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Driver's License Suspensions: Options, Penalties, and Reinstatement

Several driving and non-driving offenses can lead to a driver's license suspension. These include:

  • Refusing a blood alcohol content (BAC) test during a traffic stop
  • Defaulting on court-ordered child support payments
  • Accruing too many points on your driving record

This article discusses several aspects of driver's license suspensions, including options for limited licenses and the reinstatement process.

What Can Lead to a Driver's License Suspension?

Since driving is a privilege and not a right, states have ample leverage over your ability to legally drive on public roads. You can lose your driving privileges due to traffic violations or non-driving offenses.

Driving-related offenses that commonly result in license suspension include:

Driver's license suspensions can also result from the following non-driving offenses:

Offenses that can suspend your driver's license vary by state. Check your state's laws to determine what specific conduct can affect your driving privileges.

Your Options When Facing Suspension

Depending on your state and the nature of the suspension, you may have a few options to maintain restricted or limited driving privileges. These include a work-restricted driver's license or ignition interlock device (IID) installation.

For Unpaid Fines or Child Support

Most jurisdictions offer options for limited driving privileges for some situations. If you have a suspended license because of money owed (such as unpaid traffic tickets or child support), you may be able to get your license back after paying what you owe.

You will also have to follow your state's procedures for reinstatement, which can include additional fees. Some jurisdictions may require traffic school or defensive driving courses as part of the reinstatement process.

For Drinking and Driving Suspensions

If a DUI/DWI conviction has suspended your license, you may be able to apply for an ignition interlock program. Eligibility for this depends on your state and the specific circumstances of your offense. Many states offer such a program after the first offense, but rules vary.

An ignition interlock device is installed on your vehicle and allows your car to start only after you have proven your sobriety. This works by blowing into the device, which measures your blood alcohol content (BAC).

Undue Burden and Hardship Licenses

If you cannot resolve your suspension by paying what you owe, you must wait the specified period of time before getting your license back. One way you may find an exception is through petitioning the court for a hardship license. A hardship license restricts driving to your workday commute or necessary trips (such as doctor appointments).

You must be able to prove that a driver's license suspension would create an undue burden, like a severe impediment to your health or livelihood. Eligibility for this type of license varies by jurisdiction. Check with your state's department of motor vehicles (DMV) to find out if a hardship license is a possibility for you.

Penalties for Driving With a Suspended License

If you have a suspended license, do not drive. If you hold a limited license, only drive on approved routes and during approved hours. Doing otherwise can result in serious penalties and further restrict your driving privileges.

Consequences for driving with a suspended license depend on your area and the reason for your suspension. Specific penalties are outlined in each state's traffic laws. Consequences can include:

  • Fines
  • Extended license suspension or license revocation
  • Vehicle impoundment or immobilization (like a boot)
  • Community service and probation
  • Jail time

Getting Your License Reinstated

After you have fulfilled the suspension period, you can apply for driver's license reinstatement. The steps for this process vary by state and the circumstances of your suspension. When reinstating your license, expect some or all of the requirements below:

  • Pay a reinstatement fee (this can range from $25 to $700)
  • Submit proof of additional liability insurance (like Form SR-22 after a DUI), if necessary
  • Complete any required programs or courses
  • Attend a hearing (this can be required after DUI suspensions)
  • Pass necessary exams, including eye, written, or road tests

In most states, you can complete the license reinstatement process at your local DMV office or licensing authority.

Suspended License? Get Legal Help

If you are facing a driver's license suspension, you can speak with a traffic ticket attorney in your area to learn about your legal options. Whether the suspension is due to unpaid child support or a driving offense, an experienced attorney can help determine the best course of action to save your license.

If you have been charged with a more serious offense like a DUI or leaving the scene of an accident, consider reaching out to a DUI attorney or criminal defense lawyer near you. An attorney with expertise in misdemeanor and felony traffic violations can help you explore potential defenses.

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