Understanding California’s DMV Points System

California assigns negligent operator points to driver licenses when motorists break the law or cause accidents. Once a driver has accrued a specific number of points, their license is at risk of suspension.

Millions of cars are on California roads at any given time. It is essential that drivers use caution and follow state and local laws to keep themselves and fellow drivers safe. Negligent or reckless drivers run the risk of causing car accidents and other harmful incidents.

To encourage driver safety, California has implemented a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) points system. Drivers who break the law, violate safety statutes, or contribute to motor vehicle accidents can have these points assigned to their driver’s license. If a driver accrues too many points, California can suspend that person’s driving privileges.

Our California car accident lawyers explain what you need to know about the DMV points system.

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    When are negligent operator points assigned to my license?

    DMV points are listed in California Vehicle Code 12810. Each traffic violation will result in one or two points on your license.

    One point is assigned in situations where a police officer determines you were not operating your motor vehicle safely. This would be relevant in cases involving:

    • Failing to yield the right of way
    • Making an illegal turn
    • Making an unsafe lane change
    • Running a red light
    • Ignoring stop signs or traffic signals
    • Speeding
    • Texting and driving (two violations in three years)

    For more serious violations, you will get two points on your California driver’s license:

    • Hit-and-run accidents when someone is injured or property is damaged (CVC 20001 and 20002)
    • Drunk driving (CVC 23152 and 23153)
    • Drunk driving under the age of 21 (CVC 23140)
    • Driving on the wrong side of the road (CVC 21651)
    • Drag racing and speed contests (CVC 23109)

    If you are convicted of multiple infractions or violations, the points can add up quickly.

    How many DMV points does it take for a license to get suspended?

    If you have a class A or class B California driver’s license, your license will be suspended if you acquire:

    • Six points over the course of 12 months
    • Eight points over the course of 24 months
    • 10 points over the course of 36 months

    This standard does not apply to drivers who have points on a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or under a motorcycle endorsement.

    Photo of a California driver pulled over getting a ticket

    Are DMV points assigned after car accidents in California?

    If you are believed to be partially or completely at fault for a car accident, you will likely get DMV points on your license. Note that you don’t have to be entirely at fault for a crash to put points on your license. Under the California comparative negligence law, you can share responsibility and still acquire negligent operator points.

    For example, let’s say you accidentally run a stop sign because you are texting. Another car blows through the intersection at the same time, and that driver didn’t stop either. You are both partly responsible for the car accident. Therefore, you will both get points on your license.

    The number of points you get will depend on the specific violations for which you are convicted. In this case, you would likely get at least one point for failing to stop at a stop sign. If you have prior violations for texting and driving, you could wind up with two points after the wreck.

    Can I use DMV points as proof of negligence per se in a car accident case?

    Some car accident cases are based on negligence. Negligence is defined as a person that has a duty of care, breaches it, and their actions cause another person to get hurt and suffer damages.

    According to the Legal Information Institute, negligence per se may also be the basis of a car accident case. Negligence per se can be invoked in situations where a party violates a California safety statute and causes an accident. It is a kind of shortcut that allows victims to point to the violation itself as proof of a breached duty of care. The victim simply has to establish that this violation of the law caused them to get hurt and sustain damages.

    So, can you use another driver’s points as proof of negligence per se? Not exactly, but you can use the underlying violation that led to the DMV points on their license.

    For instance, say you were hit head-on by another driver because they were driving on the wrong side of the highway. They thought they could bypass some traffic to make a left-hand turn, but they miscalculated how much time they had before the light would change and oncoming traffic would approach. That driver would likely be assigned two points on their license for driving on the wrong side of the highway. In your personal injury case, you would point to the fact that they were convicted of this traffic offense as evidence of negligence per se.

    Get the Help of a Trusted California Car Accident Lawyer

    Understanding how the DMV points system works is crucial as a driver in California. If you are involved in a car accident and deemed to be at least partly responsible, or you are caught driving unsafely, you may be at risk of getting negligent operator points put on your driver’s license; if too many of these points stack up, you could lose your license.

    If you are in a crash and someone else is at fault, you could use the fact that they violated the law, or got points on their license, as evidence to help you recover compensation.

    You don’t have to deal with these issues on your own. An experienced California car accident attorney at Cutter Law P.C. is ready to help you understand California’s DMV points system, navigate a claim for damages, and work to get your life back on track after a wreck.

    Our offices are conveniently located in Sacramento, Santa Rosa, and Oakland. Contact us today to speak with a lawyer about your case. Your first consultation is free.

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    Sacramento Office
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    Sacramento, CA 95864
    Phone: 916-290-9400

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    Cutter Law P.C.
    1999 Harrison Street Suite 1400
    Oakland, CA 94612

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