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What is a Hardship License or Restricted License?

what is a hardship license

Driving is a fundamental part of our daily lives. From work to running errands, we rely on the ability to get from Point A to Point B at a moment’s notice. But what happens if your license has been suspended due to a violation? How do you get to school or work?

Getting a Hardship License may be the answer.

In this guide, we’ll explore what is a hardship license and the steps on obtaining a hardship license. You’ll be back driving on the road in no time with your hardship or restricted license.

What is a Hardship or Restricted License?

Most of us are highly dependent on the ability to drive. Losing your license may mean you can no longer get to school or work, having potentially devastating consequences on your life. You might be wondering, What is a Hardship License?
A hardship license (sometimes called a restricted license or restricted driving permit) provides the driver with a legal right to continue driving to specified locations at designated times.
If you’ve lost your license due to a violation, don’t pinch pennies for Uber rides or sign up for a bus pass just yet. Depending on your situation you may be eligible to apply for a hardship or restricted license. In this guide, we’ll help walk you through the ins and outs of what this type of license can do for you, how it works, and how to get one.

How Restricted Licenses Work

The intended purpose of a hardship or restricted license is to enable drivers with suspended licenses to continue to meet their adult obligations, namely, avoid losing their job or getting kicked out of school.
A restricted license does not restore your usual driving privileges. If granted, a hardship license or restricted license also has several restrictions placed on it.

A Hardship or restricted license typically includes restrictions on:

  • The number of miles that can be driven
  • The days of the week you can drive
  • The hours of the day you can drive
  • Where you are allowed to drive to and from
  • Specific routes you may or may not take when driving
  • And more…

What Can You Do With a Hardship License?

A Hardship License May Be Issued to Allow you To:

  • Travel to and from work so you don’t lose your job
  • Take or pick up your children from school
  • Attend school/classes yourself (i.e. College)
  • Attend drug or alcohol treatment
  • Drive to get medical treatment or care
  • And more…

However, just because you NEED a hardship or restricted license for work, school or other obligations doesn’t automatically mean that you are eligible or entitled to getting a license. You need to demonstrate that not driving will cause your normal life hardship.

Who Is Eligible for Hardship Licenses?

Eligibility to apply for a hardship or restricted license varies per state, but is generally based on the following criteria:

  • Your past driving records or violations
  • Your license type
  • The reason for your license suspension
  • Whether or not this is your first suspension of your license

Commercial drivers aren’t usually granted a hardship licenses, and those who have been involved in DUI accidents where major damage and/or injuries were sustained, or a person who has been charged with more serious crimes such as a reckless driving violation, leaving the scene of an accident, or vehicular homicide may not qualify.

Hard Suspensions

Some states or situations may also call for a hard suspension of your license, to first be served for a designated period of time, before which an individual becomes eligible to apply for a hardship license. In many cases, a hard suspension is set for one month and is most common with DUI suspensions.

How Can I Get a Hardship Permit?

Again, the law may vary slightly state by state, but we’ll walk you through the basics.
General Requirements for Applying for a Hardship or Restricted License: a quick overview

  • Prove that you are not a danger to the public
  • Attend a hearing before a public officer of the court
  • Provide proof of medical evaluation and treatment
  • Prove that hardship exists
  • Prove that public transportation is not a viable option
  • Pay a fee

Hardship Driver Application Process

This is the first step you’ll need to take in getting your license. Regardless of which state you reside in, the application is typically requested and completed through your state’s DMV. Once submitted, the issuance of a hardship license is not automatic. It may take time to process and validate the driver is eligible, and that failure to approve your request would result in a significant hardship.

As part of the application process, the driver may be asked to provide proof, such as a class schedule for college, a doctor’s note confirming a medical necessity, or proof of employment. Additionally, you may need to substantiate that public transportation is not a viable alternative for you and your family.

If approved, the driver will likely need to pay a ‘hardship license fee’. Those requesting a hardship or restricted license due to a DUI or DWI violation will likely by law need to pay for the installation of an ‘ignition interlock device’ (IID), requiring the driver to pass a built-in breathalyzer before starting and operating the vehicle.

Once you have applied, the driver must typically attend a hearing in a court of law, during which you will demonstrate your eligibility for the license by submitting all required documentation and supporting evidence requested.

Formal hardship hearings are often requested by mail only and require a specific form provided by your state.

In some jurisdictions and/or cases, the driver may be able to request an ‘informal hardship hearing’ on a walk-in basis during regular business hours.
Possible Outcomes of Your Hardship Hearing:

  1. Full reinstatement of your driver’s license
  2. Denial of license reinstatement
  3. Issuance of a Restricted driving permit or Hardship license

Driving with SR-22 Insurance

Virtually all states mandate a minimum required amount of coverage on your vehicle by law in order to legally operate it on a public roadway. However, if you’ve had your license suspended due to a DUI (for example), you may also be at risk of losing your insurance. If your insurance carrier opts to drop you, or if you didn’t have insurance, to begin with, you still have options.
An SR22 insurance policy was created to help ‘at risk’ individuals obtain the legal coverage necessary to drive in any state. Although not technically an insurance policy, SR-22 meets state-mandated minimum insurance coverage needed to get back on the road.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Restricted License?

Once the driver has passed any mandated ‘hard suspension’ periods, you can then apply for a hardship or restricted license. After applying you will be given a hearing date. It might be wise to have an attorney present who can assist you in your defense. Once you have had your hearing, it may take between 10-90 days to get an answer as to the results.
Once you have the results of your hearing, it can take weeks to months to obtain a hardship license. Notification of approval is usually made by mail and may require further paperwork to be completed.

License Suspended? – don’t lose hope

Losing your license can feel overwhelming. If you’re overcome with worry about how to get to work, school, or even run essential errands, you may have options. Applying for a Hardship License or restricted license may be the solution you need to get to and from those places that are absolutely essential.

Read more about these hardship licenses and other topics such as What happens if you get caught driving without insurance.

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