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When Can I Get My License Back After a DUI Arrest?

In most states, if your arrest for DUI-DWI is a first offense, there are circumstances under which you may have a limited or restricted driver’s license issued to you.  Typically, if you meet your state’s criteria, the limited license will identify what types of driving activity are permitted, and for what limited purposes.

If your DUI-DWI arrest is your first offense, you may be able to get your full driver’s license back after a few days (or possibly a few months) of administrative suspension if you complete a state-mandated course such as driving school or a drug and alcohol evaluation.  In some jurisdictions, both prerequisites must be met.  This “right” to regain your FULL license is sometimes called an “early reinstatement.”

The two preceding sections pertain to state action that takes your license AFTER losing your administrative license suspension (or revocation) hearing.  You should ask your DUI-DWI specialist attorney handling your case regarding your state’s rules on license reinstatement and limited permits to drive following an administrative “taking” of your license.

Can I just get a driver’s license in another state?

The very short answer is no.  Once your license is physically taken from you as a part of the DUI-DWI arrest process, an administrative license suspension (or revocation) action is started against your license.  If any other state licensing office contacts your state, a “block” will be in place informing the other state that you have a pending license suspension or revocation proceeding that is unresolved.

Recent improvements to the National Driver’s Registry have led to much better “tracking” of problem drivers.  Today, any attempt to procure a license in any other state will likely be detected and acted upon by the state agency from which you are seeking the new license.  If you offer the new state your plastic license to be surrendered for the new state’s license, the agency representative in the new state where you are applying can confiscate the license if your existing state licensing agency notifies the new state that your license is suspended.  For more detailed information on these new national rules and penalties for fraudulent procurement of a driver’s license, read about current guidelines online.

As a prerequisite for getting a driver’s license in most states, you must not have your current license suspended or revoked in any other state.  Lying on an application form is always an additional crime.  Since the state’s form is a type of affidavit, falsifying such reports can trigger additional license loss or serious criminal penalties.  You can also lose your driver’s license in your state for alcohol or drug offenses that you commit in another state.

Once I can legally drive again, will things be back to normal?

The answer to this question depends on what you mean by “normal.”  In most states, if you are convicted of DUI-DWI in the criminal case, your license will be suspended for a first offense, or you can be forced to drive on a restricted license, for up to a year.  This may mean not being able to drive at all for some part of a full year in some states (e.g. Pennsylvania).  In the alternative, a conviction can result in your license being restricted as to when and where you can drive.  After the statutory suspension or revocation period is over, you can take the necessary steps set forth by your state’s law to get your FULL license returned to you.  Then, no restrictions on location and time of day for your driving remain.

Although getting reinstated after a first offense is relatively painless in most states, the opposite is typically true for second (or subsequent) offenses.  All states have guidelines for determining what a “second” offense is, in terms of a mandatory suspension or revocation.  However, most states have a five to ten year “look back” for prior offenses, for determining when you will be put through the ringer in trying to regain your full driving privileges.  Some states now have a lifetime “lookback” or review of your entire driving history.