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Drivers License Suspension

Suspended or Revoked Driver's License

Maintaining your driver's license is a big responsibility. Driving is not necessarily a right, rather it is a privilege granted to you by the state in which you live. When your driver's license is suspended, this privilege is being withheld from you temporarily. When your driver's license has been revoked, then the license suspension is permanent, as in, your driver's license has been taken away entirely.

Essentially, a suspended license is temporary, and may only be reinstated after a specific time, or by taking the necessary steps to unsuspend the license. License suspensions last for either a definite period of time, or for an open-ended period of time in which specific requirements must be met in order to reobtain the license. A revoked license is permanent, and is invalid forever. It is sometimes possible for someone to earn a new license after theirs has been revoked, but not always.

There are several reasons why a person may have their driver's license suspended or revoked. Some examples include:

    • Unpaid traffic tickets;
    • Fleeing from the scene after being involved in an accident;
    • Presenting fake license plates;
    • Not responding to court summons;
    • Making false statements or presenting false information on DMV applications and forms;
    • Multiple traffic violations;

It is important to check with your state's DMV to determine what specific violations may lead to license suspension or revocation. They will also be able to provide information regarding what actions, if any, your state allows for resolving the suspension or revocation. Driving laws vary from state to state, and the aforementioned examples are general examples.

What Happens to My License If I Am Convicted of Drunk Driving?

A driver's license is a privilege rather than a right, and it can be suspended or revoked for a DUI arrest, a DUI conviction, or for refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test.

Depending on the law in each state, a drunk driver's license can be suspended or revoked for a DWI/DUI conviction. There is no guarantee that a driver's license will be reinstated at the end of a revocation period. Following a DUI conviction, the length of time a license is suspended or revoked varies from state to state.

DUI-Related License Suspensions

DUIs can, and often do, lead to two kinds of license suspensions: criminal conviction-based suspensions and administrative DMV suspensions triggered by a DUI arrest where the driver either fails a chemical test or refuses to take one. When a driver receives two separate suspensions, the suspension periods may overlap in most cases. The driver will not have to complete both suspension periods back to back.

Suspensions for DUI Convictions

On your first DUI, your license will be suspended for anywhere from three months to a year. A first DUI conviction in Colorado, for example, carries a nine-month suspension. The suspension period is usually longer if the driver has a prior DUI conviction.

In Texas, for example, a first conviction for DWI (driving while intoxicated) results in a license suspension of 90 days to one year, and a second conviction results in a license suspension of 180 days to two years. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that do not automatically suspend a driver's license after a first DUI conviction.

Administrative Suspensions for DUI Arrests

As a result of implied consent laws, all drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence are required to submit to a chemical test (usually a breath test or blood test) when asked to do so. When a driver unlawfully refuses a breath test or is arrested for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend the license.

An administrative license suspension may be imposed even if a motorist is only arrested for DUI and never convicted.

State-specific suspension periods may differ from administrative suspension periods. In New Mexico, for example, a first DUI will result in an administrative suspension of six months and a conviction-related suspension of one year. In Connecticut, however, the administrative and conviction-related suspension periods for a first OUI (operating under the influence) are 45 days each.

It's also common for an administrative suspension for a chemical test refusal to be longer than it is for a failed test. For example, Ohio imposes a three-month suspension for a first failed test and a one-year suspension for the first refusal of a chemical test.

How to Minimize the Impact of a DUI License Suspension

Many states allow motorists to get a “hardship license” to drive to and from work or school during the suspension period. Typically, a motorist must complete a “hard suspension” of 30 to 45 days before obtaining a hardship license. It's also typical for state laws to require the motorist to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in order to obtain a hardship license.

Moreover, some states do not grant hardship licenses to repeat offenders or motorists who refuse DUI chemical testing in violation of implied consent laws.

Grounds for License Suspension

In certain situations, licenses can be automatically suspended under administrative license suspension laws. As a result of implied consent laws, if you refuse to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test when your vehicle is properly stopped, the refusal triggers an automatic suspension. When you obtain a driver's license in these states, you are considered to have given implied consent to be tested for alcohol. Furthermore, in most states, you can face an administrative license suspension if you are stopped legitimately, and the chemical tests reveal that your BAC is at least .08%.

If a driver refuses a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test, most states suspend their license. The penalty is separate from any suspension imposed due to a DUI conviction.

Length of Suspension

For a first offense, the defendant may lose their license for anywhere from three to six months. Refusals typically result in the same penalty. A second offense may result in a year-long suspension. Further offenses can result in a ban on having a license for 18 months to a lifetime.

