How Do California VC 40509.5 Holds with Drivers License Suspensions Work?

California Vehicle Code section 40509.5 has probably caused more Californians sudden anxiety attacks and cold sweat nightmares than any terrorist attack or environmental disaster.

Why? How you ask? California Vehicle Code Section 40509.5 is the law that allows the California Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend a persons drivers license if they miss a court date or fail to pay a fine on time. When a person loses their drivers license, regardless of their occupation, their livelihood and standard of living is in danger.

Here is how Vehicle Code section 40509.5 holds on a drivers license work from a defense attorney’s point of view.

If a person misses a court date on a California traffic ticket or fails to pay a traffic ticket fine on time, the court often notifies the Department of Motor Vehicles of the problem. (as authorized by section 40509.5). Once DMV receives the “40509.5 notice, as it is called, they begin a process to suspend the driving privilege of the defendant, even if they do not have a valid drivers license.

The Department of Motor Vehicles usually sends a 30 day suspension notice to the driver at their address as listed in the DMV’s records. The law requires DMV to send the notice to the address on file, and requires all drivers to maintain a current address with the DMV.

Failure to keep DMV notified of your current address is a misdemeanor crime, and can cause drivers license problems that you do not understand. (Change Your Address with DMV now)


The drivers license suspension is separate from the court case. You cannot deal with both problems in the same place. Thus a defendant with a Vehicle Code 40509.5 hold has 2 different problems: 1) an imminent drivers license suspension; and 2) a court case in a failure to appear status.

The Department of Motor Vehicles 40509.5 suspension notice usually states that the drivers license will be suspended effective in 30 days, and the basis for the suspension. The law assumes that the DMVs address record is correct, and once the notice is sent to the address (usually by certified mail), the clock starts.

Upon the mailing of the notice, the driver has 30 days to correct the problem to have a shot at avoiding the drivers license suspension.

To get a Vehicle Code 40509.5 drivers license suspension lifted, a defendant must address the problem with their court case and get the court to release the hold. Usually this means a defendant must set a court date, make a court appearance, pay a fine, to pay bail.

Once the Veh. Code sec. 40509.5 hold is released by the court, the court notifies DMV and the drivers license suspension ends (usually the next day, but it varies from court to court for unknown reasons).

However, the drivers license does not become valid again automatically. In many cases, a driver must pay a re issuance fee to DMV and/or take a new drivers test to completely reinstate a drivers license suspended under Vehicle Code section 40509.5.

I always tell people that once you get a court to release a Vehicle Code 40509.5 hold, you need to go to the DMV office in person to get the drivers license reinstated.

Can an Attorney handle a case with a Vehicle Code 40509.5 hold or once it is in collections? Yes. I have personally done it for more than a hundred people in probably more than a dozen counties. An Attorney can go to court for you, can file a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment, can appeal errors of law, can file written demand for arraignment and trial, file a motion to dismiss, etc.

If you have multiple FTA cases, or problems in multiple counties, Request a Free Attorney Case Review to find out if it makes sense for you to get professional help.

TIPS ON DEALING WITH CA Veh Code 40509.5 HOLDS:

1. Keep your address current with Department of Motor Vehicles (California law requires it);

2. If you miss a court date and get a notice from DMV, go to the court the next morning and ask for a court appearance or hire an attorney like me to do the work for you;

2.5 Once in court, specifically ask for the 40509.5 hold to be released. Get proof on paper of the court’s action and proof you paid (if applicable).

3. Once the 40509.5 hold is removed by the court, go to the DMV in person to get your license reinstated and pay re issuance fees (call in advance for your details); and

4. Never drive without a valid drivers license in your pocket, proof of insurance and valid registration.

Questions? Leave a reply below.

Related Articles:

Tips for How to Write a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment;
How to Deal With a Traffic Ticket Case in Collections;

Related Self Help Forms That You Can Edit Written By a Defense Attorney – use as a framework for your own ideas:

Motion to Release Drivers License Hold;
Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment;

Free Official Traffic Court Self Help Forms are available from the California Judicial Counsel. You can learn a lot by browsing these forms.

Questions? Leave a Reply.

This entry was posted in Civil Assessments, Courtesy Notices, Going to Court, Suspended Drivers License, Vehicle Code and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to How Do California VC 40509.5 Holds with Drivers License Suspensions Work?

  1. Shar says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I dd almost have a mild myocardial infarction when I saw that I had a hold on my license. I googled fta reprocussions and thought for sure I had a warrant. And my mind just begin to run with all of these worst case scenarios. But my big sis sent me this link and my heart begin to beat normally again. Thank u so much for this information. I have a special appreciation for blog writers!

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