The Automatic Suspension by the Officer
When a California driver is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, his driver's license is immediately confiscated by the police and he is served with the DMV's "Notice of Suspension". This one-page document (fine print on both sides) serves to (1) formally suspend the license, (2) provide a temporary driving privilege for 30 days, and (3) explain some aspects of the applicable law.
Demand a Hearing Within 10 Days
Buried in this fine print on the back side is the most important legal provision: there is a right to an administrative hearing to contest the suspension and force the DMV to return the license -- but only if the individual or his DWI attorney contacts the DMV's local Driver Safety Office (DSO) and formally demands a hearing WITHIN 10 CALENDAR DAYS of the arrest. If the call is not made, on the eleventh day the right to contest the suspension is lost and it will begin 30 days from the arrest regardless of any possible defenses.
Grounds for Suspension
This immediate suspension is for either (1) having .08% or higher blood-alcohol (.01% for drivers under 21); (2) providing a blood or urine sample when the officer believes the eventual analysis will be .08% or higher; or (3) refusing to take a chemical test. This is referred to as an administrative suspension (or sometimes "administrative per se" or "APS" suspension), and is to be distinguished form a license suspension or restriction which may (and probably will) later occur in the criminal courts -- in addition to the administrative suspension.
What if I Have a Driver's License from Another State?
If the driver is from another state, the officer has no right to seize the license, as that document is the property of another state. Similarly, California has no jurisdiction to suspend a driver's license issued by another state. The officer can and will, however, issue a "Notice of Suspension" identical to that given California license holders; this acts only as a suspension of the right to drive (after 30 days) within the State of California. If there is a conviction, California (as a member of the Interstate Driver's License Compact) will notify the home state of that fact; that state will then usually suspend the license in the same way as if the person had been convicted in the home state.