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Can I Get a Limited Privilege - Drive After Consuming < 21

licence law

Violations of N.C.G.S. 20-138.3 allow for Limited Driving Privileges in North Carolina, subject to some very specific limitations under the NC DWI laws and implied consent general statutes. It frankly can be a bit confusing, especially if the “underage driver” facing allegations of a “Provisional Licensee Violation” has also been charged and convicted with DWI Driving While Impaired in North Carolina under N.C.G.S. 20-138.1

If the person charged with Driving While Impaired is < 21 when charged, there is an additional basis of suspension pursuant to the NC DWI laws. Indeed, under N.C.G.S. 20-13.2(b) the NC DMV is required to revoke the license.

“People facing allegations of implied consent offenses like DWI and 20-138.3 violations need to understand that there may be more than one way DMV can revoke your license. It is a notoriously complicated area of law. It makes sense to seek legal representation immediately to determine eligibility for a limited privilege.” Bill Powers, DWI Lawyer Charlotte NC

If convicted of DRIVE AFTER CONSUMING < 21, the license is also revoked under N.C.G.S. 20-13.2(a). Revocations pursuant to N.C.G.S. 20-13.2 last for 12 months. In North Carolina the Courts and DMV refer to that as “enduring” for a year.

Guidebook to Navigating DWI DUI in North Carolina

Post conviction, a North Carolina Judge may grant a Limited Privilege, but there are restrictions. The privilege is valid only if following a revocation under N.C.G.S. G.S. 20-17(a)(2) or from a conviction in another state for DWI, DUI, or impaired driving that is “substantially similar” as the NC DWI laws as set forth in 20-138.1.

Any privilege issued under the auspices of another law, except as expressly authorized, is “invalid.” See N.C.G.S. 20-179.3(e)

If revoked for a conviction of DRIVE AFTER CONSUMING < 21 (G.S. 138.3), a Limited Privilege may be authorized if:

  • Driver is 20, 19, or 18 years old on the date of the offense
  • Has no prior conviction of DRIVE AFTER CONSUMING < 21
  • Otherwise eligible and meets requirements such as Proof of Financial Responsibility, Compliance with Alcohol Assessment and Treatment, and payment of filing fees

If also convicted of driving while impaired for the same factual scenario, a Limited Privilege is not authorized due to an additional suspension as directed per N.C.G.S. 20-17(a)(2).

Is a “Hardship Privilege” or “Work Privilege” Authorized under NC Criminal Laws or NC DWI Laws?

A revocation for Driving While Impaired (DWI) in North Carolina is subject to N.C.G.S. 20-179.3(k). Generally speaking, Courts may in their discretion, and for good cause having been shown, authorize a NC Limited Driving Privilege for “essential purposes” after a license revocation in North Carolina.

“Lawyers experienced with NC DWI charges are used to clients referring to Limited Privileges as a ‘hardship license’ or ‘work privilege.’ It’s a mistake to assume driving is a right in North Carolina, especially after a conviction of DWI Impaired Driving or a Provisional Licensee violation.” Bill Powers, North Carolina DWI Lawyer

At the same time, limited privileges issued outside North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) 110-142.2, N.C.G.S. 50-13.12, N.C.G.S. 20-16.2(e1), or N.C.G.S. 20-16.1 are technically “invalid,” even if issued by a Judge.

Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

As such, the North Carolina Department of Transportation/Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is required to notify both the driver (the person holding the limited privilege) and the Court (the Judge) that the “Division” deems the privilege invalid.

Takeaway points are:

  • A NC “Hardship License” is referred to as a Limited Driving Privilege
  • Even if otherwise meeting statutory and other filing requirements, Limited Privileges in North Carolina remain at the discretion of the Judge
  • The “Division” or DMV is charged with the responsibility to confirm whether a Limited Privilege is valid
  • Limited Privileges are issued if good cause has been shown
  • Any license or privilege issued contrary to North Carolina General Statutes is deemed “invalid” in North Carolina
Additional Requirements for a NC Limited Driving Privilege driver license

Assuming the person seeking a Limited Driving Privilege in North Carolina is otherwise eligible, there are some administrative issues and documentation required, including:

Proof of Financial Responsibility – In North Carolina proof of insurance is normally accomplished via a DL-123 form. To download DL-123 click here.

Call Bill Powers – NC DWI Attorney and Co-Author of the North Carolina DWI Quick Reference Guide

Bill Powers is an experienced courtroom attorney and advocate for justice. The former President of the North Carolina Advocates of Justice (2016-2017), he is active in the legal professional and development of the North Carolina DWI Laws.


The lawyers at our law firm offer a FREE CASE EVALUATION for DWI charges in North Carolina (and DUI charges in South Carolina). Associate Attorney Chris Beddow is licensed to practice law and provide legal representation to clients in both North Carolina and South Carolina. Bill Powers is licensed only in the State of North Carolina and therefore limits his practice to North Carolina.

Bill is the 2018 Co-Chair of the NCSCCLE (North Carolina South Carolina Continuing Legal Education) seminar “Momentum” and an NBTA Board-Certified Criminal Law Specialist.

You may contact Bill by calling 877-462-3841 or Bill@342HELP.com.

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