Will I Lose My License for a DUI/DWI?

How a DUI/DWI can lead to your license being suspended or revoked.

By , Attorney University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated 8/27/2020

Generally, if you get convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), there's no way to avoid license suspension. In most states, license suspension is a mandatory consequence of a DUI conviction. However, there are sometimes ways to minimize the time that you won't be able to drive.

DUI-Related License Suspensions

DUIs can—and often do—lead to two types of license suspensions: suspensions based on the actual criminal conviction and administrative DMV suspensions that are trigger by a DUI arrest where the driver either fails a chemical test or refuses to take a test when asked to do so by an officer. However, in most situations where a driver receives two separate suspensions, the suspension periods are allowed to overlap. In other words, the driver won't have to complete both suspension periods running back-to-back.

Suspensions for DUI Convictions

Most states will suspend your license for anywhere from three months to a year on a first DUI. For example, in Colorado, a first DUI conviction carries a nine-month suspension. The mandatory suspensions periods typically get longer if the driver has prior DUI convictions. In Texas, for instance, a first DWI (driving while intoxicated) conviction leads to a license suspension of 90 days to 1 year, and a second conviction results in a suspension of 180 days to two years. In a few states, like Pennsylvania, a first DUI conviction doesn't lead mandatory license suspension.

Administrative Suspensions for DUI Arrests

Implied consent laws require all drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence to take a chemical (usually, a breath or blood test) when asked to do so by an officer. Generally, the Department of Motor Vehicles will administratively suspend the license of anyone who unlawfully refuses testing or is arrested for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more.

Even a motorist who's just arrested for a DUI—and never actually convicted—might still face an administrative license suspension.

Depending on the state, the administrative and conviction-related suspension periods might be the same or different. In New Mexico, for instance, a first DUI will lead to an administrative suspension of six months and a conviction-related suspension of one year. But in Connecticut, the administrative and conviction-related suspension periods for a first OUI (operating under the influence) are both 45 days.

It's also common for the administrative suspension for a chemical test refusal to longer than it is for a failed test. Ohio, for example, imposes a three-month suspension for a first failed test and a one-year suspension for a first chemical test refusal.

Minimizing the Impact of a DUI License Suspension

In most states, a motorist can get a "hardship license" for driving to and from places like work and school during the suspension period. Generally, a motorist must complete a "hard suspension" of 30 to 45 days—during which no driving is allowed—before obtaining a hardship license. It's also common for state laws to require the driver to install an ignition interlock device (IID) to obtain a hardship license.

And some states don't issue hardship licenses to repeat offenders or motorists who refused DUI chemical testing in violation of implied consent laws.

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