Obtaining and Using a Restricted Driver’s License

In Virginia, all DUI first-time DUI convictions result in a suspended driver’s license for one year.  However, most first time DUI offenders will be eligible for a restricted driver’s license.  This license will allow the offender to drive to and from designated locations during specific days and times.

Most offenders are allowed to drive to and from work, school, church, medical appointments, VASAP classes and appointments with your VASAP case worker, and any other court-mandated programs and classes.  Those with minor children can drive their children to and from school, day care, medical appointments, and can drive to and from court ordered visitations.  The Virginia DMV website lists the general locations that can be approved.

We will get into the nuances and gray areas of the restrictions below.  But here’s what I had to do that morning to get back on the road as quickly as possible.  I am sharing these steps, because no one shared them with me prior to this, and information was spotty and unreliable from my lawyer and from other sources I considered via Google.  Keep in mind, this is specific to Prince William County, Virginia.  I am guessing that other large counties and cities in Virginia have a similar setup, while more rural and smaller cities might have things set up a bit different.

How to obtain a restricted driver’s license – Prince William County

  1. Go to the Clerk of the Court and pay all fines and court costs – note that if you do NOT go to jail, you can do this immediately after your sentence is handed down.
  2. Go to ASAP to enroll. In Prince William County, there is an ASAP window at the far end of the hallway past all of the general district courtrooms.If you are pre-enrolled, you can complete your restricted drivers’ license application. The agent will print it out, have you review and sign it, and then have it signed by the judge.  If the judge finds any issues, the agent will bring it back to you for corrections.  I’ve been told that many judges do not like you driving after midnight, so keep that in mind.If you are NOT pre-enrolled, they will make an intake appointment for you at the nearest ASAP office, and give you all of your paperwork. Intake will involve a screening for alcohol issues, go over the rules and take down your availability for classes (typically held once a week at night).  They will mail you a letter to let you know the start date and time of your first class.Note that for both above scenarios, you still cannot drive your vehicle.
  1. If you were pre-enrolled, you will need to fill out your interlock application and take it to the ASAP office. The form has a listing of nearby interlock companies attached; call around to find out the rates – I went with LifeSafer, which had no installation costs and a $95 monthly fee.  On the form, you will need your vehicle’s make/model and color, VIN and license plate number.  (See the interlock installation process here)
  2. Wait 24 hours (to the next business day) and call your interlock company for an appointment, unless the interlock company reaches out to you, as they often do. Note that at this time you still cannot drive your vehicle.  It sucks, but you will have to rely on someone else to drive you and your vehicle to the installation.
  3. Once the interlock is installed, go to ASAP with the certificate of installation, and have them sign off on it. As soon as they have signed off on the certificate, you are clear to drive per your restrictions – meaning you can now drive your car home from the interlock installation company.
  4. In 30 days, but not more than 60 days, you must go to the DMV to receive your plastic picture ID driver’s license, which will indicate your restricted status.  If you wait more than 60 days, DMV will suspend your driver’s license, and you will be unable to drive regardless of your restriction.  The fee is $220 to get this license.

In six months, if you have no violations of your interlock, you get a letter telling you that you can have it removed.  You can drive to the interlock company, as long as you go directly there and home and have proof of your appointment.

Always carry your restricted sheet, your plastic driver’s license (once you receive it) and any and all documentation proving that you are within your restriction.  My VASAP instructor recommends keeping everything in a folder on your front seat so it is easily accessible if you have any interaction with a police officer.

As far as the restrictions go, answers may vary and there are a whole lot of gray areas and nuances.  That is unfortunate, because a violation of your restriction can result in the restricted privileges being taken away as well as a class one misdemeanor charge of driving on a suspended license.

The basic rule is: always be prepared to prove to a police officer that you are within your restriction.

If your restriction says you work 9am to 6pm, you had better only be on the road within a time that can be deemed reasonable driving time between your work and your house.  If your restriction says that your hours may vary and that you must carry your schedule, you better have your schedule.  My typical drive-time is 35 minutes, and factoring for traffic and a stop for gas, I am supposed to be on the road no sooner than one hour before my shift, and off the road no later than one hour after my shift.

Same with school.  The court recognizes that school schedules are subject to change.  My order states that I can drive to and from classes at two different campuses, and I must carry my schedule.  I am also allowed to drive to multiple medical offices, but I must carry something that documents that I have an appointment.

I can drive to church on Sundays, but cannot be on the road sooner than one hour before the start time, and must be home by an hour after the end time.

And now the gray areas.

Can you drive to the grocery store?  No.

Can you stop at a grocery store that is on your direct path between an approved location and your house?  No.

Can you walk to a grocery store near your work, buy groceries, and then drive home?  Probably, just make it quick so you can be off the road within your restriction, and be prepared to show the receipt to the police officer indicating that the store is within walking distance of your work.

Alternatives: walk, bike, catch rides with others; utilize a grocery delivery service.  I signed up for Amazon Fresh, groceries are delivered to my door for $14.99 per month.  Granted, I live in a populated suburban county, so I know this option may not be available everywhere.

Can you give a friend or co-worker a ride home if their home is on the direct path between an approved location and your house?  No – they can only ride with you between your approved locations, and must make other arrangements from there.

Can you stop for gas at a station in the direct path between two approved locations?  Yes, but make it quick.

Can you drive between work and school?  Yes, but always have documentation that can show you are authorized to be at either location.

Can you drive if there is an emergency?  The unfortunate answer to this is technically no.  Whether or not a police officer will cite you for a legitimate emergency is under their discretion, and the scenario is at your own risk.

If you live in a populated area, Uber and Lyft are going to become your friends.

I could go on and on.  And it’s frustrating that there are no clear answers for any of this, and so many gray areas come up.  It goes back to the fact that the government wants you to screw up again so they can get more money out of you.  Many people drive outside of their restrictions every day, and many get caught.  Many others never get caught.  But remember the risks: even if you are the most careful driver in the world, many others are not so careful.  If you are in an accident that is not your fault, and are outside your restrictions, you can still be cited.

Next: Getting your interlock device installed

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