What is a DUI Habitual Violator (HV)?

Fewer than 1/2 of 1% of all drivers ever become a DUI habitual violator (also called habitual offenders). While it is legal for others to drive their vehicles if they have a driver’s license, once you have been declared a DWI habitual violator because of DUI-DWI convictions (or other serious driving offenses in some jurisdictions), it becomes illegal for you to operate a motor vehicle, even if you somehow obtain a driver’s license.

A habitual violator (HV) usually means any person who has been arrested and convicted within the United States three or more times (of serious driving offenses like DUI-DWI) within a fixed period of time. It does not matter (in most states) if your three DUI-DWI convictions were each in different states.

As mentioned above, several jurisdictions have added other highly dangerous driving convictions to the list of HV offenses that can count toward three violations within your state’s prescribed “lookback” term of years. Examples of these are attempting to elude a police officer, or striking an occupied vehicle and leaving the scene (hit and run).

Your state may have a statute that calls for “HV” status to be possible from ONE driving incident in which ALL THREE serious driving acts occurred and resulted in convictions against you.

Penalties if an Habitual Violator (HV) Causes a Death

As would be expected, if you cause the death of another person while driving your vehicle as a habitual violator, the penalty is quite severe. In Georgia, for example, instead of a maximum jail term of 15 years per fatality, the maximum jail term is extended to 20 years if you were driving while “HV.” All that is required to receive this severe penalty is to be operating a vehicle and that another person’s death occurred in a collision with your vehicle. No causal connection to your poor driving and the death is required.

The facts that led to your being declared a dangerous driver (being declared an “HV”) are of no consequence when you are found behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Once you have been declared a habitual violator, if you are caught driving or operating any vehicle, the State is not required to address any collateral attacks that your attorney may raise as to why you originally received the habitual violator status. As a general rule, the legitimacy of having been declared “HV” will not be considered in your current prosecution.

What’s the difference between an habitual violator and a recidivist?

A recidivist is a repeat criminal offender who is convicted of a crime after having been previously convicted of this same crime. If you are considered a recidivist, while your penalty for the second conviction for the same crime may be significantly greater due to the existence of a prior offense all that is required to become a recidivist is to break the law a second time. For example, you would be considered a recidivist if you received a second DUI-DWI conviction.
It is a crime for anyone to drive while intoxicated. A habitual violator status differs because you are prohibited by law from doing something that other people can legally do.

If you are declared a habitual violator, it is a crime for you to operate any motor vehicle, whether sober or intoxicated, for any reason, even though doing so would not be illegal for anyone with a valid license. Simply stated, being declared an “HV” driver makes you totally ineligible to operate ANY vehicle for any purpose, at any time, until your privilege to drive has been legally restored in accordance with state law.

Once you have been declared a habitual violator, if you operate a motor vehicle in most states, you can be convicted of driving in violation of your habitual violation status even if you somehow obtain a driver’s license from another state.

What happens if I get a driver’s license from another state?

Your legal right to drive has been revoked by the state government, and procuring a license by any means from another state will not restore your right to operate a vehicle. Your HV status is typically uncovered when your full name, fingerprints, date of birth, social security number or other identifying information is entered into the state’s computer database by the police officer at the roadway.