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Top Ten Tips > Easing the Consequences of a DUI

2. Driver's License

Timing is Critical

The best Sonoma DUI lawyers will explain that if we can't dismiss or reduce a DUI case, then usually there will be some kind of driver's license suspension, but if your DUI arrest or detention occurred on or after January 1, 2019, then in most cases it is possible to avoid any required time off the road if certain tasks are accomplished in a timely fashion prior to the effective date of the applicable suspension period. Consult with a Santa Rosa DUI lawyer, or see our first couple of tips on this site under Ten Tips for Getting Your License Back, to determine if a driver's license suspension is likely in your specific situation. If so, then be sure to try to avoid any actual time off the road by thinking ahead and getting organized so that you are ready to convert a suspension into an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) breathalyzer restricted license or a "work" restricted license on the first day that the suspension is due to start.

DUI Program Classes

If you don't have a good Sonoma County DUI lawyer, or contacted us too late, and there is no "stay" (delay) of the driving suspension in place (see, Contacting DMV), then typically it is best to immediately sign up for the DUI Program classes ("DDP"). In Sonoma County, there is only one DUI program, located at 1430 Neotomas Avenue in Santa Rosa, just off Highway 12, one block before Farmers Lane deadends at Bennett Valley Road (see map below). Click here for a Sonoma DUI Program Map/Enrollment information flyer handed out at the time of sentencing in Sonoma County Superior Court. You can find more information about the Santa Rosa DUI Program by clicking here for the Sonoma DUI Program Website. Detailed information and important tips about the Sonoma County DDP can be found here in Tip #4 of this section.

Sonoma DUI Program Location

Click here for Napa DUI Program information, or here for Marin DUI Program information, or here for Mendocino DUI Program information. Sonoma, Napa, and Marin Counties each have only one DDP. Mendocino has more. Usually DUI programs have a waiting list to enroll, so if you wait too long, then you might suffer an unncessary suspension period, or it may be unnecessarily longer than required. You can find early contact information on this site for Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Mendocino, and other counties by clicking on our Sonoma DUI Lawyer DDP Resources and choosing any of the drinking driver DUI Program links. Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Mendocino and all the state-licensed drinking driver DUI programs are listed.

Related, Sonoma County courts typically require that you sign up with the DUI program within 21 days of a DUI conviction or else you must go back to the court to be re-referred. If you fail to convert your suspended license to a restricted "work" or breathalyzer license, and as a result you are arrested for driving on a suspended license due to a DUI, the penalty exposure is severe and expensive, including a mandatory minimum 10-day jail sentence plus more jail for violating DUI probation. Talk to your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer about the best time to enroll and then don't delay.

IID & SR-22

LowCostInterlockIf there is no stay of suspension in place, and you are not electing or eligible for the work-only license, then in most DUI cases it is also a good idea to timely install an IID breathalyzer (see Tip #1 under Ten Tips for Getting Your License Back, and our Sonoma DUI Lawyer IID Resources), and if there is no stay then in most cases it is best to file an SR-22 insurance form with the Santa Rosa DMV (see Tip #3 here in this section under "Insurance," above, and our Sonoma DUI Lawyer SR-22 Resources). Once these tasks are accomplished, most drivers are eligile for an immediate restricted license upon payment of fees at the local DMV field office. All of these steps must be accomplished in advance and electronically evident before a restricted license will be issued at a DMV field office. The best Sonoma DUI attorneys will help navigate you to properly accomplish each of these tasks.

Consult with a Sonoma County DUI attorney to see if your individual circumstances might prevent eligibility for one or more of these restricted licenses (for example, a drug DUI, chemical test refusal cases, under-21 cases, some probation violation cases, some pre-2019 and pre-2010 arrest dates, and other atypical prior/present offense combinations, etc.).

Client comment: "After I was arrested for a DUI, the police officer told me that if I go to AA meetings prior to my first court date, then when I go to court, I can show them that I'm going to AA and they're more likely to give me a restricted license."

