Driving is both a necessary instrument of getting around and an enjoyable privilege, to most drivers, at least. Since this is the United States we’re talking about, it’s quite clear that managing without a car is one of the hardest tasks out there, considering our long roads and great distances, even inside a single city or residential areas. If going by alternative means of transportation – by bike or by foot – has become pretty popular in large urban areas of Europe, in the United States this is almost impossible at the time.
Driving a car here is more or less mandatory in order to get by, and this is especially true for Florida, the area on which this present license suspension guide will focus on. Of course, if you want more information about license suspension in other states as well, this guide is equally useful for you too: it’s just that when examples will be needed, Florida will be used as a case study for illustrating the point at hand.
So, besides being vital to get around, driving is, lest we forget, also something you can get passionate about. Almost all the drivers we’re ever spoken to actually like to drive quite a lot, so perhaps what they say about enjoying the journey more than the destination applies the most to this particular area of travelling. Unfortunately, the rush many of us feel when driving can lead to over-speeding, which along with other potentially dangerous mistakes or legal issues often gets your driver’s license suspended for some time. This in turn creates not only the inconvenience of not being able to drive for the entire period of license suspension, but it also contributes to a bad track record with the law enforcement representatives and so on. You can come back from it and still save face, of course, as long as you’re not the cause of a serious accident, but still, don’t want to be that person, so it’s best if you just take all the precautions now in order to avoid this kind of trouble altogether.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about the process.
Getting Your License in Florida
We will use Florida as an example state only to detail the process of obtaining a driver’s license. The regulations regarding the process may vary from state to state, so if you live elsewhere and plan to get your DL anytime soon, it’s best if you check in with your local authorities to see if everything we’ll list here applies to your particular area or not. The list of required paperwork is usually available for free online on the website of your state’s department, so rest assured that you only need to be using the internet properly to get all the info in one place.
If you’re new to driving, you will first need to complete a state-approved driving course and a number of practice hours, followed by a written and practical exam. This will enable you to receive a learner’s permit, which in turn will make you gain eligibility to apply for your driver’s license. If you’re not new to driving but you just need to renew your DL, the process will be somewhat easier. You will need to provide:
- Proof of your identity (permanent resident card, US birth certificate etc);
- Your SSN (Social Security Number), or 1099 form, or (if you don’t have a SSN) an explanatory letter from the Social Security Administration and a secondary proof of your identity;
- 2 documents to prove your Florida residential address;
- Proof that you completed the Traffic Law & Substance Abuse Course;
- Proof that you passed the DMV tests required for issuing your DL;
- Proof that you paid the $48 fee required.
Once you submit all the required documents, the office clerk will direct you on how long you need to wait before the process is completed, but you can expect to have your Florida driver’s license issued in a few weeks’ time, tops.
How a Standard FL Driver License Check Goes
Once you have your DL issued and you’re free to roam the highways happily (and lawfully), you can expect to periodically go through a check-up. A team of traffic officers regularly patrol the major roads and highways and pull people over in order to check their paperwork, driver license number registration, DL status and so on. If you get signaled to pull over, this is what you need to do. First of all, do pull over as soon as possible. Don’t panic, there’s nothing extraordinary about this kind of background check: they usually just need to run your name and DL number through their department’s system to make sure everything about your papers is legit.
If you are observed while speeding over the lawful limit or violating a traffic rule, then the pull-over may be more than just a routine Florida DL check, and it may result in accumulating a few points towards the suspension of your driver’s license. All vehicles and all drivers are pulled over for paper checking every now and then, and if you also get a small fine for a minor violation, it’s still nothing serious to be concerned about just yet. Just make sure you respect all the rules from now on so that your license doesn’t get suspended.
Common Causes of License Suspension
Usually, there is more than one authority which is entitled to suspend your license, and if you do happen to get a driver’s license suspension, it is likely to be either from the local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), from the SOS (Secretary of State), from DOR (Department of Revenue) or from your local MVD (Motor Vehicle Division). Depending on the laws you trespass or the driving rules you are seen breaking, you can draw the attention on yourself from one or more authorities in the above list. Any of them can rule to have your license suspended, though the DMV and the MVD are the most common institutions which issue such suspensions.
In order to temporarily lose your driver’s license, you would have to be responsible for any of the following offenses:
- Having too many driving record points – You accumulate driving record points by violating minor driving rules, by being less than in the clear when pulled over for a car routine check (using expired car papers, speeding over the limit, even on the highway etc.) and so on. When too many of these points accumulate and exceed a certain threshold (which may vary from state to state), your driver’s license gets suspended. To stay out of trouble, just discipline yourself into obeying all the driving rules in the state, refrain from speeding, and whatever you do, don’t drive under the influence (DUI).
- Not paying fees – Failing to give the Cesar what is Cesar’s, metaphorically speaking, will obviously place you in a position of illegality in the eyes of the concerned authorities. As the cliché goes, a tax-paying citizen is well within his full rights to ask for anything he is owed or to demand the rights he (or she) is entitled to. When you are not a tax-paying citizen, some rights are restricted from you as a way to ensure you will get some sort of incentive to pay your taxes and fees. The driver’s license is among the first ones to go, so you can expect to have it suspended if you fail to solve your fiscal problems.
- Failing to appear in court when you’re summoned – Whatever your legal problems are, and even if they have nothing to do with driving, if you have a court process underway, you have to show up for each and every hearing. This may seem like common sense, but considering how many people fail to show up for their hearings, it’s no wonder that the law has instated some pretty serious sanctions for people who don’t attend their own lawsuit. Among these sanctions for wasting the time of every court official in your trial, the lifting of your driver’s license is one of the most common punishments you can expect.
