If you are convicted of Driving While Impaired (DWI) in North Carolina, the Division of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend your driver’s license for at least one year. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to drive during that time.
A Limited Driving Privilege is an order from a judge allowing you to drive during certain hours and for certain limited purposes. It supersedes DMV’s revocation of your driver’s license, provided you are driving in North Carolina during the hours and for the purposes allowed in your Limited Driving Privilege. If you are eligible for a Limited Driving Privilege and have all of your paperwork together when you show up for your sentencing hearing, you may be able to obtain a Limited Driving Privilege immediately following sentencing unless (1) you blew over 0.15 or (2) you refused the breathalyzer. In those cases, there is a waiting period following conviction before you become eligible for a Limited Driving Privilege. Below is (1) an explanation of the eligibility criteria for a North Carolina Limited Driving Privilege and (2) the steps you’ll need to follow to obtain one.
Will I be eligible for a Limited Driving Privilege? (N.C.G.S. § 20-179.3(b))
In order to be eligible for a Limited Driving Privilege following a DWI conviction in North Carolina, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must have had a valid driver’s license or a driver’s license that had been expired for less than 1 year at the time of the offense.
- At the time of offense, you had not had any prior convictions involving impaired driving within the previous seven years.
- A level 3, 4, or 5 judgment was imposed.
- You must not have been convicted of a separate DWI between the date of offense and your sentencing hearing.
- After sentencing, you must not have any pending DWI charges.
- You must obtain and file a substance abuse assessment.
- You must not have refused the breathalyzer (there is a separate refusal privilege, discussed below).
When and Where can I drive with a Limited Driving Privilege?
A Limited Driving Privilege allows you to drive during standard hours (6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday). You can drive during those hours for the following purposes:
- Household maintenance (e.g. to go to the grocery store or pharmacy)
- Driving for household maintenance purposes is only allowed during standard hours. Unlike the purposes that follow, your LDP cannot be extended to allow you to drive during non-standard hours listed on the LDP.
- If you work outside the standard hours, your LDP can be extended to allow you to drive to and from work outside the standard hours. However, you will only be allowed to drive during times listed on your LDP and you will need to submit a letter on the letterhead of your employer stating the hours you are needed at the time you apply for your LDP. For clients whose late night work schedule is irregular, like bartenders or bouncers, I recommend getting a letter from your employer stating that you are needed for work and stating the hours the restaurant or bar is open for business. That way, your LDP is broad enough that you won’t have to update it every time you pick up a shift you don’t normally work.
- If you have classes that fall outside the standard hours, your LDP can be extended to allow you to drive to and from school outside the standard hours. However, you will only be allowed to drive during times specifically listed on your LDP.
- Religious Worship
- If you attend religious worship services outside the standard hours, your LDP can be extended to allow you to drive to and from your place of worship outside the standard hours. However, you will only be allowed to drive during times specifically listed on your LDP.
- Community Service
- Allows you to drive to and from your community service organization if the judge ordered you to do community service as a condition of probation.
- Substance Abuse Assessment and Treatment
- Allows you to drive to and from your substance abuse assessment and treatment provider as directed.
- If you or a loved one has a medical emergency and you are the only person available to drive, you can drive for the purpose of seeking medical treatment any time (including during non-standard hours).
Refusal Privilege (N.C.G.S. § 20-16.2(e1))
If you willfully refused the breathalyzer, there is a six-month waiting period before you can apply for a Limited Driving Privilege. In addition to the above criteria, in order to be eligible for a refusal privilege, you must meet the following criteria:
- On the date of refusal, you must not have had a prior refusal within the preceding 7 years
- On the date of refusal, you must not have been convicted of a prior DWI within the preceding 7 years
- Your DWI must not have involved the death or critical injury of another person
- Your DWI has reached a final disposition (i.e. it is not pending or on appeal)
- You must have complied with at least one of the mandatory conditions of probation for your level of offense (e.g. substance abuse assessment and treatment, community service, jail time, etc.)
- Subsequent to the date of refusal, you must not have had any additional DWI convictions and you must not have any DWI charges pending at the time you apply for a Limited Driving Privilege.
- In addition to obtaining and filing a substance abuse assessment, you must also have completed any recommended treatment.
Will I have to get an Ignition Interlock installed in my car? (N.C.G.S. § 20-179.3(g5))
If you blow 0.15 or higher, you will have to get an ignition interlock installed in each of your vehicles in order to get a Limited Driving Privilege. There is a 45 day waiting period from the date of your final conviction before you will become eligible for a LDP. N.C.G.S. § 20-179(c1). Further, if you blew 0.15 or higher, the purposes for which you’re allowed to drive are more limited than they otherwise would be. Limited Driving Privileges for defendants designated as “high risk drivers” under the statute (i.e. those who blew 0.15 or higher) do not allow you to drive for household maintenance, medical emergencies or community service. They do, however, allow you to drive to and from work, the place you’re enrolled in school, your place of religious worship, your court-ordered substance abuse assessment & treatment provider, or any ignition interlock service facility.
How do I get a Limited Driving Privilege?
Your attorney will fill out the privilege itself for you, but there is certain paperwork you will need to gather to allow him or her to do that:
- A DL-123 is a document you get from your auto insurance provider. It proves that you have liability insurance. DL-123s are only good for 30 days, so make sure you get it less than 30 days before you apply for your LDP! If your DL-123 expires, you will need to call your insurance carrier and obtain a new one before you can apply for a Limited Driving Privilege.
- Substance Abuse Assessment
- A substance abuse assessment is a document you get from a licensed substance abuse assessment provider. I typically refer my clients to Genesis DWI Services (919-321-6643) or Murray & Associates (919-876-2242), but you may obtain a substance abuse assessment from any organization qualified to administer them in North Carolina. Simply call your preferred assessment provider and set up an appointment. It should cost around $100. On the day of your appointment, your assessment provider will ask you questions about how often you use drugs or alcohol, the circumstances surrounding your DWI charge or conviction, and how drugs and/or alcohol affect your life. Based on your responses, they will recommend you complete a certain amount of treatment. They will put that recommendation in writing and give it to you before you leave. That’s your substance abuse assessment. You do not have to have completed the recommended treatment in order to obtain a Limited Driving Privilege, but you do need to submit the assessment itself along with your application for a Limited Driving Privilege. (As an aside, you will need to complete the recommended treatment in order to have your regular driver’s license reinstated, and you will probably have to complete it as a condition of probation. But because you have 12 months to get the treatment done, it usually makes sense to apply for a LDP after you’ve completed a substance abuse assessment, but before you’ve completed the treatment)
- Letter from your employer (if you need to drive
during non-standard hours)
- Standard hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you work a job that requires you to work outside those hours, we will need to get a letter from your employer on his or her letterhead stating the hours you are needed for work. For clients who have an irregular schedule, like bartenders and waiters, I recommend having your employer state the hours the business is open and that you are needed for work. That way, if you normally only work Fridays and Saturdays, but your boss needs you to pick up an odd Tuesday shift here or there, your LDP is broad enough to cover you. It’s worth noting, however, that these extended hours still only allow you to drive for work-related purposes.
- $100 filing fee
The court charges a $100 filing fee to apply for a LDP. Applications are almost always granted, provided you meet the eligibility criteria.