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Moving Out of State With a Suspended Driver's License

Having a suspended driver's license can further complicate an out-of-state move. In most states, the suspension will follow you to your new state. Although there are exceptions, in general, you cannot get a valid driver's license in a new state if you have a suspended license in another state.

There are several reasons why people lose their driving privileges, including:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Reckless driving or road rage
  • Reaching the maximum allowed driver's license points
  • Excessive traffic offenses, like parking tickets, speeding tickets, or other infractions
  • Unpaid court-ordered child support

Having your driver's license suspended or revoked can be a major obstacle when trying to earn a living, raise a family, or have a social life. The impact is even more significant when relocating. Read on to learn more about how a driver's license suspension for any reason impacts how you can drive legally in a different state.

Reciprocity: The Driver License Compact

Because of the Driver License Compact (DLC), your driving record will follow you almost anywhere in the United States. The DLC is an interstate agreement that facilitates states' exchange of information for traffic violations, suspensions, and revocations. The compact's motto is "One Driver, One License, One Record."

Under the compact, participating states treat most traffic offenses as if they occurred in the state where you hold your license. This is limited to moving violations and typically excludes non-moving offenses like parking tickets or tinted windows. If you have a suspended license in a member state, it will likely stay suspended in any other member state.

Similarly, if you apply for a license in a new state, your suspension will likely prevent you from getting a new license. When you apply for a driver's license, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or applicable motor vehicle agency checks for your name on the National Driver Register (NDR). The NDR is a database with the names of those with suspended or revoked licenses.

There are five possible outcomes when a member state DMV checks your information at the NDR, including:

  • No Match - You have no record in the database
  • Match - You do have a record in the database
  • Licensed (LIC) - You hold a valid driver's license in the state
  • Eligible (ELG) - You are legally eligible to apply for a license in the state
  • Not Eligible (NELG) - You are ineligible to apply for a license in the state

The license compact isn't only interstate, but international in a few cases. For example, New York, Maine, and Florida all have special agreements with Quebec, Canada. These agreements allow them to exchange information and take adverse action.

A Few Exceptions to State Reciprocity

While most states are members of the Driver License Compact, there are a few exceptions. As of 2023, five states do not participate in the DLC:

  • Massachusetts
  • Wisconsin
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Tennessee

You may have better chances of obtaining a new driver's license in one of these states.

However, the states above still require drivers to report suspensions or revocations in other states. This is especially true for serious traffic offenses like driving under the influence (DUI/DWI/OWI) or evading a police officer.

If you apply for a new license and do not disclose out-of-state suspensions or other driving privilege limitations, your application could be later suspended or revoked.

Most states' driver's license applications include questions like:

  • Have you ever had a driver's license in another state?
  • Have your driving privileges ever been suspended or revoked?

Giving false answers on a driver's license application is a serious offense with various penalties. Depending on the state, you could face fines, further restriction of your driving privileges, or jail time. You even run the risk of criminal charges like fraud or perjury.

To be penalized for an out-of-state offense, the driver's state must punish the same conduct. For example, Colorado has a careless driving statute, while Arizona does not. This means if law enforcement cites a driver from Arizona for careless driving in Colorado, the citation won't affect their driving record in Arizona.

Reinstating Your License in a New State

Reinstating your license in a new state with an out-of-state driver's license suspension is possible. Although it varies by jurisdiction, DLC states have procedures in place for new residents to achieve license reinstatement.

The rules for this vary by state. Before you start the process, research the requirements for getting a driver's license in your new state.

If the DLC recognizes your license suspension, the licensing agency in the new state will likely require you to resolve your suspension in your original state. This can include waiting out the suspension period, paying fines, or completing community service, classes, or courses. Collect all proof and documentation along the way.

Establish residency in your new state and visit the local DMV or licensing agency. Be honest about your license status and ask about policies for suspensions from another state.

This process can be complex, depending on the state and the circumstances of your license suspension. Some states have additional policies for out-of-state driving under the influence suspensions. Depending on your situation, you may want to get help from an attorney experienced in traffic law.

Moving States With a Suspended or Restricted License? Get Legal Advice

If you're relocating across state borders, your suspended license may follow. Navigating your job, family responsibilities, and life in general in a new state is even more stressful without a valid driver's license. Fortunately, an out-of-state license suspension doesn't need to be a crippling setback for a fresh start.

You can talk to a traffic ticket attorney about your options for getting your driving privileges restored in your new state. An experienced attorney can review the laws in both your new and previous states, and help you determine a solid plan for driving legally in your new area.

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