New hardship driver’s license rule will allow thousands of Alabamians to meet basic needs

A new rule could make it easier for many Alabamians to meet their basic needs. This change will allow tens of thousands of people who lost their driver’s licenses for reasons unrelated to public safety to apply for a hardship license from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). The new regulation took effect Sunday.

Some people lose their licenses just because they can’t pay court fines and fees. That inability to pay doesn’t make them a danger on the roads, but it can take a heavy toll on their lives. In Alabama, a state without reliable public transit, losing a license can erect barriers to the most basic tasks. Many people can’t get to work, the doctor, their children’s schools or even the grocery store without driving.

The creation of hardship licenses will lift those barriers for thousands of families. Eligible Alabamians who lost their licenses for administrative reasons or because of certain convictions will be able to drive to work, take their children to school and perform other essential household duties. (People convicted of DUI or other offenses that endanger public safety aren’t eligible for hardship licenses.)

After SB 55, sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, became law last year, ALEA proposed a rule to implement the bill’s hardship license requirement. The initial draft left out many important protections. So Arise and other groups jumped into action, submitting comments urging numerous improvements. ALEA’s final rule includes many of Arise’s suggestions and expands hardship licenses to cover more people who need them.

Alabamians can apply for a hardship license by filling out this application. Then they can mail the application and needed attachments to the ALEA Driver License Division, Hardship License Unit, P.O. Box 1471, Montgomery AL 36102-1471. Or they can email them to