Hard Suspensions

During a hard suspension, a hardship license cannot be obtained. In a hard suspension, the license cannot be regained no matter the circumstances. In some states, a driver must lose all driving privileges after a certain amount of time regardless of the circumstances, and these times must be honored.

Appealing a Suspension

Different rules govern how long an administrative license suspension will last and whether it can be appealed in each state. If you are arrested or receive a citation against you, you will need to appeal within a few days.

You will likely have to attend a hearing to determine whether your driving privileges should be restored if you appeal an administrative license suspension. If a prosecutor pursues DUI charges against you and you are convicted of a DUI, your license will likely be suspended again as part of your criminal sentence.

What is a “Lifetime Suspension of Driver's License”?

There is a reason that people living in the United States must pass a driving test in order to obtain a driver's license. This is primarily due to the fact that U.S. laws view driving as a privilege and not as an actual right (e.g., like freedom of speech).

That privilege or “right” is contained in the legal document you receive once you pass your driving test, namely, your driver's license. A driver's license is a valid form of legal proof that tells others that you are lawfully permitted to drive.

As is the case with other types of privileges, a person can have their right to drive taken away in certain situations. For instance, this can happen when a person behaves recklessly or injures another while driving a motor vehicle. A court will issue an order that requires their license to be either temporarily suspended for a specified period of time or permanently revoked for the rest of their life.

If you are facing charges where you may possibly receive a lifetime suspension of your driver's license, you should speak to a local DUI lawyer immediately for further assistance with your case.

How can My Driver's License be Suspended?

When a person's driver's license is suspended or revoked, it means that their driving privileges and their right to drive have been either temporarily or permanently rescinded. Although the exact definition varies by state, the primary difference between a license being suspended versus a license being revoked is that when a license is revoked, it means that a person's driving privileges have been permanently terminated.

Despite the phrasing, however, if a court determines that a person's driver's license is suspended for life, this is the equivalent of saying that their license has been revoked. The reason for this is because these terms are sometimes used interchangeably depending on the jurisdiction.

Driving laws and requirements may also differ by state. In general, some reasons that will likely cause someone to have their license temporarily suspended or revoked indefinitely in most states include:

  • Lack of auto insurance: Many states often require some minimum amount of auto or car insurance, which can provide coverage for damages sustained after a motor vehicle collision. Thus, not having auto insurance or having auto insurance that is expired can lead to a temporary or lifetime suspension of one's driver license depending on the state.
  • Failure to pay child support: A handful of states will suspend a non-custodial parent's driver's license if they owe or continue to refuse to pay for court-ordered child support.
  • Multiple traffic violations: Some traffic violations may increase a person's chances of having their driver's license suspended for their lifetime. This usually applies when a person is a repeat offender (meaning they receive multiple traffic violations) or engage in the sort of driving behavior that leads to points on their license (e.g., habitual speeding violations, ignoring stop signs, etc.).
  • Driving under the influence or while intoxicated (DUIs/DWIs): Driving under the influence or while intoxicated is generally considered a serious traffic violation. This is especially true in cases where a person has received multiple DUI or DWI violations.

When can a Driver's License be Suspended for Life?

It is unlikely that an individual will lose their driver's license for a lifetime over a parking ticket. However, many states have passed laws that require a driver's license to be suspended or revoked for life if a person behaves recklessly or in an irresponsible manner. In general, such conduct must rise to a certain level of recklessness where it puts another person or driver at risk of being injured and/or possibly killed in an accident.

An example of the kind of behavior that would likely lead to a lifetime suspension of a driver's license would include crimes like vehicular homicide and/or repeat drunk driving violations. Some more concrete examples of scenarios in which a court may issue an order to suspend a person's driver's license for life include:

  • For dangerous or reckless driving: Dangerous and/or reckless driving is the fastest way for one to obtain a lifetime suspension of their driver's license. In addition to violations that involve charges of DUIs and/or DWIs, some other offenses that will lead to a lifetime suspension of one's driver's license if convicted include:
    • Vehicular assault;
    • Reckless driving;
    • Involuntary manslaughter;
    • Vehicular manslaughter; and/or
    • Aggravated vehicular homicide.
  • For driving crimes with aggravating factors: If a person is convicted of any of the above driving crimes while certain aggravating factors are present, then it will probably lead to a permanent suspension of their driver's license. An aggravating factor is a condition that elevates the degree of a particular crime. Thus, the more serious that a driving incident is, the higher the chances are that one will receive a lifetime suspension of their driver's license as punishment.
    • Some criminal offenses that could potentially result in a lifetime suspension of one's driving privileges include when any the following factors are combined with the above crimes:
      • Driving while using a weapon or discharging a firearm;
      • Driving while under the influence of illegal drugs, controlled substances, and/or alcohol;
      • Driving with an invalid license (e.g., if a person's license is suspended, revoked, or forged);
      • Driving in a reckless manner with a criminal record that contains the same or similar driving crimes; and
      • Driving or speeding in order to evade the police or other law enforcement officials.
  • For habitual DUIs and/or DWIs offenses: Although one DUI and/or DWI may not lead to a permanent suspension of one's driver's license, someone who is a repeat offender and receives multiple convictions for these types of offenses will increase their odds of losing their driving privileges for the rest of their lives.
    • For example, a person who is convicted of a DUI three or four times, will most likely be issued a punishment by a court that involves a lifetime suspension of their driver's license.

