Who is Eligible for a Hardship License After a DUI?

A DUI conviction in Florida can result in a wide range of negative consequences, including large fines, potential jail, and the suspension of your driver’s license. The loss of driving privileges can be a significant hardship, affecting your ability to work, attend essential appointments and obligations, and just maintain daily life.  


To prevent the loss of license from creating too great a burden to many convicted DUI drivers who are otherwise eligible, Florida offers a hardship license. In this article, we explain who is eligible for a hardship license after a DUI in Florida, the application process, and what to expect along the way. 


We at Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, have represented hundreds of drivers charged with DUI in Florida. We want you to know about Florida’s law relating to “hardship” or restricted licenses following a DUI conviction. If you’ve been charged with a DUI or other alcohol-related charge in Florida, contact Stechschulte Nell in Tampa today. We have years of experience helping people just like you. 



Understanding the DUI Conviction Process in Florida


When you’re arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida, your license is subject to suspension in two separate proceedings: 


  • Administrative Suspension: This is a suspension imposed by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) when you fail a breathalyzer test or refuse to take one. In these cases, you have 10 days from the date of your arrest to request an administrative hearing. Your license can be suspended administratively, usually for a period ranging from 180 days to one year, depending on the circumstances. Importantly, even if you are acquitted of any criminal charges, the DHSMV suspension will remain in effect. 


  • Criminal Suspension: If you’re convicted of DUI in the criminal court, you face a separate license suspension, which can vary in duration based on your offense history. 


How a Florida Hardship License Works


A hardship license, formally called a restricted license, is designed to relieve some of the challenges caused by a DUI-related license suspension. It allows you to drive under specific circumstances and during designated hours, so you maintain essential aspects of your life during the suspension period. 


Who Is Eligible for a Florida Hardship License?


Not everyone convicted of a DUI in Florida is automatically eligible for a hardship license. The eligibility criteria for this restricted driving license are determined by the circumstances of each individual case and the driver’s offense history: 


First-Time DUI Offenders


First-time DUI offenders are usually eligible for a hardship license if they meet these conditions: 


  • DUI Program: First-time DUI offenders must enroll in a DUI program approved by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). Drivers who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or above must complete the DUI program before obtaining a hardship license. Drivers whose BAC was 0.15 or above must install an ignition interlock device (IID) for at least 6 months. 


  • Advanced Driver Improvement (ADI) school: This program focuses on defensive driving and safe vehicle operation and is often required for drivers under 21. 


Second-Offense DUI


A second DUI conviction within 5 years means a 5-year license suspension. The driver must wait 1 year before being eligible to apply for a hardship license and they must have completed the DUI program. They also must remain in alcohol counseling for the duration of the suspension.


The law requires that the 2nd offense DUI driver must not have driven or consumed alcohol or drugs within one year prior to applying for the hardship license. Drivers must install an IID device for at least one year in each of their vehicles. 


Third-Offense DUI or Subsequent


DUI drivers with a third or subsequent offense within 10 years suffer a 10-year license suspension. They must wait at least 2 years before they can apply for a hardship license. They will be required to install an IID in all vehicles registered to them or that they customarily drive for at least two years.


They must also abstain from alcohol or drugs or drive for one year before applying for the hardship license. 


How You Qualify for a Florida Hardship License


To qualify for a hardship license, you must demonstrate that you have a legitimate need to drive. Usually, the reasons accepted by the DHSMV include commuting to work, attending school, seeking medical treatment, and fulfilling parental responsibilities.  


Drivers must also produce proof of insurance. 


To apply for the hardship license, drivers must present documentation of enrollment in or completion of the DUI school program. Documentation from an advanced driver improvement (ADI) program is also necessary if the driver was ordered to complete the program. 


Installation of an IID system is also required if ordered as a prerequisite to receive the hardship license. 


DHSMV Hearing


You must schedule a hearing with the Florida DHSMV to request a hardship license. This is where your documentation from the DUI school completion, ADI school completion (if applicable), and proof of insurance will be confirmed. 


Fees to apply ($12) and obtain the hardship license ($45) may vary but they are not prohibitively high. 


2 Types of Hardship License in Florida


Florida issues two different types of hardship licenses. The first is a Work Hardship License and the other is called a Business Hardship License. 


  • Business Purposes Hardship License: This hardship license permits the driver to drive in situations necessary for them to maintain a livelihood. This includes driving to or from work, 

school (or other educational purposes), necessary on-the-job driving, driving to see a doctor (medical purposes), or driving to and from church. 


  • Employment Hardship License: More restrictive than the business purposes license, the employment-only license only allows the driver to drive to and from work and to drive as part of the performance of their job duties. 


Get Experienced Legal Help with Your DUI Hardship License


Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa provides skilled legal representation from the day you are charged with DUI through to the final resolution of your case. We have successfully defended DUI clients to win dismissals, acquittals, and reduction of charges in many cases. If a license suspension does occur, we can guide you through the license reinstatement process, including getting a hardship license as soon as possible.

Give us a call at 813-280-1244 for legal guidance in Orlando, Miami, and Tampa.

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