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What Happens if I Get Caught Driving With a Suspended License?

Simply stated, driving on a suspended license is a new, additional crime. In most jurisdictions, these added offenses will carry a mandatory jail sentence, especially if you are a repeat offender or have serious charges pending when you drive while suspended. These sentences can be very punitive. In one Texas case, the repeat drunken driver who kept driving while suspended received a 99-year jail sentence!

Driving On A Suspended License

You might have an excuse for driving while your license is suspended if your driving was in light of a true emergency (i.e., to save someone’s life), but it is the court that determines if your reason for driving really was a situation that rose to the level of a legal “necessity.” Just having to get to work is not an emergency, nor is having to transport your children to school or to soccer practice.

It takes little imagination to predict the consequences of such a situation.

Driving on a suspended license might also worsen your pending DUI-DWI case, particularly if the judge in that case is the same judge on the suspended license case. Such “repeat” offenses send the judge a message that you are not remorseful for your DUI-DWI because you violated an additional state law even before the first case was resolved.


Depending upon your state’s laws relating to a limited driving permit or restricted driver’s license, the availability of such a restricted right to drive is almost always a matter controlled by statute, not a judge’s discretion. So, if a restricted permit to drive is available and you comply with the conditions to get such a permit, a restricted license should be available to you, at least for a first offense in an impaired driving case.

Limited driving permits are a creation of state statute and are not a “right” under any state or federal constitution. This means that the availability of such a permit is controlled by state law. Your DUI-DWI defense specialist will be able to guide you through the steps needed to obtain such a “work permit” or limited occupational license.
In most states, if your arrest for DUI-DWI is a first-time violation, there are circumstances under which you may have a limited or restricted driver’s license available 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. Many states will allow a permit to first offenders who submit to testing, but will deny any limited permit to a person who refused to be tested for alcohol or drugs.

Certainly, one of the most pressing questions you have is to determine if you can drive to and from work. Many people also travel out of state and need to rent cars when they get to remote destinations. Depending on your state’s guidelines, you may be required to wait 10, 30 or 90 days to get a limited or restricted license after a DUI-DWI arrest or possibly after the criminal conviction. In some jurisdictions, certain drivers may be required to install an ignition interlock device prior to receiving their restricted license or work permit that allows restricted driving privileges (or must prove that they have contracted to install such a device).

A restricted license or “work” permit severely restricts your ability to drive, determining where and when you can operate a vehicle. Thus, a “work” permit may help you with some of the transportation problems you face following your DUI-DWI arrest, but is seldom the solution to all of your problems. For example, most rental car companies will not allow you to rent their vehicles without a full driver’s license.

More DUI Driver’s License Loss Resources

To learn more about driver’s license loss after a DUI, read some of our in-depth articles below: