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How Does a Driver's License Get Revoked?

The reasons for a driver's license revocation are similar to offenses that lead to suspension. However, revocation typically has a more serious cause because it is a permanent loss of your license.

Driving on public streets and highways is a privilege, not a right. States have the authority to revoke drivers' licenses for both moving violations and non-driving-related reasons. Some offenses can even trigger automatic revocation.

If you have a revoked driver's license, you must wait to apply for a new one. The specific period of time depends on your state's traffic laws. Your state may deny your application.

This article explains the basics of how your license can be revoked. Check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for more details.

Driving-Related Grounds for License Revocation

All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow driver's license revocation after multiple traffic violations or traffic ticket points. Most states will revoke your license if you drive with a suspended driver's license.

The following violations can get your driver's license revoked, typically after multiple or egregious offenses:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI)
  • Reckless driving
  • Leaving the scene of an injury accident
  • Failure to answer a traffic summons
  • Drag racing or speed contests

States that use a point system revoke your license when you reach a certain number of points on your driving record. For example, a California driver may be a negligent operator and lose their license if they earn four points in 12 months.

States generally consider revocation on a case-by-case basis. Judges can choose to suspend or revoke your license regardless of the point total. Depending on the situation, you could lose your driving privileges even on your first offense.

Revocation Without a Driving Offense

Causes unrelated to driving may result in license revocation, such as:

  • Conviction for a non-DUI drug-related offense
  • Failure to respond to a court order
  • General alcohol or drug offenses by minors
  • Use of altered or fake license plates

As with driving violations, judges can ultimately decide whether to revoke your license. Failure to pay child support is the most common non-driving reason someone may lose their driver's license. License cancellation can also happen if you fail to maintain minimum insurance coverage.

License Revocation Without a Hearing

You probably won't be getting behind the wheel for a while after a DUI arrest. That's because of Administrative License Suspension (ALS) and Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws.

ALS and ALR laws allow law enforcement to confiscate your license immediately. You could lose your driving privileges without first getting the opportunity to defend yourself in a hearing.

Reasons for an ALS or ALR

Automatic license penalties can happen when:

  • You refuse to take a blood or breath test at a traffic stop. You can face penalties even if you are sober due to implied consent.
  • An alcohol test shows your blood-alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher. Utah is the exception, with a stricter BAC limit of 0.05 percent or higher. The limit is lower for commercial drivers.
  • A drug chemical test reveals that you have controlled substances in your system.

An automatic suspension is usually more common than a revocation. The period of suspension can last anywhere from a few days to several years. You may need to pay a reinstatement fee and install an ignition interlock device to drive again.

On the other hand, an automatic license revocation can be permanent. Losing your license can dramatically change your daily life.

Appealing an Automatic Revocation or Suspension

You might not get a hearing to stop a driver's license suspension or revocation before it takes effect. However, most states allow drivers to appeal an ALS or ALR.

Typically, you must file an appeal within a few days of the issuance of your traffic citation. Then, you'll schedule a hearing to determine whether you can regain your driving privileges.

Reinstating your license could be a fleeting victory. If you receive a DUI conviction, you will likely lose your license again. That's why getting legal advice for both revocation and the underlying charge can be a good idea.

Lost Your License? Ask an Attorney About Your Options

After a license revocation, you may wonder whether you can get exceptions to drive again for work or other reasons. Consider speaking with a traffic ticket lawyer in your area if you need help with a driver's license revocation.

See FindLaw's Driver's License & Vehicle Info subsection for related articles and resources.

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