What are some other Considerations Regarding Driver's License Rights?

With the exceptions of persons living in walkable cities, such as New York or the District of Columbia, driving has become a necessary part of the economy as well as individuals' social lives. For instance, most people have to drive in order to go to work, to run errands, to drop their kids off at school, and/or to visit family and friends. Having a driver's license is basically essential to being able to participate in society and daily life activities.

In other words, driving rights are an incredibly important privilege to have to live and work in the United States. Thus, in many cases, a driver's license will not be suspended indefinitely if the punishment can be avoided. Instead, a driver's license will more likely be suspended for extended periods of time (e.g., five years, ten years, etc.), not for life. However, the final recommendation regarding license suspension will be for a court to decide.

For example, every state has laws that prescribe specific sentencing guidelines that the courts must adhere to in a criminal case. While some state sentencing guidelines may allow judges a bit of room for discretion or to factor in the circumstances surrounding a particular matter, this will not always be the case in every situation or under the laws of a certain state.

Fortunately, when it comes to determining whether an individual's driver's license should be suspended for life or not, a court will typically be permitted to consider the best course of action based on the facts of each individual case.

In addition, drivers whose licenses have already been temporarily suspended or permanently revoked can cause their situation to worsen if they continue to ignore a court's order and drive without a valid license. Drivers who engage in this type of conduct can be ordered to pay heavy fines and/or to serve jail time if they are pulled over by law enforcement and lack a bona fide license and thus the right to legally drive.

What is Driver's License Revocation, and How Is It Different From Suspension?

Obtaining and maintaining a driver's license is a privilege granted to you by the state in which you live. When your driver's license is suspended, the privilege to drive is temporarily taken away from you. 

This is different from when your driver's license is revoked, in which case the suspension becomes permanent, and your driver's license is taken away completely. In other words, a revoked license is cancelled, whereas a suspended license is only temporarily out of service. 

License suspension lasts for a definite period of time, or for an open ended period of time in which specific requirements must be met in order to reobtain the license. A revoked license is permanent, and although it is sometimes possible to earn a new license after revocation, it is not the norm.

Each state has its own traffic laws, so it is important to check with your local DMV in order to find out what the process is for license reinstatement, or if you qualify for reinstatement at all. The revocation period for a driver's license also varies from state to state. 

What Might Cause My Driver's License to Be Revoked?

Non-driving offenses can absolutely result in the revocation of your driver's license. Some of these “unrelated crimes” are listed below. As noted above, each state has their own laws regarding what behaviors might warrant license revocation. 

In general, these offenses are similar to those that would lead to a license suspension, but more serious and often repeated after an initial suspension. There are several reasons why someone might have their driver's license suspended or even revoked. These reasons include but are not limited to:

    • Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Other Intoxicants: For example the use of illicit or illegal contraband drugs, prescription medications such as muscle relaxers, and over the counter medications such as antihistamines.
        • This includes marijuana. It is illegal to drive while high/under the influence of marijuana and you can lose your license because of it.
    • Reckless Driving: The driving of a vehicle at a speed or in a manner that shows an utter disregard for the safety of persons or property;
    • Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in injury;
    • Unpaid traffic tickets;
    • Presenting fake license plates;
    • Making false statements or presenting false information on DMV applications and forms;
    • Failure to answer a traffic summons;
    • Drag racing and other speed contests; 

Once again, it is important to check with your own state's DMV to determine what specific violations may lead to license suspension or revocation. The DMV will also be able to provide information regarding what actions your state may allow for resolving the suspension or revocation. 

What Else Should I Know About Driver's License Revocation?

It is not necessarily a violation of due process to revoke a driver's license. In most states, laws that revoke or suspend driver's licenses because of unrelated criminal convictions are allowed as long as those laws serve a legitimate government purposes. 

