In 2016, there were about 222 million licensed drivers on the road in the United States. That’s a lot of licenses to keep track of. But the government is systematic tracking, reporting, and enforcing its driving license laws.
Most drivers don’t worry about losing their driving privileges. People tend to rely on their cars, and it’s far to easy to go about your day assuming your right to drive will always be there.
But millions of Americans have their licenses suspended or revoked every year. This can be a serious burden. Losing your license can make it harder to get to work, to school, and to medical appointments.
If you have a suspended license, here’s what you need to know about your current situation and what you need to do to get your license back.
What is a Suspended License?
There is a difference between a suspended license and a revoked license.
A license suspension means your license has been placed temporarily out of service. You cannot legally drive while you have a suspended license.
There are two types of license suspensions: definite and indefinite.
On a definite suspension, your license can be reinstated once the suspension period ends. You may also have to pay fees or meet other requirements, which will differ depending on where you live.
An indefinite suspension means your license will remain suspended until you do something about it. This usually involves paying ticket fees. However, your license could also be suspended indefinitely for failing to pay child support or your taxes.
Your license could also be suspended if you are found to have certain medical conditions that prohibit your ability to drive.
Unlike a suspension, if your license is revoked, it is effectively canceled. You will have to request approval from your DMV to apply for a new license. You’ll also have to pass another written and driving test as if you’re getting a license for the first time.
Typically, driver’s licenses are only revoked because of major traffic offenses. Your license can become permanently revoked due to multiple driving offenses, criminal offenses, age, or some permanent medical conditions (such as blindness).
What Causes a Suspended License?
There are many reasons why your license may be suspended. However, there are two categories of suspension: driving-related and non-driving related.
Some of the most common causes include:
- Driving while intoxicated (DUI, OUI, DWI)
- Reckless or careless driving
- Abandoning the scene of a car accident
- Accumulating too many traffic violations
- Failing to appear in court after a summons for a moving violation or parking ticket
- Failing to pay a motor vehicle fine or fee
- Failing to maintain proper car insurance
- A conviction for a drug offense
- Failing to pay or comply with a child support order
- Absence from compulsory education (truancy)
- Juvenile delinquency
Some of these causes may not apply in your state.
Perhaps the most common cause of a suspended license is a failure to pay traffic fees. More than 7 million Americans have suspended licenses because of unpaid tickets and court fines. These fines can be particularly burdensome on low-income families.
In some cases, mistakes can lead to a license suspension. If you’ve recently moved and a ticket for a minor traffic fine goes to your old address, your license could be suspended if you fail to pay the fine, for example.
How to Check if Your License is Suspended
Your local DMV will notify you if your license is suspended. You’ll also be notified that your license is suspended if you are arrested for certain crimes.
But if you haven’t received notice and you aren’t sure, there are a few easy ways to check.
First, check all your mail. Don’t assume an official-looking envelope is just a credit card offer or a request for a donation. Often, official mail from the DMV will have definitive markings.
If you don’t receive anything in the mail, go to your local DMV. They can give you a copy of your driving record. You can call ahead to save time or try to order your record through their website, if possible.
And finally, ask your car insurance company. They’ll usually know of any major changes to your driving status. Sometimes, they’ll know before you do.
Why You Shouldn’t Drive with a Suspended License
Millions of drivers choose to stay on the road after their license is suspended. But doing so can seriously imperil your prospects for reinstating your driving privileges. It may also be a risk to others on the road, depending on why your license was suspended in the first place.
It’s difficult to give up driving after your license has been suspended. Your car is still there, and you’ve become accustomed to driving to get around. But all it takes is to get caught once to lose your right to drive for even longer, even forever.
Penalties for driving while on a suspended license vary by state and jurisdiction. If you’ve received a charge of driving with a suspended license in Miami, for example, read this blog and consult with an attorney like the traffic ticket team for more information.
Possible penalties may include:
- High fines (increased fines for repeat offenses)
- Jail time
- Mandatory community service
- Points added to your driving record
- Additional license suspension time
- Revocation of your license
- Mandatory enrollment in a driving school
- Mandatory enrollment in a substance abuse program (for DUI/OUI)
- Felony charges
- Higher license reinstatement fees and other barriers to reinstatement
Keep in mind that police don’t necessarily need to pull you over to find out if your license is suspended. In many jurisdictions, they have automated software that scans your plate and tells them whether the registered owner of that vehicle has a valid license.
Get Your Driver’s License Back
Having a suspended license can seriously impact your life and your livelihood. You may be eligible for a hardship license if you meet certain conditions. The DMV will send you a notice of the reasons for your suspension, the duration, and any other requirements.
You’ll need to wait out your suspension period before you can have your license reinstated.
In the meantime, don’t drive. It doesn’t matter if it’s your vehicle or a friend’s. Driving on a suspended license can seriously impact your ability to get your license reinstated later.
Once your suspension period is over, you can get your license reinstated by paying a fee and proving you’ve met all the requirements set by the DMV. You should also consider speaking to a lawyer if your offenses are serious.
Looking for more helpful tips and interesting facts? Check out the Lifestyle section of In News Weekly.