A driver’s license is a privilege rather than a right, and it can be suspended or revoked for a DUI arrest, a DUI conviction, or for refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test.
Depending on the law in each state, a drunk driver’s license can be suspended or revoked for a DWI/DUI conviction. There is no guarantee that a driver’s license will be reinstated at the end of a revocation period. Following a DUI conviction, the length of time a license is suspended or revoked varies from state to state.
DUI-Related License Suspensions
DUIs can, and often do, lead to two kinds of license suspensions: criminal conviction-based suspensions and administrative DMV suspensions triggered by a DUI arrest where the driver either fails a chemical test or refuses to take one. When a driver receives two separate suspensions, the suspension periods may overlap in most cases. The driver will not have to complete both suspension periods back to back.
Suspensions for DUI Convictions
On your first DUI, your license will be suspended for anywhere from three months to a year. A first DUI conviction in Colorado, for example, carries a nine-month suspension. The suspension period is usually longer if the driver has a prior DUI conviction.
In Texas, for example, a first conviction for DWI (driving while intoxicated) results in a license suspension of 90 days to one year, and a second conviction results in a license suspension of 180 days to two years. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that do not automatically suspend a driver’s license after a first DUI conviction.
Administrative Suspensions for DUI Arrests
As a result of implied consent laws, all drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence are required to submit to a chemical test (usually a breath test or blood test) when asked to do so. When a driver unlawfully refuses a breath test or is arrested for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend the license.
An administrative license suspension may be imposed even if a motorist is only arrested for DUI and never convicted.
State-specific suspension periods may differ from administrative suspension periods. In New Mexico, for example, a first DUI will result in an administrative suspension of six months and a conviction-related suspension of one year. In Connecticut, however, the administrative and conviction-related suspension periods for a first OUI (operating under the influence) are 45 days each.
It’s also common for an administrative suspension for a chemical test refusal to be longer than it is for a failed test. For example, Ohio imposes a three-month suspension for a first failed test and a one-year suspension for the first refusal of a chemical test.
How to Minimize the Impact of a DUI License Suspension
Many states allow motorists to get a “hardship license” to drive to and from work or school during the suspension period. Typically, a motorist must complete a “hard suspension” of 30 to 45 days before obtaining a hardship license. It’s also typical for state laws to require the motorist to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in order to obtain a hardship license.
Moreover, some states do not grant hardship licenses to repeat offenders or motorists who refuse DUI chemical testing in violation of implied consent laws.
Difference Between Suspension and Revocation
Suspension of a driver’s license is usually less serious than revocation. The suspension of your license is a set period during which you cannot drive and may be charged with an offense if you do so. It is likely that the kinds of criminal or civil offenses that trigger a license suspension are similar to those that result in revocation, despite their less serious or less frequent nature. If your license has been suspended, you may be able to apply for a hardship license so that you can go to work, school, or rehab.
Grounds for License Revocation
In most states, actions that can lead to a revocation are serious. In virtually every state, your driver’s license can be revoked if you have multiple DUIs, a certain number of points, or a conviction for driving on a suspended license. A revocation may be triggered by multiple offenses, including racing, hit-and-runs, and DUIs.
Driving with altered license plates, being convicted of a drug crime, or failing to respond to a court summons could result in the revocation of your license. In most states, you can also lose your driver’s license for failing to comply with a child support order. When a license is revoked, you must wait a set amount of time before applying for another license and taking the requisite tests. Once your driver’s license is revoked, you may not be able to get it back.
Revocation is often a discretionary matter. In other words, a judge can determine whether or not your license should be revoked. Retaining an attorney can be helpful if your license is at risk of revocation.
Grounds for License Suspension
In certain situations, licenses can be automatically suspended under administrative license suspension laws. As a result of implied consent laws, if you refuse to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test when your vehicle is properly stopped, the refusal triggers an automatic suspension. When you obtain a driver’s license in these states, you are considered to have given implied consent to be tested for alcohol. Furthermore, in most states, you can face an administrative license suspension if you are stopped legitimately, and the chemical tests reveal that your BAC is at least .08%.
If a driver refuses a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test, most states suspend their license. The penalty is separate from any suspension imposed due to a DUI conviction.
Length of Suspension
For a first offense, the defendant may lose their license for anywhere from three to six months. Refusals typically result in the same penalty. A second offense may result in a year-long suspension. Further offenses can result in a ban on having a license for 18 months to a lifetime.
During a hard suspension, a hardship license cannot be obtained. In a hard suspension, the license cannot be regained no matter the circumstances. In some states, a driver must lose all driving privileges after a certain amount of time regardless of the circumstances, and these times must be honored.
Appealing a Suspension
Different rules govern how long an administrative license suspension will last and whether it can be appealed in each state. If you are arrested or receive a citation against you, you will need to appeal within a few days.
You will likely have to attend a hearing to determine whether your driving privileges should be restored if you appeal an administrative license suspension. If a prosecutor pursues DUI charges against you and you are convicted of a DUI, your license will likely be suspended again as part of your criminal sentence.
What Should I Do If I Am Arrested for Drunk Driving DUI/DWI?
Suppose you are arrested for DUI/DWI. In that case, you should speak to an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, defenses, and the complicated legal system.
Drunk Driving DUI/DWI victims should contact a lawyer immediately to learn more about how to receive compensation for their injuries.