Is Your License Suspended Immediately After a DUI?

Each state’s policies on license suspension following a DUI arrest varies, but you may face a suspension between 10 and 40 days after your arrest date.
Written by Mary Cahill
Reviewed by R.E. Fulton
background
Your driver’s license will not immediately be suspended after an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI), but the loss of your driving privileges may be impending. Each state’s laws regarding driver’s license suspension after a DUI charge are a little different, but in most states you have 10 days from your arrest date to request a DMV hearing regarding the status of your driver’s license.
  • Your driver’s license may be suspended prior to your court date if you are arrested for a DUI offense
  • If you’re convicted of the pending criminal charges, the length of your license suspension will depend on your state’s DUI laws
  • It’s recommended that you hire a defense lawyer to handle your DMV hearing and criminal case

Is your license suspended immediately after a DUI?

No. Even if the arresting officer takes your driver’s license during a
DUI/DWI
arrest, it’s not an automatic suspension. In most cases, a Notice of Suspension will be mailed to you informing you of the date the suspension will take effect.   
If it’s your first offense, you might have many concerns about how to handle the situation. It’s common for the police officer overseeing the arrest to confiscate your license—which doesn’t mean it’s suspended, but you need to act quickly. 
If you do not request a DMV hearing to discuss the future of your driving privileges within 10 days of your arrest, you lose the opportunity. A DMV hearing is a meeting to determine whether there’s sufficient cause for you to receive an administrative license suspension.  
Although a DMV administrative hearing is separate from your DUI case, it’s still a good idea to hire a DUI attorney to accompany you to the hearing and speak on your behalf. Some law firms have DUI lawyers that specialize in these kinds of cases and can offer you sound legal advice, including initial free consultations. 
The meeting will be led by a hearing officer and take place at a DMV branch rather than a courtroom. During the hearing, you and your criminal defense attorney will review and potentially challenge evidence from the arrest, including the content of the police report, data from chemical tests or breath tests, and whether the law enforcement officer who made the arrest had probable cause to pull you over. You face a DUI conviction if you drive over the legal limit, which in most states means your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or higher
At the hearing, your attorney may contest whether the arresting officer followed procedure when conducting your field sobriety test, as well as the validity of any blood tests or other test results that were performed. You still may end up with a suspended license as you await your day in court, but you should request a DMV hearing—it’s your best chance to keep your driving privileges while your case is pending. 
If you missed your 10-day window to request the DMV hearing, you won’t be able to present a DUI defense strategy until your court date. Regardless of whether you had a DMV hearing or not, if you receive a Notice of Suspension, you’re prohibited from operating a motor vehicle as of the date indicated on the notice. 
No matter how tempting it may be, never drive while your license is suspended. If you’re caught driving with a suspended license—especially prior to your court date, it will add a misdemeanor charge to your DUI case. 
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Can you avoid driver’s license suspension after a DUI?

If the DMV hearing works in your favor, you might be able to avoid a driver’s license suspension. The likelihood is much greater if it’s a first-time DUI and you have a lawyer representing you at the hearing. 
On the other hand, if the court finds you guilty of DUI, you will almost certainly have your license suspended and your car insurance premium will increase. However, first-time offenders may be granted what’s known as a restricted license or hardship license. A restricted license allows you to drive at specific times, such as to and from your job—if you are given these limited driving privileges, follow the provisions very carefully.

How to get your suspended driver’s license back 

You can get your driver’s license back once the suspension period has ended. Depending on the circumstances of your DUI—like if it’s your second DUI conviction—there could be certain conditions you must fulfill in order to legally drive again. 
One such condition is having an ignition interlock device(IID) installed in your vehicle. This device prevents you from starting the car until you confirm you are under the legal limit by breathing into a breathalyzer. 
As long as you’ve met any legally binding conditions, you’re eligible for a
license reinstatement
. Anytime you need to have your license reinstated, there’s a reinstatement fee. This fee varies by state—for instance, it costs $175 to have your license reinstated in
Connecticut
and $95 for reinstatement in
Colorado
It’s important to treat a DUI as a learning experience. While the majority of states classify a first-time DUI as a misdemeanor, getting multiple DUIs will result in felony charges. Often, drivers who’ve been convicted of two or more DUIs are sentenced to jail time
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FAQs

After you’re arrested for DUI your license may be suspended anywhere from 10 to 40 days later. If you request a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest, you might be able to avoid a license suspension while you wait for your court date.
It varies. Depending on the circumstances and your driving history, a license suspension for a DUI can last between three months to two years.
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