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License Suspension

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A person who is suspected of DUI or DWI faces several possible consequences, including significant DUI fees, the suspension of his or her driver's license, and potential jail time for drunk driving. In fact, if you were arrested on DUI charges, the police officer probably confiscated your driver's license right at the scene.

Fortunately, even if your license is suspended you may be able to continue to drive to important activities such as work and school with a specially issued permit. Or you may be able to get the suspension reduced or overturned with the assistance of a skilled DUI attorney. If you are facing a DUI license suspension, contact an attorney for help so as to best avoid penalties such as DWI jail time.

Factors That Affect License Suspension

State law dictates exactly how long a DUI offender's license suspension might last. Often first offenders (non-violent DUI charges) face a license suspension of one to six months. If the DUI offender refused to be tested for the presence of drugs or alcohol (see sidebar), or if he or she is a repeat offender, the length of the suspension will be greater. Other factors that may affect the suspension include:

  • Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). For persons over 21 years of age, license suspension automatically occurs with a BAC of .08. The limit is less for underage drivers (.00 to .02) and commercial drivers (often .04). And drivers with a "high" BAC (usually over .15) can expect more time tacked on.
  • Type of Offense. If you are convicted of a felony DUI (e.g., child endangerment, vehicle manslaughter crimes) your license will probably be revoked for years, if not permanently.
  • Time Between Offenses. The closer in proximity to a prior offense, the longer the suspension might last.
  • Degree of Injury. If someone is injured or killed as a result of the DUI/DWI, the aggravated charges usually involve much longer or permanent suspension.
  • Age of Driver. Every state has special DUI laws (zero tolerance laws) that mete out longer suspension periods to drivers under 21 years of age with ANY measurable alcohol in their blood.


Burden of Proof

If you are convicted of committing a crime (e.g., DUI felony charges) you face extremely serious consequences — including incarceration and a criminal record — that may follow you around the rest of your life. With so much at stake, the prosecution has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, violating a civil law is not a crime. Therefore, the standard of proof required in civil court (e.g., ALR hearing) is much less than in criminal court — the government only has to show that it is more likely than not that you violated the law. This means that even if you lose at your ALR you will not necessarily be found guilty at your criminal trial; however, if you are acquitted of your DUI charges at the criminal trial, the ALR will be overturned. To learn more, speak to a DUI attorney.

DUI attorneys can explain the factors that affect license suspension in your jurisdiction.

License Suspension Process

Your driver's license can be suspended by operation of both civil law, usually called administrative license suspension (ALS), and by criminal court order.

In most cases, an ALS goes into effect at the time of the DUI stop but may be contested at an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing. It is important to call an attorney immediately because many states have a "10-day rule" before this right to appeal the suspension is lost. Later, if you're convicted in criminal court, you can have your license suspended again as part of the sentence. Suspension time "served" from the ALS is usually credited towards the criminal suspension.

Whether in civil or criminal court, your DUI attorney may call witnesses, question the arresting officer, or call you to testify to challenge the legality of the charges against you. Questions that may be asked include:

  • Was there a lawful stop?
  • Was there probable cause for an arrest?
  • Was the blood, breath or chemical test(s) performed correctly?
  • Were you advised of your rights?

By operation of implied consent law, any person who operates a motor vehicle agrees to have a chemical test (blood, breath and/or urine) performed to determine his or her blood alcohol level and/or the presence of drugs. If you are stopped on suspicion of DUI/DWI and refuse to take the test, your license will probably be suspended. In most states, the suspension period for refusing the test is greater, if not double, the suspension period for failing the test.

With the assistance of a knowledgeable defense attorney, many drivers are able to avoid or limit the suspension of their driving privileges.

Each set of laws has its own burden of proof to overcome (see sidebar) as well as independent procedures that must be dealt with in a timely and thorough manner. To learn more about the laws and procedures in your state you may wish to consult a DUI attorney.

Restoring Driving Privileges

Oftentimes, a person with a suspended license can ask the court for limited driving privileges. A restricted license (also called conditional, hardship, or commercial license) might be granted to a DUI offender so that he or she can travel to school, work, alcohol and/or drug abuse treatment, doctor's appointments and other essential purposes. To be considered for a restricted license you must be eligible (if you're a habitual offender you are not eligible) and satisfy court ordered conditions such as participation in an alcohol education program and the use of an ignition interlock device that prevents your car from starting if you have ingested alcohol. Similar conditions may be imposed in order to have your license reinstated at the end of the suspension period. Speak to a DUI attorney to learn more.

DUI Lawyers

Dealing with conditional licenses, appeals and other license suspension issues involves multiple sets of laws and time-sensitive procedures. If you or someone you know is facing a license suspension from a DUI charge, contact a DUI attorney immediately.