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What is a DMV Order of Set Aside or Reinstatement

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is an enormously powerful government agency that impacts the driving privilege of all California drivers on a nearly daily basis.  Whether you are standing in line at a DMV Field Office to register your car, or you are simply driving down the street while under the scrutiny of the DMV’s Negligent Operator Computer System, the Department is never far away.

In addition to providing such basic services as the issuance of driver licenses or the registration of vehicles, the DMV also has an enforcement division that is designed to control the driving behavior of California drivers through education.  Known as the “Division of Driver Safety,” this enforcement arm of the department also has the power to suspend or revoke the driving privilege of any person when it believes there is cause to do so.

In nearly all cases where the DMV has suspended or revoked a person’s privilege to drive, the affected driver is permitted to conduct an Administrative Hearing in an attempt to reverse that action.  If the driver is successful in their attempt to renew their driving privilege, they receive written notice from the Department that their driving privilege has been restored.  The document used by the DMV to notify the driver they may return to driving is known as an Order of Set Aside or Reinstatement.

            California Vehicle Code Section 14105(a), determines:

“Upon the conclusion of a hearing, the hearing officer or hearing board shall make findings and render a decision on behalf of the department and shall notify the person involved.  Notice of the decision shall include a statement of the person’s right to review. The decision shall take effect as stated in the notice, but not less than four nor more than 15 days after the notice is mailed.”

By the time the Order of Set Aside or Reinstatement arrives in the driver’s mail box, their driving privilege has been restored and they may begin driving immediately, unless the Order specifies additional steps to be taken.

The Order will document the driver’s name, address and driver license number.  It will also indicate whether the Hearing Officer has “Set Aside” the suspension or has simply “Ended” the action.  The Order will also indicate any special instructions to the driver.  Depending on the reason the initial suspension/revocation was ordered, the driver may be required to renew their driver license or to pay a reinstatement fee.

What is a Set Aside vs. a Reinstatement?

When a driver is successful in pleading their case at an Administrative Hearing or Reinstatement Interview, the assigned Hearing Officer is responsible for notifying the driver that their driving privilege has been restored.  When the Order of Set Aside or Reinstatement is prepared, the hearing officer will either:

  • Set Aside the previous action or;
  • End the previous action

Set Aside: If a Hearing Officer orders that the previous suspension/revocation be “Set Aside,” this means he finds no factual or legal basis for why the action should have been initiated.  The Set Aside is the best of all results because it essentially exonerates the accused driver and removes any period of license suspension from the driving record. This is important because any period of license suspension can cause a person to be denied certain types of employment or can cause an increase in insurance rates.

Reinstatement: If a Hearing Officer orders that the previous suspension/revocation be “ended” and the driving privilege is Re-Instated, there is good and bad news.  The good news is the driver may immediately return to driving.  The bad news is the Hearing Officer has made a decision that the original suspension/revocation of the driver license was justified but, the driver is now fit to return to driving.  The problem here is any period of suspension/revocation will remain visible on the driving record, can be an obstacle in certain types of employment and can cause insurance companies to increase the cost of insurance.


Video transcript: Hi, my name is Rob Collier. I’m the president and CEO of California Drivers Advocates. Today I’m gonna speak with you about a DMV Order of Set Aside or Reinstatement. So, the question is what is a DMV Order of Set Aside or Reinstatement? If you’ve received such an order in the mail, what you clearly know is that you have been dealing with the DMV over an issue of driver’s license suspension. The Order of Set Aside or Reinstatement is the final act that the DMV takes in reinstating your driving privilege. Now there are two terms here.

There is the Set Aside. What is a Set Aside? A Set Aside essentially means that you’ve created such a defense for yourself that the DMV has exonerated you of whatever the allegation was, but your driving privilege is reinstated fully, and any mention of a driving suspension is removed from the record. This is the best of all possible results because your driving record is clean, your insurance rates are not effected, and, of course, you return to driving. Now conversely, this order can also simply reinstate the license. In other words, end the action against your driving privilege. This is a bit different because although you are returned to driving, now there is a mention in your driving record that there was a period of suspension. And, of course, the problem with that is that insurance companies will be attracted to that like moths to a flame and, of course, they will find a reasons to jack up your insurance rates because of that period of suspension.

So, the Set Aside is vastly better than the reinstatement; however, with the reinstatement you are returned to driving. So, that’s the difference between the two. If you’ve received such and order in the mail, what that tells you is that the DMV hearing officer has already updated the statewide computer, your driving privilege is clear, and you can immediately go to your car and begin driving. If you have any questions about this give us a call or visit our website.

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