New law changes Florida’s "hardship" license rules for some

The Florida legislature passed a law over the summer that changed how DUI suspensions go into effect for some first-time offenders. Specifically, the law allows drivers who have no prior DUI arrests to request immediately a hardship license and avoid any period of complete suspension of driving privileges.

How does driver's license suspension work in Florida?

In Florida, when a driver is arrested for DUI, he or she is issued a notice of administrative driver's license suspension, which suspension starts immediately upon receipt of the notice. If the driver is otherwise eligible to drive, he or she will also be given a temporary driving permit valid for ten days.

If the driver's license suspension is based on the results of the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC), the suspension period is six months for first-time offenders and one year (12 months) for second-time and multiple offenders. If, however, the driver's license suspension is based on the driver's refusal to submit to a blood alcohol content test, the suspension period is more onerous. The period of license suspension for refusing to submit to a breath-test is one year (12 months) for the first refusal and 18 months for the second and subsequent refusals.

If the driver wishes to challenge the suspension, he or she may request a formal hearing before a Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) hearing officer to challenge the suspension. The request for a formal review must be made within ten days after the notice of driver's license suspension was issued or the right to the hearing is lost. Formal reviews are scheduled within 30 days after the request for review is made.

If the suspension is sustained and driving privileges not restored, a driver may apply for a hardship license, but only after the expiration of a 90-day waiting period that began to run upon the expiration of 10-day temporary driving permit.

House Bill 7125

According to information provided by the DHSMV to the Florida legislature, the vast majority of people who request a formal hearing end up having their license suspension sustained. House Bill 7125 gave first-time offenders who refused to submit to a lawful urine test or breath-alcohol or blood-alcohol test the option of avoiding the 90-day waiting period to apply for a hardship license. In exchange for waiving the right to request a formal hearing to challenge the suspension, the driver may apply immediately for a "hardship" license.

What is a "hardship" license?

The Florida DUI Law provides for what is known as a "hardship" license. A "hardship" license is a driver's license under which driving privileges are "limited to any driving necessary to maintain [a] livelihood, including driving to and from work, necessary on-the-job driving, driving for educational purposes, and driving for church and for medical purposes."

"Hardship" licenses are available in cases where complete suspension of driving privileges would cause a serious hardship such that it prevents the person from earning the income necessary to properly support his or her family.

To learn more about Florida's drunk driving laws and license revocation, contact a DUI attorney in your area today.