Hardship License for a DUI

November 1, 2019

So, you’ve gotten a DUI. Life as you know it is decidedly altered, but it is not over. 

One of the most fear-inducing aspects of a DUI conviction is having your license revoked. You have a job that you need to get to. You have children who need to get to school. You perhaps are the primary caregiver for a family member. What will happen to your livelihood or to others who depend on you for care?

You may not lose your driving privileges entirely. There is hope for your situation, and that lifeline to your daily normalcy comes in the form of a hardship license (sometimes called an occupational license). This post will explain everything you should know about getting a hardship license for DUI.

What is a Hardship License?

A hardship license is exactly as the name implies: you’ve fallen on hardship—this time in the form of a DUI license suspension—and you need to be able to drive and to continue caring for yourself and for others who depend on you.

Sometimes public transportation is not a feasible option in allowing you to fulfill the following:

  • Family obligations
  • School obligations (for yourself or for dependents)
  • Medical obligations (in the form of appointments/treatments for yourself or for dependents)
  • Work obligations 
  • Alcohol treatment programs or classes

Be aware that restrictions come with your hardship license, such as:

  • Hours of operation (usually small windows during working hours)
  • Required routes to school, work, appointments
  • Passengers allowed in the car
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device on car
  • Certain proof of employment

Hardship licenses are available in 43 states, with varying degrees of the stipulations listed above. If you live in the following 7 states, please be aware that once your license is suspended, you will not have driving privileges returned until your full suspension sentence is served.

  • Delaware
  • Kansas
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

To Lawyer or Not to Lawyer?

This may have been your first thought upon your arrest for your DUI: “Can I afford a lawyer?” And even if you decided to self-represent your case in court, the question still remains. In the case of successfully applying for and obtaining your hardship license, our question to you is this: “Can you afford not to have an attorney when your driving privileges hang in the balance?”

When considering whether or not to seek legal counsel regarding your hardship license, consider the multitude of ways they can help you get your life back on track.

  • Completion of all required forms
  • Obtaining your SR-22 certificate 
  • Highlighting mitigating circumstances in your particular case
  • Making certain the proper forms are filed with your local DMV
  • Ensuring that you have completed all court-mandated counseling/treatment programs
  • Keeping you from revealing any “incriminating” facts regarding your case
  • Getting the most leeway regarding the terms of your hardship license requirements (driving times, places, passengers, etc.)

Types of License Suspension

Understanding what type of license suspension you’ve gotten is vital to knowing how to proceed with acquiring your hardship license. There are two different types of license suspensions—definite and indefinite.

  • A definite suspension is as the name suggests: there is a set time period after which your license will be reinstated. 
  • An indefinite suspension is contingent upon you fulfilling certain criteria (payment of fees, completion of alcohol-education classes, installing a car breathalyzer, etc.) before your license can be reinstated. 

Note: No hardship licenses will be granted for indefinite license suspensions. Before you can be considered for a hardship license, all of your outstanding obligations regarding your indefinite license suspension must be fulfilled.

How Soon Can I Apply for a Hardship License?

Be aware that in most states—especially after a DUI—you will be required to complete a period of hard suspension, in which you will not be able to drive at all. As a general rule (again, depending greatly on the severity or frequency of your DUI charge) hard suspensions last 30 days, after which you may apply for your hardship license.

It cannot be overstated how important it is for you to comply with your hard suspension. 

Thirty, or even sixty days is no comparison for being disqualified from obtaining a hardship license. Yes—you may need to heavily rely on family members, friends, public transportation, or even have to budget for ride-share services. But what you lose in freedom or finances during this waiting period will certainly reap the endless benefits of freedom to drive in the future, even if it’s just being able to pick your children up from school. 

Qualifications for Obtaining a Hardship License

Requirements for obtaining a hardship license are fair and easily proven. Even though you’ve made a grave mistake, the court system does not wish to further jeopardize your livelihood, your quality of life, or those who depend on you. 

You may qualify for a hardship license under the following most common exceptions:

  • Family Emergencies—Family emergencies can range from a grave illness (applicable to you, a family member, or a dependent) to a death in the family.
  • Medical Reasons—Medical exceptions include a wider range of situations (applicable to you, a family member, or a dependent) such as ongoing illness, disability, or necessary  medical treatment. (A doctor’s note will most likely be needed in this case.)
  • Education—Taking children to school, going to school yourself, or work-related continuing education all fall under this category. As with medical conditions, you may be required to provide proof on enrollment from the school/college/training course provider
  • Employment—If you are the sole source of income for your family and dependents, you will just need to prove that loss of your job will cause financial hardship. You may also need proof of your employment on company letterhead as well as a reasonable explanation that you have no other means of transportation to and from your workplace.

Requirements for Obtaining a Hardship License 

Even if you meet with one or several of these exceptions, it is important to note that your eligibility for a hardship license will still depend upon the type of DUI charge, your previous driving record, and the type of license you had prior to your DUI suspension. 

