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RULES OF THE ROAD DMV answer drivers questions
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Q: What are “buy-here-pay-here” dealers?

: They are used car dealers that assign less than 90 percent of their conditional sales and lease contracts to third party lenders; and therefore provide direct financing to car buyers. “Buy-here-pay-here” dealers are prohibited from requiring buyers to make payments in person, except for the down payment. For more information on “buy-here-pay-here” dealers, visit Remember to Save Time! Go Online!

Q: I am car shopping and want to go to a dealership that can directly finance the car. I was wondering what information these “buy-here-pay-here” used car dealerships must provide me.

AB 1534 requires “buy-here-pay-here” used car dealers to affix and prominently display a label on any used vehicle offered for retail sale that provides the reasonable market value of the vehicle.   The label must contain specific information from a recognized pricing guide used to determine that value and the date the value was determined.   The prospective purchaser must also be provided with a copy of the information that the dealer used to determine the vehicle’s value. 

Q: I saw a Self-Service Terminal at my local DMV and wondered what they are used for and if people actually use them?

Yes, they are being used! About 773,688 people used the SSTs in 2012- that’s a 68 percent increase from 2011! Self-Service Terminals (SSTs) allow you to complete your registration renewal or file for Planned Non-Operation (PNO) Status without waiting in line. SSTs accept cash, check; credit/debit cards for payment and a registration card and sticker or PNO Acknowledgement are printed at the terminal after the completion of your transaction.  But, if your billing notice indicates insurance or a smog inspection is required, please be sure to complete those requirements first.  If not, you can still pay fees so you don’t incur late payment penalties.  For more information on SSTs, visit Remember to Save Time! Go Online!

Q: I see a lot of information about all of the different things I can do online, instead of going to a field office.  I still seem more comfortable going in, though, and wonder how many people are actually using the DMV website instead?

The numbers are growing rapidly! Californians conducted more than 11.9 million online transactions during 2012. In fact, there are approximately twenty transactions that can be made online using DMV’s website. Since 1996, the number of services offered online has grown. In addition, customers can also download DMV’s iPhone and Android app for their smartphone. iPhone and Android users now have DMV information and services at their fingertips. Downloading the app is free! DMV was the first state agency to develop an iPhone application in-house, while keeping costs to a minimum. Follow the trend and visit Remember to Save Time! Go Online!

Q: What are the fees that are collected for the Veteran’s license plates used for?

The fees for the issuance, renewal and personalization of Veterans Organization license plates benefit the County Veterans Service Officers Fund.  The fund is used by local agencies to assist veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services accrued through military service. For more information on Veterans Organization license plates, please visit, Remember to Save Time! Go Online!

Q: If the Legacy License Plate Program is implemented, what other fees will be due?

  In addition to the $50 original plate fee, vehicle owners who purchase replicas of California license plates similar to those issued in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s are required to pay:
•$40 for renewal
•$15 to transfer the plates to another vehicle
•$35 for substitute plates

Remember, a minimum of 7,500 pre-paid applications are required prior to January 1, 2015.  For more information on the Legacy Plates Program, visit  Remember to Save Time! Go Online!

Q: Do you need to be examined by a medical professional before you are eligible to obtain a commercial driver license?

Yes. All drivers applying for, or who hold, any commercial driver license, a certificate to drive a school bus, School Pupil Activity Bus, Youth Bus, General Public Para Transit Vehicle or Farm Labor Vehicle must have their examination performed by a Physician Assistant, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Doctor of Medicine, or Doctor of Osteopathy. The Medical Examination Report and Medical Certificate must be signed by the medical examiner that performed the examination. For more information on medical reports, please visit

Q: I was arrested for a DUI and the officer confiscated my driver license. How do I get it back?

DMV will impose Administrative Per Se (APS) licensing sanctions against individuals arrested for a DUI.  If a person is also convicted of a DUI by the court, DMV imposes additional mandatory sanctions.  If you are not convicted by the court, you will be eligible to reapply for a license at the end of your APS suspension or revocation period.  You must pay a $125 reissue fee to the DMV and file proof of financial responsibility. The reissue fee is $100 if you were under age 21 and were suspended under the Zero Tolerance Law. If it is determined that there is not a basis for the suspension or revocation, your driver license will be reissued or returned to you.    For more information on DUI arrests, please visit

If you are subsequently convicted of a DUI, the court will impose additional fines and penalties.  In addition, DMV will impose new mandatory licensing sanctions based on the conviction and the number of prior DUI offenses, which can require an additional $55 reissue fee, proof of financial responsibility, completion of an alcohol treatment program, and in some counties, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).  You will not be eligible to reinstate your driving privileges and get your license back until you meet all reinstatement requirements for either full or restricted driving privileges.  

Q: How do I find an Occupational Licensing (OL) Inspector Office?

California has 16 OL Inspector Offices located throughout the state. As part of the application process, OL Inspectors perform background verifications and physically inspect places of business for compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The OL Inspectors routinely monitor businesses for continued compliance and also perform annual reviews of Driving Schools and Traffic Violator Schools. Visit for more information.

