What Is a Hardship License in Florida? All You Need to Know

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In the state of Florida, many people rely on their motor vehicles on a daily basis to commute to work or school, to go shopping and to seek medical care. That means that when a person gets their license suspended or revoked, it is an enormous inconvenience for themselves and their families.

In most cases, Florida allows a driver to apply for a hardship license if they lost their right to drive in the state. A hardship license permits restricted driving for essential purposes only. If a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction is involved, there are additional hoops to jump through.

Florida Driver's License Suspension

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLDHSMV) suspends a driver's license for a variety of reasons. These range from incurring violation points to causing a deadly accident to DUI offenses. The amount of time involved for a suspension or revocation depends on the offense.

A suspension for failure to comply with a traffic summons or to appear in court lasts until the driver satisfies the summons. For example, a suspension of a driver's license for failure to pay child support lasts until the back payments are made. Suspension for a FLDHSMV point accumulation depends on the number of points accrued and the time period in which they were accrued. For example, if a person accrues 12 points in 12 months, the suspension is 30 days; for 24 points in three years, the suspension is for a year.

For a DUI, the revocation period can be anywhere from six months to 10 years. A driver will have to go through a period of time with a suspended license before they can ask for early license reinstatement for hardship purposes.

Florida Hardship License

When a person loses their right to drive, the basic rule is: Don't drive at all. They need to surrender their Florida driver's license to the FLDHSMV in short order. The suspension period begins to run when the office receives the license, and, from that time forward, all driving is forbidden until the license is reinstated.

This can cause a family's life to come to a screeching halt. What about work? What about for medical purposes like getting a sick child to the doctor? What about getting to college classes or even going grocery shopping? Although the license suspension or revocation is intended to be a punishment, the state also recognizes that some trips are essential and that being barred from all driving for a long period might be too harsh a price to pay.

That's why the FLDHSMV offers a hardship license. A Florida hardship license gives a person the right to drive for limited reasons, which usually include some business purposes, commuting to work or college, and obtaining medical treatment.

Obtaining a Hardship License

When a driver's Florida license is suspended, they may be able to apply for a hardship license from the FLDHSMV. Generally, the driver must first enroll in an Advanced Driver Improvement Course, obtain a certificate of enrollment, and get a copy of their driving history. They submit these with a completed application for a hardship license administrative hearing. If a person's license is suspended for non-driving offenses, like fraudulent insurance claims, they do not need to take the driving course.

If the administrative hearing officer determines that the driver qualifies for a hardship license, a temporary driving permit is issued, authorizing the person to drive for business or college attendance purposes. This also includes personal business like grocery shopping and medical visits.

DUI License Revocation

When a driver is convicted of a DUI in Florida, license revocation is generally one of the penalties. The period of revocation varies, as does the availability of a hardship license. The primary periods of revocation are:

  • First DUI conviction, no bodily injury: between 180 days and one year.
  • First DUI conviction with bodily injury: at least three years.
  • Second DUI conviction within five years: at least five years, but eligible for hardship license after one year.
  • Third DUI conviction within 10 years: at least 10 years, but eligible for hardship after two years. 
  • Fourth DUI conviction: Mandatory permanent revocation, but eligible for hardship license five years after incarceration ends.
  • DUI manslaughter: Mandatory permanent revocation, but eligible for hardship license five years after incarceration ends if no priors.

Under Florida law, some circumstances disqualify a driver from even getting a hardship license. These include such offenses as felony possession of a controlled substance while driving a vehicle and theft of a motor vehicle, among many others.

DUI Hardship License Restrictions

If a driver convicted of a DUI offense is eligible for a hardship license, they can apply for an administrative hearing, but DUI-specific rules and restrictions apply. A few of the more common restrictions are:

Those convicted of a per se DUI – driving under the influence based on 0.08 percent blood alcohol level (BAL) – must first go 30 days without any driver's license or permit. They can then apply for an administrative hearing for a hardship reinstatement if they show proof of enrollment in DUI school.

In Florida, drivers automatically consent to take a chemical test when they are arrested for a DUI offense. If a driver picked up on a DUI refuses to take the breath test, it is a misdemeanor called "refusal." The penalties for refusal include loss of license. Those who lose a license because of refusal must spend 90 days without any driver's license before they can apply for hardship reinstatement. When a driver has two or more refusals, they cannot apply for hardship reinstatement.

Zero Tolerance Law Restrictions

In Florida, a person under the age of 21 is subject to the zero tolerance law that makes it a civil offense for them to drive with a BAL of 0.02 percent or higher. Civil penalties include loss of driving privileges. These drivers must serve 30 days without any driving license before they are eligible for hardship reinstatement.

Aggravated DUI Restrictions

It is considered aggravated DUI when a driver's BAL is 0.15 percent or above, and penalties include a license revocation. These drivers are required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) and drive with it for up to six months from the time they are allowed to drive again, even if it is under a hardship license. An IID is a type of breathalyzer device attached to the vehicle's ignition. It prevents the car from starting unless the driver blows into the device.

Prior Offence Restrictions

A driver convicted of a second DUI within five years of the initial DUI must serve one year without any license. To apply for hardship reinstatement, they must complete DUI school and remain supervised for the entire revocation period, reporting for treatment as required. In addition, the applicant may not have consumed any alcoholic beverage or controlled substance or have driven a motor vehicle for 12 months prior to reinstatement. If the person's BAL was higher than 0.15 percent when they were arrested, they must install and drive an IID for at least one year once they begin to drive again.

Similar requirements apply when a driver is convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of any prior conviction. They must serve two years without a license before applying for a hardship reinstatement, complete DUI school and abstain from any drinking or illicit drug use for 12 months. The mandatory IID period is two years.

Restrictions for DUI Manslaughter

Finally, when someone is convicted of DUI manslaughter with no prior DUI-related convictions, they face permanent license revocation. However, they can apply for hardship reinstatement after five years if they attend DUI school. In order to qualify, however, they must establish that they have not driven a motor vehicle for five years before the hearing, have not been arrested for a drug-related offense for the same period, and have been alcohol- and drug-free.