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Suspended Driver's License Basics

Since driving on public streets and highways is considered a privilege and not a right, a number of different actions can lead to a suspended driver's license. Some of these actions are not even related to driving. For example, a driver's license can be suspended because of a conviction on drug charges or failure to pay child support. This article covers the various types of conduct that generally may result in your driver's license being suspended. These vary from state to state, so it's best to visit FindLaw's State DMV Offices section for state-specific driver's license laws and regulations.

Driving-Related Grounds for Suspension

All 50 states and the District of Columbia suspend the licenses of drivers convicted of a DUI who have accumulated a certain number of traffic ticket points or "countable" violations, while most states provide for license revocation for motorists convicted of driving with a suspended driver's license. All states also have so-called implied consent laws, whereby motorists may obtain a driver's license with the understanding that they must comply with a breathalyzer or similar alcohol test if prompted by an officer. Failure to comply with a testing request by an officer usually results in an automatic suspension.

Other driving-related offenses that can result in a driver's license suspension include the following:

  • Reckless driving
  • Careless driving
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Drag racing/speed contests
  • Assault of another motorist, passenger, pedestrian, or bicyclist while on the highway ("road rage")

The point system varies from state to state. In California, for instance, a driver may be considered a negligent operator if he or she accumulates four or more points in 12 months, six points in 24 months, or eight points in 36 months. Violations received in a commercial vehicle carry one and one-half times the point count of non-commercial offenses.

Non-Driving Violations Resulting in Suspension

States also suspend drivers' licenses for a number of non-driving actions. For example, in all 50 states, failure to comply with a child support order can result in driver's license suspension, although each state has its own triggering criteria. Most states also suspend the licenses of motorists who fail to maintain the proper automobile insurance coverage or a valid driver's license.

Additional non-driving offenses that may result in the suspension of your driver's license include the following:

  • Failure to appear in court to satisfy a summons for a moving violation or parking ticket
  • Failure to pay a DMV fine, surcharge, or fee
  • Conviction for a drug-related offense (other than a DUI)
  • Altered or unlawful use of driver's license
  • Use of altered or fictitious license plates
  • Non-DUI alcohol/drug offenses by minors
  • Truancy
  • Juvenile delinquency

In Texas, for example, motorists convicted of a drug-related offense automatically lose their driver's license for 180 days.

Notice of a Suspended Driver's License

Traffic courts usually send you a courtesy notice prior to the actual suspension date of your driver's license, sometimes to explain your options for avoiding suspension (for instance, paying an outstanding fine or overdue child support). Once your license is suspended, you will receive additional correspondence from the Secretary of State's office stating that your driving privileges are no longer valid in the state.

Each state has its own way of corresponding with licensees, but suspension notices usually contain the following information:

  • Your name, address, driver's license number, and other personally identifying data
  • Effective date of suspension
  • Termination date of suspension
  • Official statement that license has been suspended
  • List of offenses that led to the suspension (including date, case number, etc.)

Getting Legal Help

If you have any questions about traffic tickets or you need help with a suspended driver's license, you may want to contact a traffic ticket attorney in your area.

For more information and resources related to this topic, you can visit FindLaw's Traffic Laws section.

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