California continues to crack down on drunk driving with “hot list” program

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is expanding on a program that provides law enforcement agencies around the state with the names of drivers who have suspended or revoked licenses. The DMV will send participating police departments a biweekly list that officers can then use to keep Californians with suspended or revoked licenses off the road.

The "Hot List" effort, as it is called, began in 2011 as a pilot program funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety. Fifteen police departments and sheriff's agencies participated during the pilot, resulting in 115 citations for driving with a suspended or revoked license, 129 vehicle impoundments and 23 DUI arrests.

The program is now expanding to 50 police departments across the state, including Alameda County.

Repeat DUI charges occur with regularity. About one-quarter of DUI offenders in the state have a previous DUI on record. Perhaps most surprisingly, 75 percent of drivers convicted of DUI continue to drive with a suspended or revoked license, according to DMV director Jean Shiomoto.

Police involved in "Hot List" must double check license status of drivers before pulling over a driver under the program. In addition, police may only use targeted interventions and publicize enforcement to warn offenders they are being tracked. Police officers who do not follow these procedures risk violating a driver's Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.

DUI penalties carry significant costs

DUI penalties across the country have risen significantly in recent years, and California is among the forefront of states imposing a high toll for offenders. Driving with a suspended or revoked license is common, partially because people rely on their vehicles to work, accomplish chores and attend necessary medical appointments. However, a single DUI conviction can bring a license revocation of four months. A second DUI within 10 years can bring a one-year suspension. Refusing to take a chemical test is illegal and carries a one year license suspension as well. Mitigating factors, such as previous DUI arrests, minors in the vehicle or if injury occurred can bring even harsher penalties.

The license revocation is in addition to potential jail time, fines and other penalties.

Californians who are facing a license revocation because of a DUI charge should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss their legal rights and options and the potential to obtain a restricted driver's license after a in order to be able to get to work.