Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 6, 2020

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The Interstate Driver’s License Compact is a contract between states that enforces a DUI arrest out of state by agreeing to honor the DUI license suspension requirements in the state in which the DUI took place. This means that if you are arrested for and convicted of a DUI in another state, that state could request a license suspension effective in your home state. The effect of the Interstate Compact on your driver’s license after a DUI conviction will depend on your state’s DUI policies and laws, so consult an experienced DUI attorney in your state to determine whether or not your state participates in the Interstate Driver’s License Compact.

States are not required to participate in the Interstate Compact. If your home state has not agreed to the Interstate Driver’s License Compact, then the Interstate Compact will have no impact on your driver’s license after a DUI conviction in another state. Other state laws may apply, but the Interstate Compact will not. Because of increasing political pressures, most states have joined and adopted the Interstate Compact, so the Interstate Compact will likely affect your driver’s license after a DUI conviction. However, the laws of your state will also control whether the Interstate Compact will apply to your DUI situation.

Invoking the Interstate Compact and Elements for License Suspension

The first step in invoking the Interstate Compact is to decide if your home state has agreed to participate. If they have, the next step is to decide under what circumstance the Interstate Compact will apply. A state may agree to honor a DUI license suspension based on the Interstate Driver’s License Compact only if certain conditions are met. California, for example, requires three elements to be met before they will suspend your license for an out-of-state DUI conviction: 

  • The DUI law in the other state must be substantially similar to the DUI laws in California. The laws do not have to be identical, but they do have to be close enough that if you committed the same DUI acts in both states, you could be found guilty in either. 
  • The description of the DUI conviction for which you were convicted of must be sufficient to qualify as a conviction under California’s Interstate Compact agreement. For example, a conviction for Driving-1st will not qualify as a sufficient description, because the conviction does not explain how the conviction is related to a DUI offense. If however, the conviction was for Driving While Intoxication -1st, then this description would invoke the Interstate Compact because it puts California on notice that the conviction is related to a DUI offense.
  • The enforcement provisions for DUI offenses in the out-of-state conviction must also be substantially similar to those enforcement provisions in California. If your out-of-state DUI conviction meets the requirements of being substantially the same in substance, interpretation, and enforcement, then California’s Department of Motor Vehicle will proceed to suspend your license. 

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Interstate Compact and DUI License Suspension Rules

How long your license will be suspended will depend on the laws of your home state and the state where you were convicted of a DUI. Depending on your state’s laws, you could actually be subject to two suspensions. For example, if your home state provides for a six-month suspension, then your license can be suspended under the Interstate Compact for six months. However, the state where you were convicted also has an interest in having its rules enforced under the Interstate Compact. If their rules require that your license be suspended for seven months, then your home state will suspend your license for an additional month pursuant to the Interstate Compact.

When another state sends notice to your home state requesting that your license be suspended pursuant to the Interstate Compact because of a DUI conviction, the agency responsible for driver’s licenses in your state will send you a notice letter. The letter will state that a decision has been made to suspend your license and it will cover what appeal rights you have.

Your home state’s administrative rules will determine what appeal rights you have and how you can exercise those rights. Generally, you must show that the out-of-state DUI conviction was invalid or the offense for which you were convicted is not substantially similar to the offense in your home state. The Interstate Compact only controls the right of another state to have their DUI conviction and license suspension enforced, not your appeal rights or procedures.

Getting Legal Help With the Interstate Driver’s Compact

Do not assume that because your DUI conviction occurred elsewhere that it cannot follow you home. If you are arrested in another state for a DUI offense, it will impact your driving privileges in your home state. While you should always hire a DUI attorney if arrested for drinking and driving, because of the Interstate Driver’s License Compact draws on law from the state of arrest and your home state, you should talk to the DUI attorney familiar with the laws associated with a DUI conviction in both states. 

Related Article:
Overview of Out-of-State DUIs