WORK-RESTRICTED DRIVERS LICENSE-When You Can Drive to Work After Getting Arrested for Drunk Driving  

In representing people arrested for drunk driving, referred to as Operating Under the Influence or OUI[i], I am frequently asked how to obtain a work-restricted driver’s license. There is a fair amount of confusion on this topic, and for good reason, because it deals with the dual proceedings associated with OUI.

When someone is charged with OUI there are instantly two cases proceeding against the person:  an administrative proceeding before the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (“BMV”) and a criminal proceeding in the Maine Criminal Court.

Within a few days, the BMV sends a letter indicating an “administrative suspension” of the person’s driver’s license will be imposed within a few days for a mandatory-minimum period of time.  The length of the suspension depends on a number of factors including the circumstances of the particular OUI and whether there have been prior offenses.  The person can request a hearing at the BMV, contesting the OUI.  Doing so usually causes the license suspension to be delayed until the hearing takes place.

Another alternative is for the person to file a petition with the BMV for a work-restricted driver’s license.  The reality is that people rarely win administrative hearings when they contest the OUI.  However, if the criteria for a work-restricted license is properly alleged in the petition (e.g. first offense OUI, no other transportation available, need license for employment, etc.) then the BMV will usually issue such a license that can only be used for work purposes.[ii]  If the person’s blood alcohol level was especially high when he or she was arrested (i.e. over 0.20) the work-restricted license will not be issued until after the person has completed the Driver Evaluation and Education Program (DEEP).  This all relates only to administrative suspensions – not court-ordered suspensions.

When someone is convicted of OUI in Court, either by pleading guilty to the charge or after a trial, the BMV imposes a “court-ordered suspension.”  Again, the length of the suspension depends on a number of factors.  This court-ordered suspension must be served in full before the person can operate a vehicle (there are also additional requirements such as paying a reinstatement fee and completing the DEEP program).  To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as a work-restricted license for someone serving a court-ordered suspension.

A few additional points worth noting.  Generally, the suspension imposed by the BMV is the same length of time as that imposed by the Court.  The time served on an administrative suspension will be credited towards a “court-ordered suspension.”  Thus, it is not uncommon for a person to have already served the administrative suspension by the time he or she resolves his or her case in Court, and therefore, the court-ordered license suspension is deemed to have already been fully served.

Also, if a person does get a work-restricted license while on an administrative suspension and is later convicted of OUI in Court the person does not get credit for serving the suspension for the period he or she had a work-restricted license.

Generally, the quickest way to get a license fully restored after a first offense OUI is to plead guilty in Court and serve a 30-day suspension during which the DEEP program can be completed.  After these two things are done and a reinstatement fee is paid, the person can have an ignition interlock device installed in his or her vehicle (at his or her own expense) and can drive with the device installed for the remainder of the 150-day suspension.  If there are multiple OUI offenses in the past, the length of time for suspensions and eligibility for an ignition interlock device changes dramatically.

If you have been charged with OUI and would like to know what rights you have and need guidance on your best plan to deal with the two proceedings, I encourage you to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

[i]  OUI is the term used under Maine law, other places refer to the crime as driving under the influence or DUI and driving while intoxicated or DWI.

[ii]  The full text of the law regarding work restricted licenses can be found here:  http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/29-A/title29-Asec2503.html