  • Your attorney, state and local informational websites, and your local DMV will lay out the hardship license requirements and exclusions in your particular case.
  • Though the hardship license application process is usually through your DMV, your state may require you to appear in court to present your application, all pertinent paperwork, and proof of an ignition interlock device. 
  • Beyond that, you will need an SR-22 filed with your state before your hardship license is approved. What is an SR-22? An SR-22 (or Certificate of Financial Responsibility) is a form that you file with the state proving that you have car insurance that meets your state’s requirements. 
  • You will either be notified by the DMV that you need an SR-22 form, or the judge at your DUI hearing will tell you so (sometimes both). This form can be provided by your insurance company upon request. But be aware that not all insurance companies don’t offer SR-22s; so if you’re shopping insurance, it’s good to ask this upfront to save you time and aggravation.

Costs Involved in Obtaining a Hardship License

So, what does a hardship license cost? As with most things involving a DUI conviction, getting your hardship license will not be without considerable cost. Though your fees will vary from state-to-state, here are the four overarching arenas for which you will need to budget:

  • Examination fee
  • Licensing fees
  • Reinstatement fee
  • Insurance fees
  • Ignition interlock installment/maintenance fees

Insurance and Your Hardship License 

Be forewarned that getting car insurance without a license will not be an easy task; yet you will need both proof of insurance and the aforementioned form SR-22 in order to apply for your hardship license.

Don’t be discouraged by this “which came first: the chicken or the egg?” scenario. Here are a few tips to help the re-insurance process go smoother for you.

Know that most insurance companies won’t even speak to you further once you’ve said that you don’t have a license to drive. Don’t take this as a personal offense. Just realize that, from their standpoint, it is illegal to drive without a license, and they do not wish to be liable for an unlicensed accident.

  • Does your spouse have a valid driver’s license? List them as the primary driver for your vehicle and explain to the agent that you will need a high-risk policy. In most cases, you both will be allowed to be named as drivers on the policy (sometimes even before you obtain your hardship license). 
  • Do you have a close family member that is not a spouse (preferably one who lives with you) who is licensed? List them as the policy owner when shopping around for your policy. The policy owner can then be excluded as a driver, and you can be named as the primary driver.
  • Does the primary driver NOT live with you?  In some cases, the primary driver does not need to live with you or even hold the title to the vehicle. Just make sure to tell the insurance company exactly who the title belongs to and let them work with you from there.

The more honest you are with the insurance company about your situation, the more apt they are to help you with all options available.

Maintaining Your Hardship License 

First things—and most important things—FIRST. Please let it sink in that your hardship license is your second chance at living a more normal existence. And the state (whichever one you may reside in) does not take your second chance lightly, especially when it’s a DUI-related second chance. 

If you are caught abusing your limited license in any way, it will be immediately revoked and—in most states—you will not receive a further opportunity to apply.

Understood? No second chances for a hardship license no matter how hard your hardships or how valid your reason for breaking the terms of your license to drive. Okay, now that you have absorbed that vital information, let’s look at the basic requirements for maintaining your hardship license. 

      • Drive only to and from the places listed on your hardship license.
      • Drive only during your daily time allotment.
      • Keep your ignition interlock device serviced and in your vehicle.
      • Drive responsibly, following all traffic and speed laws.
      • Faithfully attend all classes/treatment required by the terms of your license. 
      • Never drive someone else’s vehicle or drive while under the influence. 

Things to Consider

Just know that a hardship license changes nothing about your initial DUI charges or the penalties that came with it. You still have a responsibility to abide within the letter of the traffic law regarding your case. As they say, you will be “prosecuted to the full extent of the law” if you break one little rule of your sentencing.

When given the terms of your hardship license, be sure you know if you are allowed to cross state lines or not. Some hardship license parameters stipulate that you may drive only during certain hours of the day, but don’t specify where. And some very clearly stipulate that you cannot cross state lines, no matter the reason.

Your Life is Not Over

Life is full of lapses in judgment, things we wish we hadn’t done, mistakes with seemingly endless consequences… If you’ve made the terrible mistake of drinking and driving, your life is not over. Yes, you’ve committed a crime, and life as you know it may be altered for a few years to come. There is always hope, and you have options. 

Decide if you should consult with a DUI attorney; learn your rights; and learn what you need to do to move forward. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes and move beyond them. 

Obtaining a hardship license is one of the best ways to maintain normalcy after a DUI conviction from driving while intoxicated. It is a small but vital step in helping you move into a safer and brighter future. 


Low Cost Interlock. What is an Ignition Interlock Device? https://www.lowcostinterlock.com/ignition-interlock-information/what-is-an-ignition-interlock-device/

Fight DUI Charges. How to Get a Hardship License, Restricted License to Drive to Work After a DUI, DWI. https://www.fightduicharges.com/blog/review-how-to-get-hardship-license-for-work-after-dui/

Insurance.com. What is SR-22 Insurance – 8 Things You Should Know. https://www.insurance.com/auto-insurance/sr22-insurance.html

The Balance. How to Get Insurance Without a License. https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-get-insurance-without-a-license-527247

Low Cost Interlock. Which States Have the Strictest Drunk Driving Laws? https://www.lowcostinterlock.com/ignition-interlock-laws/which-states-have-the-strictest-drunk-driving-laws/

Fight DUI Charges. Drivers License DUI DMV Defense to Keep Your License, Get Reinstated. https://www.fightduicharges.com/what-to-do-at-the-administrative-review-hearing/

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