Under certain circumstances, your driver's license can be suspended without notice of suspension or an administrative hearing. Generally, the due process clause of the 14th Amendment ensures that a person can't be punished without proper legal proceedings. That includes notice and a hearing. It also applies to driver's license suspensions and revocations. However, that's not the case for DUI offenses and violations of implied consent laws.
In most states, if you're arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), you'll likely face a driver's license suspension or other restriction of your driving privileges. The duration of the suspension varies by state.
Administrative license suspension (ALS) laws are the reason you can lose driving privileges without due process. While ALS laws vary state by state, they typically allow license confiscation and automatic, mandatory suspension without a hearing. This means if you fail or refuse a blood alcohol content (BAC) or other chemical sobriety test, you can lose your driving privileges almost immediately.
Implied Consent Laws
Under most states' laws, by driving you give implied consent to a breath, blood, or urine test if suspected of intoxication. Refusing to submit to the test after a traffic stop typically results in an automatic license suspension. This is true regardless of whether you were impaired at the time.
Laws vary by state on how quickly a license can be suspended after an implied content law is invoked. In some states, the arresting police officer will seize your driver's license card and issue a temporary permit. In others, the revocation occurs seven days after the alleged violation.
A common belief is that refusing a chemical test allows you to “sober up" in the time it takes to get a warrant for a breath, blood, or urine test. In actuality, this is rarely the case, as most states have no-refusal policies that allow law enforcement to obtain warrants very quickly. In these situations, officers contact an on-call judge for a warrant, which is sent directly to the officer's cellphone or laptop.
Under some states' implied consent laws, you can even go to jail for refusing a Breathalyzer or other chemical test. Refusal can later be used as evidence at your court date.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Arrests
You can also lose your license without notice or hearing if you've submitted to and failed chemical testing. If the test indicates you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher, or if you have certain drugs in your system, your license will automatically be suspended under most states' laws.
Because ALS laws are state-specific, the suspension period can be anywhere from a few days to several years, depending on the state's law.
A DUI can have an even more severe impact on a commercial driver's license (CDL). A charge of driving under the influence can result in a CDL disqualification, even if the charge is later dismissed or reduced. These rules are federally regulated, meaning the laws about DUIs and license suspension for commercial drivers do not change from state to state. If your CDL is suspended or disqualified because of drunk driving, you can expect the same penalties in each state.
Appealing an Administrative License Suspension
Most states allow drivers to appeal an administrative license suspension (ALS). However, you have a limited period of time to challenge the suspension. Typically, you must file an appeal within a few days of the arrest or citation issuance. After you file an appeal, a hearing will be held to determine whether your driving privileges should be restored.
However, even if your license is reinstated, it could be a fleeting victory. If you're later convicted of your DUI charge, your license will probably once again be suspended.
And even if your DUI charge is dropped in criminal court, your driving privileges may not be automatically restored. An implied consent or DUI violation can stay on your driving record even if the criminal charge is dismissed. This is why it is important to carefully consider an ALS appeal within the required time frame. Getting an attorney's help with this process can be beneficial.
Conditional Driver's Licenses
If you do end up with a suspended license for an extended period of time, many states allow eligible drivers to apply for various types of conditional or limited driving privileges. These decisions are usually made on a case-by-case basis.
These conditional licenses are also called hardship licenses or restricted licenses. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can drive to predetermined places, such as work or school. Out-of-state driving for any reason is usually not allowed. These types of licenses can also restrict the time of day and days of the week you are permitted to drive.
If you have been convicted of a DUI, you may also be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) in your motor vehicle as part of your conditional license. The device and installation often come at your own expense. Most states' department of motor vehicles (DMV) or department of public safety (DPS) websites have information on state-specific policies and eligibility for ignition interlock devices.
Before you can legally reinstate your full license, you must pay all required reinstatement fees.
Suspended or Revoked License? Get Legal Help
Most minor traffic tickets and moving violations typically don't result in a license revocation or suspension. However, serious violations like DUI, reckless driving, or excessive speeding often affect your driving privileges and can leave a serious mark on your driving record.
For violations like these, the impact can be significant. You can talk to a criminal defense attorney to learn more about your rights and possible defense strategies. An experienced attorney will review the circumstances of your charge (including your BAC results) and the laws in your area. This could save your driver's license and avoid or reduce DUI penalties.
For infraction-level traffic violations, you can talk to a traffic ticket attorney. A lawyer knowledgeable about local traffic statutes can help you understand your options for fighting the ticket.