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How Do You Get A Hardship Or Occupational Driver’s License In New York?

Q: Does a hardship license cover the first 30 days after your arrest? Can you apply for a conditional license after that?

Eric: In the first instance when the judge takes your license away, you may be eligible for a hardship license. Not everybody is eligible. If there’s a refusal, you are not eligible for a hardship license.

Provided there is an allegation of a reading of .08 or more, the judge is now taking your license away. Then, you can apply for the hardship license. I refer to that as a Cinderella license. It allows you to drive from your home to your place of business; to and from medical appointments; and to and from school.

You have to substantiate:  you have a job, where you work, the hours you work, and how much money you make.  If you’re a student, you have to substantiate where you go to school, your class schedule and documented appointments.

Be able to demonstrate to the court there are no buses and trains you can take; and nobody can drive you. If you live with somebody who can drive you, you are not eligible either. It has to be a hardship, an extreme financial hardship.

If you can demonstrate that, the judge can give you a license on each particular day of the week, perhaps Sunday through the following Saturday. The license is based on your schedule for work or school. The license lasts from the time you leave your house to as much time as it takes to get to your location. Then your license goes away again, just like Cinderella. At 12 o’clock, your car turns back into a pumpkin.

When it’s time to come home from work  your license is active again. For the typical 9 to 5 person:  if you leave your house at 8 o’clock and get to your job at 8:45, you have a license from 8 o’clock to 8:45. At 8:46, there’s no more license. If you leave your place of business at 5:15 until 6, then no license until 5:15. At 6 o’clock, your license again goes away.

After 30 days, if you’re eligible, you can go the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a conditional license, for a fee. The conditional license will allow you to drive to and from work. However, it is not as restricted as the hardship license.

It also gives you time on the weekends to do your personal business. You can go shopping or to the cleaners; or do what you need to do. It’s a step up. The conditional license will remain in effect until you are eligible to get your full license back, whenever that may be.

What happens if you don’t get a hardship license or you don’t bother to fight the driver’s license suspension? How long, on a first or second DUI, will it be suspended?

If you don’t apply for a hardship license as soon as you go to arraignment and say not guilty, a judge takes your license away. You have no driving privileges until somebody gives them back to you, with a hardship license.

if you don’t want that, there’s no license until you go to the  Department of Motor Vehicles and apply for and get a conditional license ,if you’re eligible. Until that happens, there is no license. Then, depending on the outcome of your case, the next step will come into play regarding your license.

For instance, the case gets dismissed. Perhaps there’s an outcome that does not involve alcohol, such as a traffic violation. Then you get your full license back. The case gets resolved with a lesser crime of driving while impaired, a DWAI or a DUI.  Then there’s a license suspension post conviction, which doesn’t have anything to do with before. Now your case is finished. You lose your license for 90 days. During that 90 day period, you’re eligible for a conditional license.

During the 90 day period, you must do whatever the Department of Motor Vehicles wants you to do during that period, such as the IDP (Impaired Driver Program) or the Victim Impact Panel (VIP). At the end of that 90 day period, you’re eligible to apply again to the Department of Motor Vehicles to reinstate your license.

Your license never comes back. People don’t understand this. We’ve had instances where, years later, people get stopped for common  traffic violations only to find out their license is still suspended or revoked. This is because they never went back to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

After the 90 day period is up, you first have to go back to Department of Motor Vehicles to ask permission, pay whatever fees, or do whatever the Department of Motor Vehicles wants.  They will now give you back your regular license.

On a conviction by plea or after a trial for a driving while intoxicated offense, there is a mandatory license revocation. At that time, your license is revoked for six months minimum. Before you get it back, you may have to  go to the Department of Motor Vehicles drinking driver program or the victim impact panel. With a  revocation, you may have to take  another road test to get your license back at that time.

There are instances, for aggravated driving while intoxicated, where people are not eligible to get their license back for up to a year. Some people can’t get their license back for three or five years. If they’re on probation or with  felony cases, some people may never get their license back. Again, all the post conviction license issues now are out of the court system and going to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

What happens if people chance it and try to drive while they don’t have driving privileges?

It’s a chance. Nothing is illegal until you get caught. If you get caught driving without a license- depending on why its suspended, when it was suspended, and what you caught doing- it can progress from a traffic violation to a felony driving with a suspended license. If it’s a felony, you  actually go to jail for driving without a license.

What’s the penalty if you’re charged with a DWI while your license is suspended?

It’s a felony charge with aggravated driving with a  suspended license. As a felony, it carries a jail sentence. You can get probation. However,  it carries with it the possibility of going to jail for more than a year for that offense of driving while your license is suspended. That’s very serious. We do not suggest people ever drive without having a license.