The inability to commute to and from work or to transport your children to and from school is not only a tremendous inconvenience for you, but it effects those that you are forced to rely upon for your transportation needs. If your Indiana driver’s license has been suspended for any reason, you should call McCoy Law, serving the greater Lafayette Indiana region, to speak to one of our attorneys as quickly as possible. The Indiana driver’s license suspension laws can be confusing because both the courts and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles have independent authority to issue license suspensions, and sometimes it is not always clear which authority issued your suspension. You should contact an experienced attorney at McCoy Law who will be able to clarify your driving status and explain the remedies available to you.
What are Specialized Driving Privileges in Indiana?
As of January 1, 2015, the restricted driving privileges that were available to suspended drivers under the hardship license statute are now obtainable under the new specialized driving privileges law. Specialized driving privileges are within the broad discretion of the court but frequently allow you to drive to and from your work or place of education, to and from your child’s court ordered visitation, to and from your child’s school or daycare, and for the necessities of life, which often includes the grocery store and your doctor appointments. The new statute expanded the privileges available to suspended drivers and only the following persons are ineligible to petition for specialized driving privileges:
- A person who has never been an Indiana resident
- A person who has a suspended license for refusal to submit to a chemical test in the course of an Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) investigation
- A person who holds an operator’s, a commercial driver’s, a public passenger chauffeur’s, or a chauffeur’s license and has been suspended for a criminal conviction involving use of a motor vehicle, an OWI conviction, or speeding in a worksite twice in one (1) year.
Suspension Resulting from OWI Charges or Conviction
When you are initially charged with an OWI in Indiana, the court reviews the information and determines whether there is probable cause to believe you were operating while intoxicated. If the court finds probable cause, your driver’s license will be suspended for six (6) months from the date of your initial hearing or until the disposition of your case. If you have been charged with an OWI and a conviction has not yet been entered, you may petition the court in which charges are filed at any time for specialized driving privileges. Because of the nature of the charges, the court may require an ignition interlock device as a condition of specialized driving privileges, and the period of the installation shall be credited as part of the suspension of driving privileges.
If an OWI conviction has been entered against you and the court has ordered a suspension of driving privileges as part of the sentence, you may petition the court at any time for specialized driving privileges, with one exception – if you have been suspended from a conviction for operating while intoxicated which resulted in the death of another person, you are not eligible to petition for specialized driving privileges.
Suspension resulting from Habitual Traffic Violator Conviction
In Indiana, a person can be designated Habitual Traffic Violator (HTV) if they accumulate at least three (3) convictions in a ten (10) year period for any of the following offenses:
- Operating While Intoxicated
- Reckless Driving
- Criminal Recklessness as a Felony involving the operation of a motor vehicle
- Drag Racing or Engaging in a Speed Contest
- Any other Felony in which the operation of a motor vehicle is an element of the offense
A person can also be designated Habitual Traffic Violator (HTV) if they accumulate at least ten (10) infraction judgments within a ten (10) year period. However, at least one (1) of the judgments must be for one of the offenses listed above or for operating with a suspended license.
After being designated HTV, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will send you notice and can suspend your license for a period of either five (5) years or ten (10) years. If you have been designated HTV by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, you can petition the court immediately for specialized driving privileges.
Suspension Resulting from Habitual Traffic Violator – Life Conviction
Under the Indiana laws prior to 2015, the courts could suspend a violator’s driving privileges for life if they were designated HTV and were convicted of Operating again while being HTV. Fortunately, the laws have changed so that the courts may only suspend a violator’s license up to the maximum allowable period of incarceration of the criminal penalty for the offense. However, if you were convicted of Operating while being HTV prior to January 1, 2015, and suspended by the court for life, you are only eligible to petition for specialized driving privileges three (3) years after the start date of the suspension if your driving record does not include OWI convictions and ten (10) years after the start date of the suspension if your driving record does include at least one conviction for OWI.
If you have been charged with Operating while being HTV, a Level 6 Felony, or Operating while being HTV for Life, a Level 5 Felony, you are still potentially facing enhanced criminal penalties although you are no longer facing the possibility of a lifetime license suspension. You should call McCoy Law to speak with one of our experienced attorneys as quickly as possible.
