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California Department of Motor Vehicles

Headquarters in Sacramento
Agency overview
FormedAugust 7, 1915; 108 years ago (1915-08-07)
Preceding agency
  • Engineering Department [1]
Jurisdiction State of California
HeadquartersDMV Headquarters
2415 1st Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95818
38°33′26″N 121°28′53″W / 38.55722°N 121.48139°W / 38.55722; -121.48139
Employees8,902 [2]
Annual budget$1.1 billion [3]
Agency executive
  • Steve Gordon, Director
Parent agency California State Transportation Agency

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the state agency that registers motor vehicles and boats and issues driver licenses in the U.S. state of California. It regulates new car dealers (through the New Motor Vehicle Board), commercial cargo carriers, private driving schools, and private traffic schools. The DMV works with the superior courts of California to promptly record convictions against driver licenses, and initiates administrative proceedings before its own administrative law judges to suspend or revoke licenses when drivers accumulate excessive convictions (as measured by a point-based system). [4] It issues California license plates and driver's licenses. The DMV also issues identification cards to people who request one.

The DMV is part of the California State Transportation Agency. It is headquartered in Sacramento and operates local offices in nearly every part of the state. As of December 2017, the DMV employed over 8,900 people—35% at headquarters and 65% at 172 field offices (and various other locations). [2] Also, as of December 2017, it maintained records for 30,112,927 persons, 33,993,857 driver licenses and/or identification cards (there is overlap as some persons can and do hold both documents), and 35,391,347 vehicles. [2] California has 26,957,875 licensed drivers. [2]

On July 23, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom released a report by the California Government Operations Agency "DMV Reinvention Strike Team" detailing recommendations for improving DMV transparency, worker training and performance, speed of service, and overall consumer satisfaction. As part of the release of the report, Newsom announced the appointment of Steve Gordon as the director of the California DMV. [5]


The first act regulating the use of automobiles for safety reasons in California was established by the Vehicle Act of 1915. [6] The provisions of the first Vehicle Act relating to the department went into effect 90 days after the close of that legislative session.

The department of Motor Vehicles was within the Department of Finance in 1921. In 1935, the Department of Motor Vehicles was created. [7] Still only vehicles that used the highways were subject to registration, and the two classes of Driver's Licenses was Operator's and chauffeur's. The Highway Patrol was tasked with enforcement of the vehicle codes and reporting roadways that needed to be repaired, or signage added or replaced.[ citation needed]

Today, the DMV maintains a cadre of approximately 200 armed sworn state peace officers classified criminal investigators for enforcement duties relating to vessel or motor vehicle theft, vehicle or hull identification number and odometer fraud, chop shops, counterfeit or fraudulent DMV documents, disabled parking permit placard misuse, identity theft, unlicensed vehicle dealer ("curbstoner") and dismantler activity, out-of-state vehicle registration plate misuse to avoid California registration, internal employee investigations, etc.[ citation needed]

The DMV began collecting a statewide Vehicle License Fee in 1936, in lieu of the personal property tax that individual cities and counties previously levied directly on motor vehicles regularly garaged within their borders (hence its nickname as the "in lieu tax"). [8]

The nation's first modern "credit card style" driver's licenses were introduced by the California DMV in January 1991. The plastic-coated design featured innovations like digitized photos, color holograms, and magnetic information strips readable by law enforcement. [9]

In 2012, a bill introduced by California State Assemblyman Mike Gatto required the DMV to establish the California Legacy License Plate Program. [10] This program allows California residents to order replicas of California license plates produced in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The original intent was for older cars to get new plates that matched the plate colors that the DMV issued for that car when it was new. Due to lack of applications, the program was opened to all cars. For a license plate style to enter production, it needed to receive 7,500 paid applications by the January 1, 2015, deadline. [11] Only the 1960s style plate (yellow lettering on black background) received the required number of orders. The DMV began production of the 1960s style plates at Folsom State Prison in Summer 2015. [12]

Since 2015, more than a million illegal immigrants have been issued driver's licenses. [13] [14]

Driver Handbook

The California Driver Handbook is a booklet published by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. It is also available on the web. [15] Formerly titled the 'Vehicle Code Summary', it has information relating to licenses, examinations, laws/rules of the road, road signs, seat belts, and health and safety issues. There are also several pages of advertisements. The 2021 version had 116 pages. [16]

Autonomous Vehicles

California provides permits for testing and deploying autonomous vehicles on public roads. [17] The first manufacturer licensed to deploy autonomous cars without a safety driver by the California DMV was Nuro, on December 23, 2020. Two more manufacturers, Cruise and Waymo, were licensed on September 30, 2021. [18]

See also


  1. ^ "DMV History". California Department of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "State of California Department of Motor Vehicles Statistics for Publication January through December 2017" (PDF). Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  3. ^ "The 2017-2018 Budget". Legislative Analyst Office. State of California. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  4. ^ "How to Determine How Many Points Are on Your License". Retrieved March 4, 2024.
  5. ^ "Governor Newsom Releases DMV Strike Team Report, Announces New Leadership". California Governor. July 23, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  6. ^ Cal. Stats., 41st sess., 1915, ch. 188, § 37.
  7. ^ Cal. Stats., 51st sess., 1935, ch. 27, § 37.
  8. ^ California v. Buzard, 382 U.S. 386 (1966). This case analyzed the nature of the VLF at length before holding that it was preempted by the federal law then known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940 (now known as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act) with respect to nonresident members of the federal military.
  9. ^ Laski, Beth (January 16, 1991). "California DMV unveils high-tech license". The San Bernardino County Sun. San Bernardino, CA. Retrieved November 29, 2016 – via Open access icon
  10. ^ "AB-1658 Vehicles: specialized license plates". 2011–2012.
  11. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". The Parks Access 49ers License Plate. Retrieved March 4, 2024.
  12. ^ Sernoffsky, By Evan (June 23, 2015). "Muscle up: California reissues classic black license plates". Sfgate.
  13. ^ Morton, Victor (April 4, 2018). "California grants driver's licenses to more than 1 million illegal immigrants". Washington Times. District of Columbia. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  14. ^ Darrah, Nicole (April 4, 2018). "More than a million illegal immigrants scored California driver's licenses, state DMV announces". Fox News. New York City. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  15. ^ Ming, Kurtis (February 1, 2023). "Call Kurtis: DMV field offices are out of drivers handbooks - CBS Sacramento". Retrieved March 4, 2024.
  16. ^ CALIFORNIA DRIVER'S HANDBOOK (2021 ed.). DMV. 2021.
  17. ^ "Autonomous Vehicles", California Department of Motor Vehicles, retrieved March 26, 2023
  18. ^ Stacey Butler (March 22, 2023), "Apple Increases Number of Test Drivers for Its Autonomous Fleet, Keeps Fleet Size Steady", macReports

External links