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Hardship License vs. Restricted License

A typical driver’s license places no limitations on the driver as far as when and where they can drive. However, hardship and restricted licenses do have specific limitations. Learn more about these types of licenses and how they are different. 

Losing the ability to drive is a big hardship for many drunk driving offenders. It’s a long-lasting consequence for a single choice, but many DUI offenders have their license revoked or suspended for at least a few months following an offense. The length of time can vary by state, and may also change due to the specifics of the incident. Being unable to drive can make it very hard for offenders to get to work, school, or fulfill other obligations that require driving. It can be challenging and expensive for many offenders. 

However, many states also have an interlock program that allows offenders to regain driving privileges by installing an ignition interlock device from an approved provider. Installing the IID is a prerequisite for obtaining a hardship license or a restricted license. Other terms for this type of licensing may include IID limited license, interlock license, Occupational License, and more. 

What Is a Restricted License?

A Restricted License is often an option for drivers who have a DUI offense on their driving record. The license allows drivers to regain their driving privileges during the suspension period. Typically, offenders are required to install an ignition interlock device from an approved provider as a condition of regaining their license. Once installed, the IID will require the driver to test their Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) and pass before they can start the car. The device reports all testing failures to the state’s monitoring authority. 

Limitations vary by state, but restrictions in some states could limit drivers to: 

  • A certain number of driving hours per day/week
  • Specific locations like work, food shopping, school, worship, and treatment/doctor’s appointments

This means that drivers who have a Restricted License may not be able to drive to social gatherings or other locations not specifically approved by the license. Additionally, Restricted License holders are not able to drive a commercial vehicle. 

The process for restricted licenses differs by state. Typically, they are granted only to eligible offenders or on a case-by-case basis. Not every state has a Restricted License option. Violating any terms of the Restricted License can result in more penalties, including fines, losing driving privileges, an increased interlock term, or a jail term. 

States with restricted licenses include Iowa, Texas, Washington, California, and Virginia. 

How Are Hardship Licenses Different?

Hardship licenses are very similar to restricted licenses. They are limited licenses granted to drivers who are eligible following a license suspension or revocation. The key difference is they are offered to offenders who are able to demonstrate a clear hardship caused by the inability to drive. Qualifying hardships may include: 

  • Unable to commute to work
  • Unable to obtain medical care 
  • Cannot attend school 
  • Required by the court to attend counseling or substance use treatment, but have no means of getting there

States with hardship licenses include Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, and Arkansas. Some states have similar license options with different names. For example, Wisconsin uses “occupational license” and New Hampshire uses “Cinderella license” for the same type of license option. 

The laws vary by state as far as who is eligible for a hardship or restricted license, as do the criteria. Your attorney can likely assist in determining if you are able to obtain a restricted or hardship license. 

What Are All-Offender Ignition Interlock Laws?

Managing a variety of different license programs is a challenge for state agencies and monitoring authorities to manage. It’s difficult to ensure drivers are following the restrictions, for example. How can anyone be sure if the offender is only driving to and from work, or if they are driving to school but actually going to a social event? 

One way to avoid this possible confusion is to enact an all-offender ignition interlock law, which many states have done. These laws require all first-time offenders to install an ignition interlock device to regain driving privileges. The devices have a proven track record of preventing recidivism, helping keep offenders and the general public safer on the road. Ignition interlocks are also available on a voluntary basis to anyone who decides they would be helpful. 

Our chosen provider, Intoxalock, has locations in every state throughout the US, and 47 states list them as an approved provider for court-mandated interlock devices.