The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 28 people die every day in car accidents related to alcohol intoxication. This is the equivalent of one person every 51 minutes. Driving after drinking too much alcohol can fall under several legal names, depending on the state, like Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired (DWI), Impaired Driving, or Operating Under the Influence (OUI). The consequences for being pulled over for a DUI vary, too, based on state, age, and blood alcohol content (BAC).
In nearly every city and state in the US, the legal limit for BAC is 0.08 percent – which equates to about two drinks in one hour – but even less alcohol in the blood can still impair one’s ability to drive. In 2015, for example, NHTSA reports that 1,809 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in which the intoxicated driver’s BAC was less than 0.08.
If a person’s BAC is over the legal limit, they are at risk for having their driver’s license taken away. This is often a red flag, showing someone that they have an issue with problem drinking, including heavy drinking, binge drinking, or even alcohol use disorder (AUD). Oftentimes, this prompts a person to seek treatment.
Once a person works to overcome their risky drinking, they will wish to get their driver’s license back. Each state has a different approach to reinstating a driver’s license after a DUI or multiple DUI charges.
Steps to Get Your License Back
Typically, in the case of the first DUI, the arresting officer will take the person’s original license and replace it with a temporary one. The temporary license will expire on the court date, set to hear the DUI case. Failure to request a hearing typically leads to permanent suspension of one’s driver’s license; attending the hearing and pleading one’s case may successfully reinstate the license, but this is rare. Refusal to give blood or urine samples, or take a breathalyzer at the scene of the arrest, will lead to automatic suspension, although this can vary if the state allows refusal of these samples.
Suspension may last anywhere from three months to one year, depending on how intoxicated the driver was, whether they had previous DUIs, and if there was a serious car accident. People who want to get their license back often have to follow these four basic steps:
- Complete court requirements, which will likely include entering an alcohol treatment program.
- Get proof of car insurance, which means contacting the insurance company and following their requests.
- Attend the DUI hearing and present one’s case.
- Pay required fees, including court fees, reinstatement fees, etc.
Required alcohol treatment programs can vary widely, by state and seriousness of intoxication at arrest. The person may be required to attend a few hours of alcohol safety education, or they may be forced to find an alcohol detox and rehabilitation program. Although this may seem strict, it may be the push people with multiple DUIs need to find appropriate treatment for alcohol use disorder or abuse.
For state-specific laws on reinstating a driver’s license after a DUI, the USA.gov website can provide further information.