Petitioning for a Hardship License(Specialized Driving Privileges)

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Posted in On June 30, 2013

Indiana Traffic Attorney Blog: Filing for a Hardship License under I.C. 9-24-15

Do you find yourself facing a suspension of your license for a significant period of time? Are you worried about how that suspension may place a significant hardship on your ability to make a living and function day to day? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. And, unfortunately, you are among a large (and ever growing class) of individuals facing a lengthy suspension of their driving privileges.
The reasons for your suspensions can be many: driving while suspended, failure to appear, failure to pay a traffic ticket, driving without a valid license, reckless driving, criminal recklessness, D-felony crimes involving a vehicle, failure to provide proof of insurance after a traffic stop or accident, as part of a DUI or Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated charge, a controlled substance charge, delinquent child support, etc. The list is nearly endless.
Often times, the suspensions are administrative, meaning the BMV suspends you automatically without court intervention, yet you can also receive a suspension as part of a plea or court order. This blog will address how that process works, whether you qualify for a hardship, and the typical hurdles someone faces when attempting to obtain a hardship. However, as way of a clarification, we will only be focusing on a hardship/restricted licenses(also called specialized driving privileges) for non-HTV reasons, rather than a restricted license for HTV offenders. The Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower can assist you with getting your license back.
(1)    FILING:

  1. First and foremost, according to I.C. 9-24-15-4 & 35-48-4-15, the law requires that if you qualify for a hardship (which we will discuss below), you must file a petition for a hardship in circuit or superior court of the county in which you reside — unless, however, your suspension is part of a pending or previous criminal conviction for DUI or you were convicted for a substance related offense using a vehicle. If you fall under those situations, and your license has been suspended for a minimum of six (6) months, but not more than two (2) years, you need to file in the county in which those cases were or are being prosecuted.


  1. Indiana code has specifically carved out a few circumstances where you can petition the court for a hardship/restricted license. Those few circumstances fall under two categories in I.C. 9-24-15: (1) DUI & Controlled Substance Related Offenses, & (2) Financial Offenses (Failure to Pay Child Support, Fuel Theft, and Failure to File Proof of Insurance).


  1. Even if you qualify for a hardship below, the court and the BMV will require that you pay reinstatement fees through the BMV, show proof of insurance SR-50, and provide proof of at least six (6) months of continual SR-22 insurance coverage. SR-22 is often called, “High Risk Insurance.” It is incredibly expensive, but is shows the court that your insurance company is still willing to risk coverage. Even if you have a hardship granted through a court, if you don’t provide proof of SR-22 to the BMV, you won’t be able to drive at all.

With all of the formalities out of the way, let’s see if you qualify for a hardship, and what you must do to earn it.
The following are statutory exemptions that eliminate a driver’s ability to file a petition for a hardship:
(1)    Indiana’s legislature has specifically said, if you have EVER, and that means EVER, been suspended for any reason during your history as a driver, you do NOT qualify for a hardship license — except one circumstance, and that is if your current suspension is for Driving Without Proof of Insurance.
(2)    Your failure to file insurance was purposeful (meaning it wasn’t an accident that you forgot to have valid insurance)
(3)    You failed to satisfy a civil judgment after a wreck
(4)    You are physically/mentally/or emotionally unstable by I.C. 9-24-15-1(a)(2)(A)
(5)    You operated a vehicle causing serious bodily injury or death
(6)    Your suspension stems from involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide or criminal mischief with a vehicle, or
(7)    You that has been disqualified for alcohol or other controlled substances. If you are currently suspended for any other reason than insurance, and if you have a prior suspension, you won’t qualify.
That’s a lot, right? However, if your suspension doesn’t fall under the disqualifiers above, keep reading!!!
The following are statutory offenses that the legislature has said you CAN file for a hardship/restricted license:

  1. I.C. 9-24-15-2(1) seems to allow for hardships for other general suspensions other than those below. However, given most suspensions, other than those below, tend to be under 90 days in length, often are administrative and can be cleared up by paying a fine or appearing for court, and given the length of time it can take to receive a hardship, often times it doesn’t make financial sense to request one. Many choose to wait out the shorter suspensions instead.

(2)    OVWI/CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE OFFENSES: a court SHALL grant a petition if…

  1. The suspension was not connected to work
  2. The defendant’s license has been suspended for at least thirty (30) days
  3. The defendant has no prior suspensions/OVWI/substance related offenses using a vehicle, and
  4. The defendant provides proof of current or previously completed substance abuse treatment or alcohol evaluation and treatment.

(3)    FAILURE TO FILE INSURANCE: a court MAY grant a petition if…

  1. Testimony is provided that the lapse in coverage was INADVERTANT

i.      Proof of prior insurance lapses tends to negate this argument
ii.      But, remember, a prior suspension doesn’t disqualify automatically, NO MATTER WHAT THE SUSPENSION WAS FOR!!!

  1. There was an accident, fault has been established, and if the defendant was at fault, judgments have been paid.

(4)    CHILD SUPPORT: a court MAY grant a petition if…

  1. The defendant provides proof (often through testimony) that public transportation isn’t available for employment/work and/or parenting time.

As anyone can see, this process isn’t a simple one. It often takes a very skilled lawyer to navigate these very convoluted rules. Moreover, each county treats these differently. Some counties are easier to earn a hardship in, while others are incredibly difficult and petitions are often rejected.
That’s why it is essential that you hire an attorney who knows exactly what it takes to get you your license, and life, back on track. Contact the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower. Both of our attorneys have extensive experience dealing with hardship licenses. As former prosecutors, we have dealt with thousands of hardship requests. As such, give us a call today at 317.870.0019, or email us at