste of money.

Scenario 2:  Let’s say a driver is arrested on November 1 for a first-time DUI, and does preserve his DMV hearing rights within the required 10-day period.  In this situation the DMV will stop all action against the driver license because now the driver is entitled to a hearing to contest the suspension.  The DMV will schedule a DMV hearing perhaps 45 days or longer from the original arrest date.   If the driver hires an experienced DUI defense attorney to defend him at the DMV hearing, the lawyer will have reviewed the officer’s arrest report, the arresting officer’s sworn statement, and the chemical test results – these documents make up the DMV’s case against the driver.  The attorney will then likely subpoena various records related to the initial contact with the officer, the DUI investigation, the chemical test results, and any audio/video recordings, and perhaps even subpoena live witnesses.  Because DUI cases differ, the evidence needed for each DMV hearing also differs.   It takes time to gather all the requested evidence, so the original scheduled DMV hearing will likely be continued, perhaps even a few times.   Once the DMV hearing process is completed, the DMV will issue its ruling.  If the DMV hearing is won by the driver, then there will be NO license suspension.   So, under this scenario, the driver would not need an SR-22 because the license was not suspended.   Thus, if the driver had purchased an SR-22 immediately after the arrest, this would truly have been a waste of money.

What if the DMV hearing was lost?   In this case, the DMV would notify the driver of the impending 4-month license suspension.  As stated above, the driver would need an SR-22 on file with the DMV before a restricted license would be issued (after the first 30 days of the 4-month suspension).   If the driver chooses to sit out the entire 4-month suspension, then the driver would not need to file an SR-22 until after the 4-month suspension, and before he can get his unrestricted driver license.   So, under this scenario, the driver would not need an SR-22 until possibly 6 months, 10 months, or even longer depending on how long it takes to complete the DMV hearing process.  Every DUI case is different so the time it takes to complete the hearing process can vary greatly.

If the arrested driver has prior DUI convictions, they may not be eligible for a restricted license for well over a year; therefore purchasing an SR-22 after being arrested is a big waste of money.

The point is, a person does not need an SR-22 after they have been arrested for a DUI, so to purchase one because some salesperson is calling on the telephone a day or two after the arrest is a waste of money.

These unscrupulous sales people are taking advantage of the arrested person’s fear after being arrested, along with their lack of knowledge of how the system works.  The salesperson’s goal is to sell an SR-22 and get a commission.   These salespeople will even go as far as telling the arrested driver that they will give them their money back if they win their DMV hearing.   They also tell the arrested drivers that they will get them into an alcohol class and even find them a lawyer to represent them.

Here’s the reality:  These commissioned salespeople will say anything to sell an SR-22.  Do you really think they are going to give the money back if it turns out that the driver does not need an SR-22 down the road?  Think about it – if the SR-22 salesperson is trying to refer the driver to an alcohol class at this early stage, the conclusion they have made in their mind is that the driver will lose the DMV hearing and court case.

In addition, if the SR-22 salesperson is trying to refer the arrested driver to a lawyer, how hard is that lawyer going to work to defend against the DMV suspension and the court case?  Remember, the SR-22 company is not in business to refund money, so the referred lawyer isn’t going to work very hard to win.

It is one thing for an experienced DUI defense attorney to truly defend an accused person against DUI charges and a potential DMV suspension; it is quite another thing for an unqualified lawyer to help the person accused of DUI to fill out plea documents.  In the latter case, the accused person will soon be a convicted person with a suspended license.  Thus, no refund for that SR-22.

The point is this:  The salesperson calling to sell an SR-22 simply because a driver was arrested for DUI is looking to make money from the arrested driver; the salesperson calling is not looking out for the best interests of the person arrested for DUI.  The salesperson is not an attorney.

Sometimes these salespersons pose as a DMV employee telling the arrested driver that they need an SR-22 to get their license back.  The DMV does NOT call drivers that have been arrested for DUI.

Don’t be fooled.  Do your research.  Consult with a qualified DUI defense attorney before you purchase an SR-22.  An experienced DUI defense attorney will advise you if you need to get an SR-22, and if so, when you need to get it.

About the Author:  DUI Defense Attorney Manuel J. Barba has been awarded the prestigious Forensic Lawyer-Scientist designation by the Chemistry and Law division of the American Chemical Society (ACS-CHAL), and is the ONLY DUI Defense Attorney in the Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial County areas with this designation, which gives him the knowledge and expertise to defend you or someone you may know.  For more information on the Law Offices of Manuel J. Barba, you can visit their website or call 866-442-2722 for a free consultation.