Suspension for Non-Payment of Child Support
The Indiana Traffic Code allows for suspension of driving privileges for a person who has fallen behind in their child support payments. If you have been suspended for non-payment of child support, you may petition the court at any time for specialized driving privileges. However, in some counties, before the court will grant specialized driving privileges under this section, the Prosecutor may object and require that you pay a substantial portion of your arrearage or establish a payment plan to pay the arrearage, which includes an income withholding order.
Suspension for Failure to Carry Proof of Financial Responsibility – Not Eligible
The Specialized Driving Privileges statute does not provide relief to a driver who has been cited with failure maintain financial responsibility (insurance). A citation for failure to maintain financial responsibility carries an indefinite suspension and requires a violator to pay a reinstatement fee to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles along with the cost of the citation to the court. The reinstatement fee for failing to maintain financial responsibility can run as high as $1,500. In addition to the monetary fines, an offender must also provide proof of current financial responsibility to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Without first paying the reinstatement fee and providing proof of insurance, a violator is not eligible to petition for specialized driving privileges.
Should you file a petition in Tippecanoe County, IN for Specialized Driving Privileges?
A person who seeks specialized driving privileges must file a petition in each court that has ordered or imposed a suspension of the individual’s driving privileges. If your Indiana driver’s license has been suspended in multiple counties, then a separate petition must be filed in each county and each suspension must be stayed before specialized driving privileges can be granted.
A person whose driving privileges have been suspended by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and not by a court order must file a petition in the county in which the person resides. If the person was an Indiana resident at the time the person’s driving privileges were suspended but is not currently an Indiana resident, then file in the county in which the person’s most recent Indiana moving violation was entered against the person.
If Specialized Driving Privileges are Granted, How do They Work?
If a court orders specialized driving privileges, then it is a stay of the driving suspensions that were previously entered against you. You will have restricted driving privileges as ordered by the broad discretion of the court. When entered, a court must order specialized driving privileges for a minimum of one hundred eighty (180) days and may order specialized driving privileges for life. A person who has been granted specialized driving privileges shall:
- Maintain proof of future financial responsibility during the period of specialized driving privileges
- Carry a copy of the order granting specialized driving privileges or have the order in the vehicle being operated
- Produce a copy of the order granting specialized driving privileges upon the request of a police officer
- Carry a validly issued state identification card or driver’s license
When you have been granted specialized driving privileges and are stopped by a police officer, it is necessary to produce a license, registration, and proof of insurance, as you would during a routine traffic stop, as well as a copy of your order for specialized driving privileges. If you are an independent contractor or do not have a regular job site, you should also carry documentation to show that you are travelling in the course of your employment.
If you are a suspended driver and have a history of OWI convictions and you petition for specialized driving privileges, the court may only be inclined to grant you restricted driving privileges if you agree to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. The ignition interlock device requires a driver to blow into a tube and prove that there is no alcohol on their breath when they attempt to start the vehicle and at intermittent times while operating the vehicle. There is a fee to install the device in your vehicle and an additional fee each month it remains installed in your vehicle.
If you have been designated HTV or have a suspended driver’s license for any other reason, you are only prohibited from operating a motor vehicle. The Indiana Traffic Code specifically excludes Class B Motor Driven Cycles, or some models of mopeds, from the category of motor vehicles. A class B Motor Driven Cycle is a vehicle that:
- Has only a seat for the use of the rider
- Is designed to travel with no more than three wheels on the ground
- Complies with applicable motor vehicle requirements under IC 9-19 and 49 CFR 571
- Has a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 cubic centimeters
- Is registered as a Class B Motor Driven Cycle
If you are a suspended driver, you can operate a Class B Motor Driven Cycle on public roads and highways so long as you have an unexpired State of Indiana issued identification card and a Class B endorsement. If you have an identification card, there is no charge to place a Class B endorsement on your identification card. Please follow up with your manufacturer and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles if you are unsure if your Motor Driven Cycle is Class B.
Have more questions about Indiana specialized driving privileges? Contact our criminal defense legal team for an appointment.