The "limited license" law, which most people call a hardship license or work permit, has been on the books for less than a year. I hope that a good Bill to amend our limited license law starts working through the legislature. The law has serious flaws and with a new interpretation by DMV that we just learned about today, the law is next to useless.
Limited License Law - how it used to work
Originally, effective January 1, 2016, the law allowed for a limited license after 45 days, which for the vast majority of DWI-1st defendants, means that they have a hard suspension for 45 days, then they can drive to and from work for about 35 working days (assuming a 5 day work week, you work about 35 of 45 days), and then they get their license back without restrictions. The law allowed other purposes such as driving to school or to doctors appointments, but for most applicants, being able to drive to work was the most important or even the only benefit.
For some drivers, it was worth the money and hassle to be able to drive to work for 35 working days. But, the very short period of ignition interlock (45 days in most cases) made the law flawed in that it was not worthwhile for the ignition interlock companies, who had lobbied for this law in the first place.
Limited License Law - June 6, 2016 Legislative "Fix"
So, the legislature "fixed it" by mandating, effective 6/6/2016, that the limited license holder must have an ignition interlock for an additional year, so a total of 1 year 45 days for most drivers. My guess is that applications for limited licenses must have fallen precipitously since then, since for most people it won't be worth the hassle and cost, to have an ignition interlock for 410 days, so that they can drive to and from work for 35 days. So, the "fix" pushed hard by the ignition interlock companies probably hurt them even more than the original law, as the supply of applicants must have fallen drastically. Certainly, none of my "true first" clients have applied for it since June 6. However, the "fix" did provide a very valuable benefit to those who got a lengthy license loss, either because of an aggravated DWI that was reduced to a first, or a subsequent dwi that was reduced to a first.
Limited License Law - Recent DMV Interpretation
Some people charged with DWI-2d or DWI-Subsequent Offense resolve their case with the prosecution by pleading guilty to a DWI-1st, often with "enhanced" penalties which typically include a longer license suspension than the typical first offender - but no jail time. For those drivers, the limited license law, even as amended last June, provided a tremendous benefit. For example, if the driver had a 18 month license suspension, he could drive to and from work for all but the first 45 days of that 18 months, assuming the court was willing to order the issuance of a limited license.
Now, the DMV has taken away most of that benefit. The DMV is refusing to issue limited licenses to drivers in this category, even if the court orders it. I can't imagine that the ignition interlock companies, the principle lobbying force behind this Bill in the first place, is very happy right now. They are not going to make any money under the present system.
Legislative Action Desperately Needed
This law needs to be amended so that it provides a meaningful period of limited license eligibility for all drivers, including those convicted of Aggravated DWI or Subsequent Offense DWI. Limited licenses for first offenders should be available immediately, and for others, after a short period of hard suspension. (e.g., most or all of the suspension, without a 45 day waiting period). The law should be further amended so that it provides a meaningful period of a ignition interlock mandate in all cases, in order to protect the public, placate the law enforcement lobbyists who are constantly screaming for harsher penalties for DWI, and make the overall system worthwhile for the ignition interlock companies that actually install and monitor the devices.