Jake's answer to this client: Great example of cops giving wrong legal advice; your case is a first DUI with no test refusal or other aggravating factors, so you have a right to a restricted license by following the proper DMV procedures; it has nothing to do with AA meetings or the court!

Who is Eligible for the Restricted License?

In a typical first offense Sonoma DUI case (arrest or detention date after 1/1/19, alcohol-related, age 21 or older, no allegation of injury or refusal to give a chemical test), with no other aggravating circumstances, and no viable legal defenses or other mitigating factors, a good Sonoma DUI lawyer will explain that most drivers may avoid a suspension of driving privileges by obtaining either (1) an IID breathalyzer restricted license, or (2) a 12-month "work" license if the court doesn't order the IID breathalyzer. In either option, the restricted license may be issued at any local DMV office upon payment of fees once the DMV has electronic evidence of installation of the IID (if applicable), DUI program enrollment and SR-22 filing.

In a typical second offense Sonoma DUI case, with an arrest date on or after 1/1/19, no aggravating circumstances, and no viable legal defenses or other mitigating factors, the best Santa Rosa DUI attorneys will explain that most drivers may avoid a suspension of driving privileges by obtaining an IID breathalyzer restricted license at any local DMV office upon payment of fees once the DMV has electronic evidence of installation of the IID, DUI program enrollment and SR-22 filing.

If the date of arrest is prior to 1/1/19, then older laws applicable to most first offense DUI cases allow for a restricted work license, but only after 30 days of no driving (regardless of hardship). For most second or third offense DUI cases, the older laws allow for an IID breathalyzer restricted license after 90 days or six months of no driving, respectively (or a work license after one year of no driving in second offense cases), if required tasks are accomplished. If the date of the DUI arrest is prior to 2010, then in most multiple offender cases there is no possibility of restricted driving privileges (regardless of hardship) for at least one year unless the separate DMV case is successfully litigated.

You can find additional detailed discussion about getting your license back by clicking on Ten Tips For Getting Your Driver License Back on this site.

DUI temporary restricted license What is the Restricted License?

A DMV suspension of driving privileges due to a DUI may result from a court conviction or from the DMV's separate administrative proceedings (typically from both). To see detailed descriptions of these suspensions, click on Ten Tips For Getting Your Driver License Back on this site. Typically, suspension periods last from four months to three years or more depending on the circumstances. In most cases the suspension time can be shortened after a mandatory period off the road, or avoided altogether, by obtaining limited driving privileges (called a "restricted license") which lasts for the balance of the longest of any pending suspension periods. For a first offense DUI, this special license is usually "restricted" to either (1) only driving in a vehicle equipped with an IID breathalyzer, or (2) only driving to, from and in the course of employment or the DUI classes. For multiple offense DUIs, typically only the IID breathalyzer restriction is available.

Getting the Restricted License

Understand that the Santa Rosa DMV does not automatically send the restricted license to you, and your Sonoma DUI attorney cannot get it for you; rather, in a typical case you must accomplish the tasks described above and then go to the Santa Rosa or Petaluma DMV satellite office and pay a fee to obtain the restricted license.

The license issued to you at Santa Rosa DMV will be a new 8-1/2 x 11 or 8-1/2 x 5 temporary license (see example pictured here). Usually your new regular plastic picture license (which will look like the one you had before except the restrictions are printed on the reverse) will be mailed to you from Sacramento following satisfaction of the above tasks and payment of the fee at a local DMV field office. The Santa Rosa DMV is located at 2570, Corby Avenue, and the Petaluma DMV is located at 715 South Point Blvd.

Santa Rosa DMV Field Office:

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Petaluma DMV Field Office:

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Be Sure DMV Has Your Correct Mailing Address

If DMV has an old mailing address (for example, outside of Sonoma County) then you might not receive critical notices in a Sonoma DUI case, which could provide a time-sensitive right to a hearing (sometimes only 10 days), or give you a date for the start of a driving suspension, or send you a new temporary or permanent license, which are usually sent to you at your address on record at DMV. Note that copies of many (but not all) hearing-related notices are sent to your Sonoma DUI attorney so that you can get copies from him/her.

Because the Vehicle Code requires you to provide a change of address to DMV within 10 days of obtaining a new address, typically you are not permitted to complain if DMV sends important documents to an old address on its records. In order to allow your Sonoma County DUI lawyer to react quickly and challenge notices of wrong or unfair decisions or planned actions against you, you must ensure that DMV has your correct address unless there is a compelling reason not give official notice. If you wish, you may visit the Santa Rosa or Petaluma satellite DMV office to submit a Sonoma County change of address, or click here to Update Your Address Online, if DMV has an old address.

The Under Age 21 Critical Need Restricted Driver License

If you are under age 21 and lost your license due to a first Sonoma DUI or zero tolerance (under age 21 DUI case), then you may wish to consider asking your DUI attorney about applying for a critical need license to drive if you believe you can adequately show the DMV that public transportation in your area is not sufficient to accomplish your transport to and from work or school or you are the primary driver for transporting a family member to medical appointments.

To get this restricted license, you must be able to demonstrate that alternate and public transportation are inadequate to travel to work and/or school, and, although Sonoma County transit is actually adequate in many areas (click here for Sonoma County Transit Schedules), you may qualify for a restricted license if you live in outlying areas of Sonoma such as the Russian River, Bodega, Occidental or Sea Ranch, or even more rural areas where public transportation is remote or nonexistent and a combination of work and school requirements may necessitate your continued driving following a DUI arrest and conviction. If so, then print out nearby routes and schedules to attach to your application so that the DMV can readily see the lack of alternatives in your given situation.

Using A Lawyer May Save Unnecessary Delay. It is often extremely helpful to ask a local Sonoma DUI attorney to provide and review this critical need application so that eligible minors may minimize the possibility of denial of application. A Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will be sure that the entire application is complete, including all required signatures from parents, school officials, employers and/or doctors. We review applications to ensure there is adequate supporting information which we know the DMV Sacramento office looks for, such as Sonoma County bus schedules, supplemental explanations, and additional documentation of any kind which may support the application.

Improve Your Chances of Being Approved. This is the type of advice Santa Rosa DUI lawyers should provide: make no mistake, the DMV only grants under-21 restricted licenses for truly critical needs. So for example, getting a job in the town of Sonoma, and/or enrolling in a class or two at the Santa Rosa Junior College or a trade school in Napa, would typically increase chances of getting a limited license to accomplish such transportation.

ApprenticeClick here to browse local college classes at Sonoma State University, and Santa Rosa Junior College, and Empire College. You may also wish to consider applying for a building trades apprenticeship. Click here for a directory of available apprenticeship programs by county and occupation on the California Department of Industrial Relations website, or click here for a 2008 list of available North Bay Area Apprenticeship Programs, including contact information. Some Apprenticeship Programs are available in Santa Rosa and surrounding Napa and Sonoma counties, such as cement masons, electricians, operating engineers, plumbers & refer mechanics, and sound & communication; click here for the Building Trades Apprenticeship Website, or here for the California Tooling and Machining Apprenticeship Association. Another viable option may be Santa Rosa's Redwood Empire Beauty College, or click here for information on the Culinary Institute of America St. Helena campus.

Application Form. You can fill out the critical need application online (see link below), print it to complete with supporting materials, and send to a Sonoma County DUI lawyer for comments, reprint if necessary, and obtain signatures and mail to Sacramento with your additional documentation. The form usually takes several weeks for you to prepare and complete, plus review time for your attorney, and at least a week or two for the DMV to consider, so it is important to start this process as soon after you determine the one-year DMV suspension is likely.

Note that all minors who might otherwise be eligible for this restricted license must serve the initial 30 days of any pending suspension; this is the perfect time to complete and mail the DMV application. Click here for the under age 21 form: DMV DS694 Application For Critical Need License. Click here for more information and tips on this site for a successful application process: Sonoma DUI Lawyer's Ten Tips for Getting Your License Back: Minors.


Any result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

Our DUI Lawyers

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.


Dave Jake Schwartz