By: Bryan D. Stoffel February 2015
Out with the old (and harsh), and in with the new (and promising): the Indiana legislature has enacted a new law that replaces the old regime of hardship and probationary licenses. While there are details of the new law that may limit driving to certain times and locations, or may prevent certain drivers from obtaining driving privileges altogether, the new law is a step in the right direction for many drivers who previously would not have been able to get hardship or probationary licenses.
As of January 1, 2015, most drivers whose licenses were suspended by the courts or the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles may seek to have their driving privileges reinstated. Under Ind. Code § 9-30-16-3, the court that imposed your license suspension may put the suspension on hold and grant you what is known as "specialized driving privileges." Specialized driving privileges may also be granted as to a suspension imposed by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. In either scenario, whether the suspension was handed down by a judge or the bureau, a person must petition for specialized driving privileges. The petition must
(1) be signed and verified by the driver;
(2) state the driver's age, date of birth, and address;
(3) state why the driver is seeking specialized driving privileges;
(4) be filed in the county where the driver currently resides;
(5) be filed in a circuit or superior court in the county of the driver's residence; and
(6) be served on the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the prosecuting attorney
Whether or not a judge grants specialized driving privileges is entirely discretionary and made on a case-by-case, fact-specific basis. The most common basis for seeking specialized driving privileges will to drive to and from work, in the course of employment, or to and from court-ordered parenting time exchanges. As the judge's discretion is the deciding factor in any case, qualifying drivers may request as narrow or broad of specialized driving privileges as may be appropriate in that particular case.
The best news for suspended drivers under the new law is that the right to petition the Court is widely available. The only drivers who may not petition for specialized driving privileges are
(1) those who have never had a valid Indiana driver's license;
(2) those who hold a commercial driver's license;
(3) those who have refused to submit to a chemical test;
(4) those who have been convicted for an offense involving the operation of a motor vehicle and causing the death of another person;
(5) those who have previously received a specialized driving privilege and who have more than one (1) conviction for violating the terms of those specialized driving privileges.
Once a driver has been granted specialized driving privileges, he or she must be sure to
(1) maintain proof of future financial responsibility insurance during the period of specialized driving privileges;
(2) carry a copy of the court order granting specialized driving privileges, or keep a copy of the order in the driver's car (i.e., in the glove compartment);
(3) produce a copy of the court order granting specialized driving privileges upon request by a police officer.
The new law on specialized driving privileges will allow many suspended drivers to get back behind the wheel, and in some cases quite quickly. Unlike the old law on hardship and probationary licenses, the new law on specialized driving privileges is discretionary with the court, and thus necessarily provides greater flexibility and opportunity for a suspended driver to be granted driving privileges. Contact an attorney at ALLEN WELLMAN McNEW HARVEY, LLP at (317) 462-3455 if you are interested in learning more about how to potentially obtain specialized driving privileges in Indiana.