Q: What is a STAR station?

: STAR stations are smog check stations that meet higher performance standards established by the Bureau of Automotive Repair. Some STAR stations are licensed to perform only tests, while others are licensed to perform both tests and repairs. The station is required to post a sign on the services it performs.  The new STAR Program began on January 1, 2013, and will replace the Gold Shield and Test Only program. Vehicles with expected high emissions levels are selected for testing at these stations. For more information on smog inspections, visit

Q: What is the PAS test?

The preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test is used by law enforcement to measure the blood alcohol level for suspected drunk drivers. The PAS device is a handheld breath-testing unit that gives an instant and accurate measure of your blood alcohol concentration. For more information on PAS or other chemical testing, visit

Q: How long is the Purchaser’s Temporary Operating Copy valid?

The permit the dealer provides for display on the passenger side of the front window is valid until the plates and stickers are received by the customer, or for 180 days from the sale date, whichever comes first.

Q: How does the DMV protect the public from identity theft?

Because the driver license (DL) and identification (ID) card are the primary identification documents in California, they are targets for identity fraud.  DMV is doing everything possible to protect your personal information and your identity.  For example, DMV employees are continuously trained on fraud document detention.  DMV has designed a brochure to help you understand what identity theft is as well as what DMV is doing to protect your identity.  To access this brochure, visit

Q: What do I need to get a personalized license plate?

You will need current registration on the vehicle, a completed special interest license plate application (REG 17), payment of the appropriate fees. These plates can be ordered online at  or mail in a completed form and payment to:

P.O. Box 932345-MSD238
Sacramento, CA 94232-3450
Remember to Save Time! Go Online!

Q: I am in the military and both my spouse and I will be away on active duty for about a year. How does this affect my license and expiration date?

If your driver license has expired and you are out of state, on active military duty in the United States Armed Forces, call (916) 657–7790 to update your driving record.  DMV will send you an Extension of License for Person in Armed Forces (DL 236) card to carry with your driver license.  The DL 236 card references California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 12817, which authorizes the extension of you and your spouse’s driver licenses beyond the expiration date.  For more information on the licensing rules for active military visit

Q: What is a “negligent” driver” and how does it affect my privilege to drive?

The Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) is based on negligent operator points and consists of a series of warning letters and progressive sanctions against the driving privilege.  NOTS affects California drivers age eighteen and older. Vehicle Code section 12810 requires DMV to assign one point to any conviction “involving the safe operation of a motor vehicle upon the highway.”  NOTS actions are based on the number of negligent operator “points” drivers add to their driving record within specified time periods.

Serious driving offenses, such as hit and run, reckless driving, and driving under the influence, are designated as 2 points and will remain on your record for up to 10 years from the violation date. Most other offenses are designated as 1 point and will remain on your record for three years from the violation date. Any “at fault” accident is normally counted as one point.

You will be suspended as a negligent operator if your driving record shows any of the following point count totals:
• 4 or more points in 12 months, or
• 6 or more points in 24 months, or
• 8 or more points in 36 months

For more information on negligent driver penalties, visit

Q: Are there any career opportunities at DMV?

DMV is always looking for new hardworking people to perform different types of work in our many offices throughout California. To find out what positions are currently open, visit us at and join our team.

Q: How long before my registration is expired should I expect to receive a notice?

California registration fees are due and payable upon receipt of the registration renewal billing notice, which is mailed out approximately 67 days before the expiration date. Payment is due on or before the expiration date to renew without penalty.

Q: How do I report a vehicle with expired California registration?

Since the California DMV has an aggressive delinquent registration collection process in place, it may be that renewal fees have been paid but other requirements have not been met, such as: smog certification or clearance of outstanding parking citations. A new registration card and sticker cannot be issued until all requirements are met. Law enforcement may cite vehicles for expired registration per CVC 4000(a).  Also, after six months of non-registration, the vehicle can be towed and impounded per CVC 22651(o)(1)(A).

Q: I lost the title to my vehicle. How to I apply for another copy?

You may apply for a duplicate title using an Application for Duplicate Title form (REG 227) and pay a $19 replacement title fee.  The REG 227 can found at: .

You may also submit the application in person or by mail to: Department of Motor Vehicles, Registration Operations P. O. Box 942869, Sacramento, CA 94269-001. For faster service, please make an appointment prior to visiting a DMV office

Q: I reordered an ID card nearly two months ago, but I haven’t received it yet. Who can I contact to find out if the order went through?

: I am sorry you are experiencing a delay in your service.  Visit to check the status of your ID card.  Please make sure you have your ID card number handy.

The DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Acting Undersecretary Brian Kelly. The DMV licenses drivers, maintains driving records, registers and tracks official ownership of vehicles and vessels, investigates auto and identity-related fraud, and licenses car dealers, driving schools, and traffic violator schools. For more information about the DMV, visit