In some states, the term “legitimate” is limited to automobile usage and public driving, while in others, the word is interpreted in a much more broad sense. An example of this would be Florida allowing the revocation of a license due to cocaine possession, which is meant primarily to deter illegal drug use and is not directly related to driving.

In general, license revocation laws that target minors do receive some special treatment. Most courts consider restricting the illegal activity of minors a legitimate interest. Thus, many license revocation laws that may otherwise be considered unconstitutional for adults may be considered valid if applied to minors. 

An example of this would be possessing alcohol. A law that calls for the revocation of a driver's license if the driver is in possession of alcohol doesn't make much sense when applied to adults, unless it is an open container. However, such action is possible for minors who are below drinking age.

Under certain circumstances, you may be able to get a new license once your driver's license has been revoked. It also depends on your specific state's laws regarding restoring your license vs. obtaining a new one entirely. Some states, like New York, allow for restoration. 

However your state determines their own laws, you will generally need to first request and receive approval from your state's DMV to get a license again after yours has been revoked. 

Once you have approval, you pay driver civil penalties and go through your state's licensing process. This may require a written test as well as a driving test. A new license is issued once the driver's test has been passed.  

Can a Revoked Driver's License Be Reinstated?

As previously mentioned, each state has unique traffic laws, so you should check with your local DMV in order to find out what the procedures are for having your driver's license reinstated, or if you are eligible for reinstatement at all. 

Generally, once you have received a notice of suspension or revocation, you have the right to appeal. It is best to begin the process by first addressing the suspension issue, before it progresses and becomes an issue of revocation.

Typically, in order to have your license reinstated, you must first understand what caused your license to be revoked, and if you are eligible to satisfy the requirements for reinstatement. For example, having your license revoked for a DUI charge, as opposed to a child support nonpayment charge, will likely have different requirements that you must satisfy in order to have your license reinstated. 

The DUI charge may require the driver to undergo addiction treatment and pay all fines, while the child support nonpayment issue may require that the delinquent parent pay all current and back child support.

How Long is Revocation Period for a Driver's License?

Each state has their own timeline for driver's license revocation, and it can also depend on the reason behind the revocation. In general, you will need to request approval from your state's DMV, pay any driver civil penalties you have remaining, and go through your state's licensing process. Should you satisfy all of your state's requirements, you will be given a new driver's license, as the old one will not be reinstated. 

Should I Consult with an Attorney If I Have a Suspended or Revoked License?

As you can see, what happens after your license has been suspended or revoked varies greatly based on what state you live in. If you are facing suspension or revocation, you will want to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable traffic violation attorney. The attorney can help you understand the laws as well as your rights, and determine if you are eligible for reinstatement. Additionally, they will be able to represent you in court as necessary.

Can I Get in Trouble for Driving With a Suspended or Revoked License, and What are the Penalties?

Each state has their own, varying driving laws. Further, the penalties for driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license will vary from state to state as well. The penalties vary widely, but since driving without a driver's license is a serious offense, penalties generally consist of fines, jail time, or both. Additionally, most states have a penalty system that is based on whether the offense is isolated or repeated. 

For example, driving with a suspended or revoked license in the state of Arizona will likely result in a Class One Misdemeanor, meaning imprisonment for up to six months, and the possibility that your vehicle will be impounded. In Indiana, it is considered a Class Six Felony which consists of imprisonment between six months and two years, six months and a fine of no more than $10,000.

If your driver's license has already been suspended or revoked, continuing to drive without your license will only further exacerbate the situation. If you are driving with a suspended license, this action could result in your license being revoked. Thus, if you are pulled over while driving with a suspended or revoked license, you may be ordered to pay significant fines and serve additional jail time.

What Can I Do to Prevent My License from Being Suspended or Revoked?

The number one answer is to, obviously, not break the law. This includes paying any traffic fines and penalties, but also avoiding providing false information to the DMV when filling out forms, ensuring you make your child support payments on time, etc. 

Should you break the law and find yourself facing license suspension or revocation, you could consult with an attorney to help you remedy the violation. Another option is to show up and contest the penalty for any tickets that you have been issued. 

For example, you may be able to reduce the points being charged against your license, therefore reducing the type of penalty applied to your case. You would do this by successfully arguing that your actions were necessary, such as avoiding an accident or injury to a pedestrian.

Another line of defense may be providing physical evidence, such as traffic camera footage or surveillance camera photos, that correct the accusing officer's observations. A specific example is providing evidence that you ran a stop sign because you could not see the stop sign due to an obstructed view.

Completing all required driver's education programs, or satisfying any deficiencies such as nonpayment of child support, may influence the court's decision whether to confirm the license suspension or revocation.

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