Can You Drive to Work with a Suspended Driver’s License?

A license suspension is intended to prevent a convicted driver from driving, but in many states, they may still be eligible for a conditional license for commuting to work.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Amy Bobinger
background
Many states offer special licenses that allow a worker to still drive to work, even if their
driver’s license is suspended
. However, the names of these licenses vary from state to state, as do the restrictions around them.
  • If you’ve received a court ordered driver’s license suspension, it’s possible that you can apply for a restricted license or hardship license that allows you to drive to work.
  • If you drive to work with a suspended driver’s license and are pulled over, you’ll be considered to be driving without a license.
  • If you are caught driving without a valid license, you could have your suspended license revoked entirely.

Can you drive to work with a suspended driver’s license?

You cannot drive to work with a suspended driver’s license unless you have been issued a special restricted license, like a hardship license.
A suspended driver’s license is not considered to be a valid driver’s license, so it is not sufficient for legally driving a motor vehicle. A license suspension period is like a time-out for drivers who have been convicted of certain infractions—some traffic violations and some non-driving-related—including:
  • DUI or DWI (driving while intoxicated)
  • Too many points on driving record
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Misdemeanor
  • Reckless driving
If you’re driving to work with a restricted license, remember that you’ll
still need car insurance
, which you can expect to be overpriced, due to your driving record. If the related offense is a DUI, you’ll likely also need to file an SR-22 proof of insurance form with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Contact your local DMV office if you have questions about applying for a hardship license in your state.

What is a hardship license or restricted license?

A hardship license may be called something different in your state—sometimes they are referred to as a restricted license, occupational license, or limited license. It is a provisional license that allows you to drive to work or school, even if your regular driver’s license has been suspended.
In most cases, you need to submit an application for a restricted license. Some states don’t have specific laws pertaining to hardship licenses and will only grant you limited driving privileges if they are ruled in a court hearing.
If your license was suspended due to a DUI, you may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle, which forces you to pass a breathalyzer test before the vehicle will turn on.
Many hardship or restricted licenses will limit where you are allowed to drive to and when you are allowed to drive. For example, you might only be allowed to drive you or your kids to school or to attend medical treatment and won’t be allowed to drive at all outside of those times.
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Who qualifies for a hardship license?

Most states offer hardship licenses—or their own version of a hardship license—for certain drivers who have had their license suspended. Usually, drivers who have violated conditions of a hardship license in the past will not be granted access to it again. Limited driving privileges may not be available for repeat offenders, depending on the state.
The following do not have any laws surrounding restricted, limited, or hardship licenses:
However, some states—such as Kansas—allow municipal and district authorities, rather than the state DMV, to grant limited driving privileges, if they are found to be necessary in a court hearing.
In
Rhode Island
, there is no law allowing for restricted driving privileges as part of a license suspension. However, you may be able to present evidence in a court hearing that a license suspension is an unjust punishment if you need your car to get to work.
If you had a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) suspended, it is unlikely that your state will grant you restricted driving privileges for work as a driver.
MORE: 9 common reasons your license can be revoked

How to get a hardship license

How hardship licenses and similar restricted licenses work varies significantly by state. The application will often require a hearing, but there are some states where this is not the case. You’ll also have to prove that you actually need to drive to work—if public transportation is a viable option, you might be denied limited driving privileges.
In addition to filing a paper application and/or attending a public court hearing, you’ll probably have to pay an additional fee. You may also be required to subject to drug and alcohol testing. All of this is to ensure that the public is not being endangered by you being allowed on the road in a limited capacity.
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FAQs

If you drive with a suspended license, you are considered to be driving without a license. States have different specific punishments for driving unlicensed. It is considered to be a crime in every state, and common consequences include license revocation, fines, and even jail time, depending on the circumstances.
Plenty of people have figured out how to get around without using a car—if you have access to public transportation, it can be cheaper and fairly convenient. However, public transit isn’t accessible for everyone, meaning that you might need to still get around by car in order to work, attend classes, go to the doctor, or take your kids to school. This is where hardship licenses might apply.
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