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Out-of-State Driver’s License Holders

If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in California and your license was issued to you by another state, the police cannot take your driver’s license.  That does not mean that you are free and clear of the drunk driving charge.  Even if you are licensed to drive by another state, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will take action to have your driving privileges suspended in the state of California. 

Interstate Driver’s License Compact

While driver’s who are licensed by another state may not be too concerned about losing California driving privileges, because of the Interstate Driver’s License Compact, being charged with driving under the influence and/or other serious traffic violation is shared between states.  The Interstate Driver’s License Compact (IDLC) is an agreement between the states to share information with one another regarding certain types of traffic violations, including driving under the influence.  There are currently only six states that do not participate in the Interstate Driver’s License Compact -- Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

As a result of the IDLC, drivers who are arrested for drunk driving in California may still suffer suspension or revocation of their driving privileges in their home states as well as in the state of California.  Whether a state will take action against your driving privileges depends on what state issued your driver’s license.  Some states do reciprocate any action issued by California.  For instance, if California suspends your driving privileges for four months, your driving privileges whether in or out of California will be suspended for four months.  In addition, some issuing states will enhance any penalties imposed by the  California DMV and  California courts and even require that the driver pay additional fines to them.  Still other states may only recognize or take action upon notification of a California DUI conviction in court.  Among the states that act only upon notification of a DUI court conviction, some will act only if the burden of proof in the DUI conviction is equal to that of the home state.  No one standard is applicable as to what will occur when an out-of-state driver is charged with drunk driving in California; it truly depends on the issuing state.   

The good news for out-of-state driver’s license holders who have been arrested for drunk driving in California or any other state for that matter, is that despite the agreement between the states to notify one another of severe traffic violations, communication between them is not always at its best and oftentimes notification is never even received.  If the driver’s home state fails to take action to rescind driving privileges, then the driver will still hold a valid driver’s license.  He or she will still be allowed to continue to drive legally, except in California where suspension or revocation occurred.  An experienced California DUI lawyer can advise out-of-state drivers whether the IDLC will affect their driving privileges and what they can expect.

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