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International Driver’s License and DUI: What You Should Know


Learn what DUI charges mean for your international driver’s license from Scrofano Law PC. Call us today!

DUI and Driving on a Foreign License

You are a tourist visiting a loved one in the United States on a visitor’s visa. You are out with them for their friend’s party one night, and you both have a few drinks. The party’s over, and it is time to go home. Even though you had a few drinks, you believe you are more sober than your loved one. So, you decide to drive both of you home on your foreign license. About five minutes later, you get pulled over by a police officer who arrests you for driving under the influence (DUI).

Getting arrested for a DUI while driving on your international driver’s license can result in severe consequences for you in the US. It is crucial to seek legal counsel from an experienced DUI attorney immediately. At Scrofano Law, PC, we can help you understand the implications of your DUI arrest and fight your charges.

Understanding International Driver’s Licenses

What Is an International Driver’s License?

Often, when people talk about an international driver’s license, they are referring to an international driving permit (IDP). An international driving permit is not a license but a translation of your valid foreign driver’s license into English or other languages. A foreign driver’s license is issued by your home country, proving your ability to drive in the same country.

International driving permits only authorize you to drive a vehicle in the US if they accompany your valid foreign driver’s license. The IDP enables police officers or traffic officials to read the information contained in your valid foreign license.

The Legal Framework

Before you can operate a vehicle in the US, you need a valid driver’s license issued by a US state or foreign country. However, there are limitations when driving with a foreign license. The DC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not accept international driver’s licenses as proof of your ability to drive. If a police officer pulls you over, you must show your IDP and foreign driver’s license. Car rental companies in DC may also request your valid license and IDP before renting out their vehicle.

The procedure for obtaining an IDP will depend on whether you are a short-term visitor or a non-citizen who is residing in the US. The US does not issue IDPs to short-term visitors, and IDPs are issued by the motor vehicle department of the country where your license is held. Therefore, you should obtain an IDP in your home country before traveling to the US.

You may apply for a state driver’s license if you are a non-citizen who lives in DC permanently. It is important to note that driving with a foreign license after your local license is suspended is an offense. If your DC driver’s license is in danger of suspension, our skilled attorneys can request a DMV license suspension hearing.  

DUI and Its Impact on Driving Privileges

Understanding DUI Charges

You can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in DC if you are caught driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.07 or lower. A person can be charged with a driving while intoxicated (DWI) if caught driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. The police officer may also arrest you if they notice signs of impairment after administering Structured Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) and observing your behavior.

DUI and International Driver’s Licenses

After getting pulled over by a law enforcement officer, you may receive a ticket and a possible charge for DUI without a license, depending on your circumstances. If you are arrested, your arrest information may be forwarded to your home country’s US embassy or consulate and could impact any future application for immigration benefits. The DMV in your country may also be notified if the US and your country’s government have an existing arrangement. This can affect your driving privileges in your home country.

Navigating DUI Charges With an International License

Legal Procedures and Rights

DUI is a serious misdemeanor in DC, and getting charged for it can be a nerve-wracking experience. Nevertheless, you should not panic. You have the right to remain silent and should refrain from saying anything without first speaking to a lawyer. You are also protected from unreasonable search and seizure unless the police officer has probable cause.

Consequences and Penalties

Short-Term Consequences

A DC DUI conviction comes with various short and long-term repercussions. The immediate impact of a DUI conviction include a combination of any of the following:

  • Jail time

  • Payment of fines

  • Suspended License

  • Ignition interlock device

  • Alcohol treatment program

  • Community service

  • Vehicle impoundment

  • Increased insurance premiums

Long-Term Consequences

A DUI may also affect your immigration status and ability to reenter the US in the future. If you are visiting the US, your visa may be revoked after you depart the country. You will have to apply for a new visa, which may require you to undergo an evaluation for alcohol abuse or dependence. If you are a non-citizen living in the US, it may affect your eligibility for a green card and your eligibility for a visa in other countries. It may also harm your chances of naturalization and make you unable to meet the good moral character requirement.

Preventive Measures and Best Practices

Safe Driving Tips

Driving in a new country comes with new rules and risks. Here are some tips that can help you stay safe while driving:

  • Research the laws and regulations that govern driving in DC.

  • Make notes of the local police and emergency numbers.

  • Take up an advanced driving course to improve your driving abilities.

  • Ensure you are not driving with a suspended license in DC.

  • Learn the local rules of the roads and how to get to the places you plan to visit.

  • Make copies of all necessary documents and have them with you when driving.

  • Pay attention to speed limits and road signs.

Legal Compliance

It is essential to adhere to local driver’s licensing laws for the duration of your stay. When police officers stop you for DUI, they may ask you to provide certain documents. You should be polite and cooperate with the officer. However, you do not have to provide information about your immigration status.

Get in Touch With a Skilled DUI Attorney

Being arrested for DUI on an international license is a serious matter which should be addressed urgently. With the help of a knowledgeable DUI attorney from Scrofano Law, PC, you may be able to get your charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense, such as reckless driving.

We understand how devastated you may be by this situation. Our lawyers can provide professional representation in court, craft an appropriate defense strategy, and advise you on the options for expunging or sealing your DUI record.

If you are facing DUI charges for driving with a foreign license, please do not hesitate to contact our law office today.


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