The term “hardship” when applied to a Florida driver’s license can conjure up different meanings, even not having the money to pay the application fee.  But a hardship license is actually something that a person can apply for when his or her license has been suspended for violation of a law.  Surprisingly, some of these violations have little or nothing to do with operating a vehicle or even getting a traffic ticket. The ones that are related to driving include such obvious violations as driving under the influence (DUI), driving when your license has already been suspended or when you’ve never had a license, having too many violations (the points system), or driving without insurance.  But your license can also be revoked for not paying child support, not stopping for a school bus, some physical or mental conditions, or even using tobacco under the age of 18 (speaking of which, there is a long list of reasons for drivers under 21).

For whatever reason you find yourself without a license, in today’s world where mobility is required for everything from employment to transporting family members, you will want to get it back as soon as possible.  But how do you get it back? In Florida, the procedure to get a hardship license is straightforward by law and depends to a large degree upon why your license was suspended.  But, even though the procedure is straightforward, the actual process may include numerous pitfalls that may require an attorney to help you navigate the red tape.

Realistically, the only reasons for a suspension that allow you to apply for a hardship license are having too many points against your driving record or certain DUI charges.  These points are accumulated from Florida traffic tickets, a Florida speeding ticket, a red light ticket in Florida, and other violations.  Regarding points suspensions, the number of points and the amount of time in which you accumulate them determine the eligibility for a hardship license:

12 points in 12 months = 30-day suspension

18 points in 18 months = 3-month suspension

24 points in 36 months = 12-month suspension

If your license is suspended and you need it for work or family reasons, you will need to follow the procedures set out by Florida law:

  • The first requirement is to register for an approved Florida Advanced Driver Improvement Course.  These are available online so you do not necessarily have to attend class which could interfere with work or family responsibilities.  Once you have registered, you will receive an enrollment certificate for the course.
  • Second, you should request your 30-day driving record from the DMV and you will receive a letter with this information. 
  • Third, present both documents to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).

Once the course is completed, you will receive the hardship license. The hardship license will only allow you to drive under certain circumstances.  While the two descriptions sound the same, they have different restrictions:

  • A restriction for business purposes limits the license to driving to and from work, required on-the-job driving, driving for educational purposes, driving for church and driving for medical purposes. 
  • A restriction for employment purposes is limited to driving ONLY to and from work and driving required on-the-job by your employer or occupation.

The law makes it clear that driving is a privilege and that the privilege can be suspended or revoked for too many violations of the law such as Florida traffic tickets, a Florida speeding ticket, a red light ticket in Florida and other violations.  Even if you complete all the necessary steps, you must still have a hearing to determine whether you can even get a restricted license unless the Department agrees to waive it.  So what happens if your request is refused?

An attorney with experience in appealing the Department’s decision may be able to help.  In fact, it may be helpful to hire an attorney at the beginning of the process to make sure that all of the steps are completed correctly, making it more likely that your receive the hardship license you need and, for even later in the process, to ensure that your license is reinstated after the suspension is over.  It may also be advisable to consult an attorney for any traffic tickets you dispute because the traffic tickets are what eventually accumulate the points that cause your license to be suspended or revoked.