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License Penalties FAQ

You've probably heard that driving is a privilege, not a right. That's the case for driving a motor vehicle anywhere in the United States.

That is why it's possible to lose your driver's license. Both moving violations and non-driving-related offenses can lead to license penalties. States have different laws to set those penalties.

Why could I lose my driver's license?

There are many reasons why a state might suspend or revoke your license. These reasons include various traffic infractions or dangers, such as:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Driving with a suspended driver's license
  • significant medical issue
  • Refusal to take a police officer's alcohol test
  • Failure to carry proper liability insurance or pay for accident damages

Some states have a driving points system in which each traffic violation is worth a set point value. For example, running a red light in North Carolina is worth three points, and failing to secure a child with a seat belt is worth two points under G.S. § 20-16(c).

Motorists in those states face penalties depending on how many points are on their driving record. With each subsequent offense, the legal penalties can become more severe. You may lose your driver's license once you reach enough traffic ticket points.

Because each state differs, it's important to know the traffic laws in your state. If your license is revoked or suspended for some reason, you have certain rights and procedures you must follow.

What is the difference between license suspension and revocation?

License suspension is temporary, but license revocation is usually permanent. If you have a suspended license, you can't legally drive until enough time passes. Revocation means you lose your driver's license.

Different reasons affect whether a state suspends or revokes a license. The grounds for license suspension can include issues like reckless driving and unpaid child support. The grounds for license revocation often involve serious offenses like DUIs.

What is the penalty if I drive without my license?

You could face fines, loss of your license or vehicle, or more severe penalties like jail time if you drive without a valid license. The exact penalties will depend on the state laws where law enforcement pulls you over.

A first offense for driving without a valid driver's license is a misdemeanor in most states. You could receive a jail sentence if you already have a suspended license. A second offense or third offense can be a felony crime.

Losing your driving privileges in one state can affect your driving ability in other states. State laws govern the rules of the road, but your driving record can follow you nationally.

Can I fight to stop a license revocation?

Yes, you can defend against a license penalty in some cases. You may challenge suspension or revocation at a driver's license hearing. Your defense may involve challenging the traffic offense that led to this penalty.

Can I apply to get my driver's license back?

Yes, you can apply for a driver's license reinstatement to regain your driving privileges. Reinstating a revoked license can be more complicated than restoring a suspended license.

You must first meet all the requirements in your state, which might involve:

  • Attending a court hearing
  • Paying license reinstatement fees
  • Retaking driving tests
  • Completing a rehabilitation program
  • Installing an ignition interlock device
  • Performing required hours of community service

Not everyone can regain their driver's license. The state can decide who can or can't have driving privileges. You can apply to reinstate your license through your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or a similar agency.

Ask an Attorney About License Penalties

Some questions about license revocation or suspension might depend on your specific circumstances. Given that losing your license could potentially upend your life and jack up your insurance rates, seeking legal assistance is a good idea. Meeting with a traffic law attorney in your state can help you get more information and protect your driving privileges.

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