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What Is A Writ Of Mandate And Related FAQs

What is a writ of mandate? What is a writ of mandamus? What is an administrative writ?

“Writ” is a fancy word for court order.

A writ is an order from a judge telling a lower court or a government agency (like a school board or the Department of Motor Vehicles — DMV) to reverse a decision. The legal term is writ of mandate or writ of mandamus. When the writ challenges the decision of an administrative agency after a hearing, it is often called a writ of administrative mandamus or just an administrative writ. If the challenged decision did not follow a hearing, the writ is usually called a common law writ.

Either way, a DMV writ is an order signed by a judge telling the DMV to reverse one of its decisions — usually the suspension of or refusal to issue or renew a driver’s license.

How do I get a writ of mandate?

You will have to hire a writ attorney who will file a lawsuit against the DMV. After a hearing, the judge will sign an order called a writ that forces the DMV to give you your license back. Call or send us an email at Beat DMV to schedule a consultation with an experienced lawyer.

The procedures for obtaining a writ of mandate are complex and will vary from county to county (indeed, sometimes from judge to judge!). In general, though, it starts by initiating a civil lawsuit on your behalf against the DMV by filing a document called a petition. After being served the petition, the DMV will respond and prepare the administrative record.

Once the administrative record is complete, your lawyers file a brief with the legal points and authorities showing the judge why he or she should take the extraordinary step of overturning a DMV decision. The California attorney general will file a brief opposing the writ, and then your side will file a reply brief.

Once all the documents are filed, your lawyers square off with the attorney general for a court hearing, where your case is argued to the judge. The hearing is not a trial; no evidence is presented and no witnesses are called. It is an appellate argument based on statutes, case law and general regulations. The hearing may last anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour in matters of first impression.

How much does a writ cost?

You should expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000 to get a writ of mandate. Be wary of any “cheaper” DMV lawyers — you get what you pay for.

Let’s face it: Nobody budgets for a driver’s license suspension. Unfortunately, if you’re in that situation, you don’t have a choice about paying a bunch of money — you’re going to pay it. Your only choice is to whom you pay it.

If you do nothing and just accept the suspension, you will usually have to pay for alternative transportation during the suspension period, an SR-22 with increased auto insurance premiums upon reinstatement and a mandated class or lessons. These costs can easily total $5,000 to $6,000 and don’t even include the inconvenience or stigma associated with not having your license.

If you decide to fight the suspension, there are two types of expenses you will pay to get the writ: attorney’s fees and costs.

Attorney’s fees will vary depending on the complexity and amount of work involved in a particular case, i.e., the number of issues to be raised to challenge the suspension. If you are like most motorists, you will want a stay of the suspension so that you can drive while we get the writ. A stay adds to the cost because it requires a separate motion and an additional court hearing. In general, attorney’s fees will run between $5,000 and $7,500.

Get legal counsel

Consult with a lawyer at Beat DMV, an area of the Law Office of Rodney Gould in Sherman Oaks, to discuss likely attorney’s fees in your case if a writ is the best solution to your DMV problems. (Also discuss future losses you face if you do not confront the challenge now). Call or send us an email to request a consultation.

In addition to attorney’s fees, the typical writ proceeding has associated costs related to administrative procedures. Filling fees for the writ petition and stay request, the costs of producing the transcript or administrative record, service of process on the DMV, and courier/fax filing charges are all auxiliary costs associated with the process. In total, these costs usually run between $500 and $1,200, depending on the length of the underlying DMV hearing.


GC 70603, GC 70611

What is a stay?

A stay is the temporary stopping of a DMV suspension order. There are two common stays in the DMV suspension context: one to allow an administrative hearing following an alcohol-related citation and one to allow your DMV attorney to get you a writ of mandate after a hearing or mandatory action.

The California Vehicle Code authorizes a stay to stop an alcohol-related suspension from taking effect before you can challenge it at an administrative hearing (VC 13558(g)). The Code of Civil Procedure authorizes a Superior Court judge to stay a driver’s license suspension long enough to decide whether to issue a writ of mandate to overturn that suspension (CCP 1094.5(g)).

The California Code of Civil Procedure authorizes a judge to stay the action of any state administrative agency while a writ action is pending to challenge that decision. This makes good sense to prevent the harm that could occur during the time it takes to challenge a decision. A motorist should not lose his or her license for the two to three months it may take to prove the suspension was wrong in the first place. A stay is the temporary order that prevents this kind of irreparable harm.


CCP 1094.5(g), VC 13558(b)

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