California DMV Announces New Laws Effective January 1 2009

California Department of Motor Vehicles
Media Relations Office
2415 First Avenue, MS F-122, Sacramento, CA 95818
Contact: DMV Media Relations

December 18, 2008

Sacramento— With 2009 right around the corner, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reminds motorists of several new laws that will ring in the New Year. 

Among the new laws is AB 2241, limits the issuance of temporary operating permits to those individuals whose vehicles have yet to pass a smog check. The law calls for a $50 fee for one 60-day temporary operating permit only if the vehicle has been tested at a smog station and failed.

“This new law ensures that vehicles on our highways are properly registered and maintained,” said DMV Director George Valverde.  “We also support efforts to reduce emissions which keep Californians healthy.”

In the past, owners were able to secure a temporary operating permit for 60 days or more if, after paying their renewal fees on time, they were unable to get a smog certificate for any reason.  The continued operation of vehicles that have not met California’s smog test requirements is estimated to be emitting one to two tons per day of hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen.

Another law that will take effect in 2009 is SB 28, which coincides with the cell phone law of 2007 and prohibits text messaging with a cell phone or other text-based communications while driving a vehicle.  In all, 1,187 bills were passed and 772 were signed into law – including over 80 changes to the Vehicle Code during the 2008 legislative year.  Some of the other changes include fee increases to improve air quality, DUI penalties, and a new special interest license plate take effect on Jan. 1, 2009

Following is an abbreviated summary of the new laws that will take effect Jan. 1, 2009, unless indicated otherwise. A more comprehensive list appears on the DMV Web site at


*Unlicensed Car Dealers (AB 2042/Fuentes) This new law allows law enforcement officers to impound vehicles that are being sold by unlicensed dealers.

*Counterfeit Clean Air Stickers (SB 1720/Lowenthal) This new law will make it a crime to forge, counterfeit, or falsify a Clean Air Sticker.  These stickers are currently issued by DMV to certain low emission vehicles and permit vehicles with these stickers to be driven in the HOV lane.


*Text Messaging (SB 28/Simitian) This new law makes it an infraction to write, send, or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communication device, such as a cell phone, while driving.

*DUI Probation License Suspension (AB 1165 Maze) A change in the driving under the influence (DUI) law creates a new authority for DMV to administratively suspend the driver’s license for one year under a zero tolerance standard.  The new law authorizes law enforcement to issue a notice of suspension and impound the vehicle of a person who is driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 percent or greater while on court-ordered post-DUI probation.


*Temporary Operating Permits (AB2241/Saldana) This law restricts DMV from issuing temporary operating permits to allow more time to obtain a smog certificate as part of the registration renewal process.  Under the law, extensions will cost $50 and are only allowed if the vehicle has been tested at a smog station and failed.   The extension can be for no more than 60 days from the date registration is due.  The $50 fee will be waived for owners accepted into the Bureau of Automotive Repair Consumer Assistance Program (CAP).  

*San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Fee (AB 2522/Arambula) In an effort to fund programs to reduce vehicle emissions, vehicle owners who register their vehicles in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare Counties and Valley portions of Kern County will be assessed an air quality fee of $6.

4)   OTHER

*New Special Interest Plate (SB 1455/Cogdill) A new “Gold Star Family” special interest license will be available to family members of individuals killed in the line of duty while serving in the Armed Forces during wartime or military operations.

*Motorcycle Definition (AB 2272/Fuentes) This new law changes the definition of a motorcycle, deleting the existing weight limitation of 1500 pounds.  It also removes a separate definition for electrically-powered vehicles.  This change in law will also allow drivers of fully-enclosed 3-wheeled motor vehicles to use the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.

To easily access the California Vehicle Code for further information, log on to the DMV website at and click on the “Publications” button in the upper left hand corner of the home page. The DMV driver handbook is also on the web at the same location. The 2009 version of the handbook will be published for distribution to all 169 DMV field officers shortly after the first of the year.

Don’t Stand In Line, Go Online! Doing business with the DMV has never been easier. The DMV offers an array of services to customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through its Web site (, including online appointments for written and drive tests; vehicle registration and driver license renewals, selection of personalized license plates, changes of address and payment of fees via secure debit transactions

DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Secretary Dale E. Bonner. 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 Media Inquiries Only
PHONE (916) 657-6437
FAX (916) 657-8282

DMV Customer Service Centers