In today’s society, people are more reliant than ever on automobiles to get to-and-from the places they need to be. Indiana is trying to curb some of that dependence by investing heavily in a public transportation system, but it seems impossible to phase out personal vehicles entirely. So what happens if you’re not allowed to drive yourself anywhere?

Speaking for myself and the other attorneys at the Marc Lopez Law Firm, if we couldn’t drive, we couldn’t survive. We’d be unable to get to court on time and unable to meet the needs of our clients. An attorney who’s always late is probably an attorney who’s used to getting fired.

Your driver’s license can be suspended for a number of reasons, including excessive points, failure to file insurance, and DUI / OVWI. The good news is, Indiana has a statutory remedy called Specialized Driving Privileges, and most types of license suspensions are eligible. While Specialized Driving Privileges can’t offer you a completely valid license, they can allow you to drive legally during the course of a suspension.

Under an order for Specialized Driving Privileges, your vehicle use will be limited to life’s necessities, such as employment, family obligations, medical appointments, and court hearings. There are no Specialized Driving Privileges for recreational travel. If you’d like to learn more, click here to request the Marc Lopez Law Firm’s free report on Specialized Driving Privileges.

Specialized Driving Privileges: The Basics

The statutory conditions for Specialized Driving Privileges can be found in the Indiana Code, but judges enjoy a great deal of discretion. There’s no scenario in which you’re entitled to Specialized Driving Privileges—it’s more like you’re asking for a favor, and the judge is the only one with the power to grant it.

According to the statutory provisions, anyone seeking Specialized Driving Privileges must present proof of future financial responsibility (also known as an SR-22 filing) to the court for approval. You must also be prepared to carry the signed order with you in your vehicle whenever you’re exercising your Specialized Driving Privileges.

The law also insists that the terms of the Specialized Driving Privileges “be determined by a court,” which is another way of saying that in order for you to drive legally, the judge has to agree to what you’re asking for. You make the request; the judge makes the rule.

Formal requirements aside, if you’re lucky enough to end up in front of a judge who’s amenable to Specialized Driving Privileges, you can expect a few more hoops to jump through. Your judge will almost certainly use their discretionary power to compel you to increase your auto insurance coverage.

While the State minimum is $25,000 / $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage, judges uniformly call for proof of $100,000 / $300,000 coverage before granting Specialized Driving Privileges. The rationale for this standard is that judges are looking to protect other Indiana drivers, and you, as someone who’s been charged with a DUI / OVWI, are considered a greater risk than others.

What’s New?

As of 2020, the laws that affect Specialized Driving Privileges have changed in a few key respects. Most importantly, the General Assembly has decided to make things a little bit easier by eliminating the mandatory minimum and maximum lengths for these orders. It’s also recently allowed defendants to notify courts of their intent to ask for Specialized Driving Privileges.

Now, when the court gets the results of a failed chemical test, the defendant has the option of filing a notice of intent to petition the court for Specialized Driving Privileges. This notice of intent has the effect of staying—or pausing—the suspension process.

When the process works correctly, the court doesn’t submit the probable cause affidavit to the BMV, it doesn’t recommend immediate suspension, and it sets a hearing on Specialized Driving Privileges within 30 days. A DUI / OVWI defendant who needs to drive while their case is pending can now move directly from the unrestricted driving of a valid license to the limited driving of a conditional license (with Specialized Driving Privileges) without a two-week layover in limbo while their license is suspended.

Of course, almost all Indiana judges require the installation of an ignition interlock device as a condition of Specialized Driving Privileges. This device has a monthly fee attached to it, but in most circumstances, it benefits a DUI / OVWI defendant to have interlock imposed on them. This is because if you’re ultimately convicted, you’ll necessarily have a license suspension as a part of your criminal sentence.

As long as you’re driving with an interlock device, your time on Specialized Driving Privileges counts toward that license suspension. If you don’t have interlock, however, you don’t get credit for your period of conditional driving.

The big news in July of 2020 was that the State finally got rid of its statutory minimums and maximums as related to Specialized Driving Privileges. In the past, all orders for Specialized Driving Privileges had to last at least 180 days. This meant if you were facing a 90-day suspension, you had to decide between 90 days of not driving or 180 days of restricted driving.

With this newest change to the law, judges are empowered to set the duration as needed. You can get Specialized Driving Privileges that only last until the end of the month, or you can get an order that will expire in 10 years. It’s all up to the judge.

What Remains the Same?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the law says a judge may grant you Specialized Driving Privileges, but they’re not required to do so. There’s no law that says you must be granted special privileges, and the State doesn’t owe you anything. Specialized Driving Privileges are a favor that the judge has the power to grant you.

The insurance specifications haven’t changed, either, with the statute still requiring an SR-22 filing and individual judges insisting on $100,000 / $300,000 bodily injury liability coverage. If you’re planning to seek Specialized Driving Privileges, there’s no reason to think you’ll be able to get away with anything less.

The attorneys at the Marc Lopez Law Firm understand the urgency of driving needs, and our collective knowledge base regarding motor vehicle laws is second-to-none. If you’re facing DUI / OVWI charges or any other sort of driving suspension, give us a call at 317-632-3642, and remember—always plead the 5th!

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