Ask the County Law Librarian – Points and Driver’s License Suspension

Q. I want to know if you will immediately lose your driver’s license if you get three tickets in a relatively short period of time (or what the time period is, if there is one), or if that is optional on the part of the DMV.

A. As with many legal questions, the answer to your question depends on a couple of factors, such as the type(s) of traffic citations you receive and the window of time in which you receive them. For questions relating to driver licensing in California, the current California Driver Handbook is the best place to start your research. The 2012 Driver Handbook is available online at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) web site To access the publication in PDF or HTML formats, select the Licensing tab, and then select Publications.

According to page 86 of the Handbook, the DMV will keep track of a driver’s points for 36 months or longer, depending on the type of citations received. Traffic citations will vary in point values, so it is important to note which citations you’ve received and what they’re worth in points. For reference, traffic convictions such as speeding violations are worth one point each, whereas more serious violations like reckless driving are worth two points.

Once you’ve calculated your point total, you should look at the dates on which you received them. The DMV considers drivers negligent if they have accumulated either a) 4 points in 12 months; b) 6 points in 24 months, or c) 8 points in 36 months. If you qualify as a negligent driver under the DMV’s regulations, you will probably know it: the DMV sends out warning letters and possibly further sanctions to drivers who fit the criteria above.

Will you lose your driver’s license in all of the point-count situations above? According to page 87 of the Handbook, “if you get 4 points in 12 months, you will lose your license.” This statement seems pretty straightforward. However, the Handbook does not address the remaining point counts in regard to license suspension, so if you have further questions we suggest speaking to someone from the DMV. You can find contact information here:

For information on how to contest a citation, we suggest reading “Fight Your Ticket and Win in California,” by Nolo Press, a publisher of self-help legal books.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.


Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian



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