- Not paying the owed child support – The same as not appearing in court when you’re summoned, not paying the taxes or your due child support is considered a failure of compliance with the state’s major laws, and it is one that results in a restrictions of certain rights and liberties, such as your license to drive. If you have one or more children which you’re supposed to pay alimony for and you fail to send the owed amount for some time (months in a row, usually), the state will sanction you by lifting your right to drive, until at least you repay the owed amount and a fine. The same rule applies here as in every other similar offence: just pay your taxes and obey the law (through showing up when you’re summoned and so on) and all will be good.
- Getting too many speeding tickets (or traffic violations) – Of course, your driver’s license can get suspended for things regarding actual driving or traffic violations, as it rightfully should. If you break minor traffic laws multiple times, or if you prove to have a penchant for exceeding the legal speeding limit, then you would obviously be a danger to yourself and to others, and your driving style would need to be tamed. In order to give you a warning, the authorities (usually the DMV or the MVD, in such cases) will suspend your driver’s license for a while, to make you refrain from speeding and traffic violations once you’ll be back behind the wheel.
- Drunk driving (resulting in a DUI or a DWI) – A more serious offense than speeding or a traffic violations, drunk driving is severely frowned upon by the authorities, since it can pose deadly danger to yourself and the others around you. Drunk driving is responsible for devastating accidents and the statistics point to immense human and financial costs associated with this harmful behavior. According to the Madd.org, the authority in the field, a person in the United States gets injured every two minutes in a drunk driving crash, and 2 out of every 3 people will be involved in such a crash during the course of their lifetime. Drunk driving accidents cost the country $199 billion a year, and each adult in the country $800; while 28 people pay with their lives every day due to a drunk driving accident. This is why a case of DUI is usually severely punished, and the license suspension is just one of the sanctions which derive from it.
How to Contest a Florida License Suspension
If you feel that you need to contest your DL suspension, the first step is to be sure which institution suspended your license in the first place, so you can appeal to them and contest the decision. Usually, it’s the BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles). For example, if during a FL DMV license check the officer tells you there’s something wrong with your car or your paperwork and ends up suspending your DL, and if you double-check and everything seems to be fine with both the vehicle and your papers, then you are entitled to contest the license suspension.
In order to do so, first you need the letter from the BMV (or the issuing institution) saying you had your license suspended. If you didn’t receive one (or an official email) or if your name is misspelled, then you need to check their online database to find your license suspension decision and the reasoning for it. Once those are identified, you can determine whether an appeal is available to you (in some cases, you may automatically be ineligible for an appeal, especially if you’re a DUI case). To determine that, if no extra information is given to you in the fields detailing your DL suspension, you then need to check the BMV site for information regarding reinstatement procedures.
In some cases, you may be able to appeal to the court in order to apply for a temporary work or hardship license, to be able to get to work or just to be able to shop for groceries and so on. As an extra tip, you should know that local attorney’s offices are often offering free consultations where you can ask them if you’re eligible for a reinstatement of your DL (if the issue is still unclear) and how they could help you get it back.
Also, if you live somewhere other than Florida, be aware that the process of getting your DL back might be easier or harder, depending. In Texas (TX) and California, for example, the procedure to get it back is similar enough to Florida, but if you live in Ohio, Illinois (or Georgia or Miami, for that matter), then the area is so overcome by cases of suspended licenses that the judges may be a bit fed up with all the requests to get it back. A large metropolis like New York (NY), Wisconsin (WI), or Washington (WA) may enable the process, but simply make it a bit more expensive than, say, in the smaller cities from Kansas (KS), North Carolina (NC), South Carolina (SC) and the CA State, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia (GA), Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi or Tennessee (TN).
How to Get Your Driver’s License Reinstated
Rules pertaining to each state and specific documents can be found on the official government website, www.flhsmv.gov (feel free to check there at any time, to see specific Florida forms and paperwork guidance). Along more general lines, if the issue isn’t a clear mistake on the law’s behalf (like confusing you with another person) in which case the matter is settled once you prove it, then you will likely need to call them to court. Appealing your license suspension decision in a court of law isn’t going to be the easiest process you’ve ever been in, but if there’s a chance that the authorities were too harsh in the first place, they will give you your license back faster, or at least provide you with a temporary work or hardship license. In the latter case, if you are scheduled to argue your case in court, it’s recommended to have an attorney at your side.
In most cases of minor violations (excluding DUI incidents), the odds are pretty much in your favor and you may be able to get your driver’s license reinstated faster than it was supposed to, if you can argue a strong case for it. But in case that the incident which led to your suspension was a DUI incident, even if there wasn’t an accident per se, then it might be harder to receive a reinstatement. This situation is aggravated further if this wasn’t your first recorded DUI incident; most states prescribe separate sanctions, increasing in severity, if the offense is the second or the third DUI of the driver. It’s best if you never reach that stage of trouble with the law ever, since it can have long-term repercussions on your track record in more areas and so on.
If you are ever in a position to drive while also knowing you had some alcohol, then simply ask someone else to take over (if they’re perfectly sober) or use a cab service. It’s better not to risk license suspension (as well as your safety and the safety of others) just because you’re feeling confident at the moment. The statistics offer a grim glimpse into the realities of drinking and driving incidents, and having your DL taken for a while is really the least bad thing which can happen if you take this kind of a chance. Good luck with avoiding license suspension and drive safely! We hope our guide was useful to you. For any inquiries or comments, feel free to contact us; we’d love to help.