A DUI isn’t the only way to end up with a license suspension.
There are 39 states in the U.S. that suspend driver’s licenses because of inability to pay off court debts.
Our discussion will focus on traffic violation suspensions, specifically suspensions issued as a result of a DUI conviction. Upon conviction of a first offense DUI, they could face the following punishments:
- License suspension
- Fines up to or more than $1,000 in many instances
- Drug and alcohol program counseling
- May be required to use an interlock sobriety testing device upon restoration of driving privileges
- In some instances, jail time
License Suspension vs. Revoked License
Understanding the difference between a license suspension and a revoked license is important. While many people use the phrases interchangeably, they are two very different things. As with many “punishments,” the greater the traffic violation, the greater the penalty. A conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) will receive a longer license suspension than a standard speeding ticket. First offense DUI convictions often result in a 180 day (six-month) suspension. A repeat offender with multiple DUI convictions may be subject to license revocation.
A simple key point to differentiate the two is a suspended license is bad and a revoked license is very bad — a suspended license is a temporary hardship, but a revoked license is permanent.
A suspended license is temporary. There are two types of suspensions — definite and indefinite.
A definite suspension ends on a specified date — or after a specified period — after full payment of all fees and fines. Common reasons for definite suspensions are getting too many traffic tickets or operating a vehicle without proper insurance. Other moving violations such as drug and alcohol-related or DUI offenses will also result in a suspended license.
An indefinite suspension means your license will stay suspended until you complete a specified, or court-ordered, action. DUI offenses are regulated at the state level so that license suspension rules will differ from state-to-state. Many states require completion of a drug and alcohol counseling program and driver safety course before reinstating a suspended license. These program costs will be in addition to any court fees, and fines levied upon conviction. Completion of all conditions specified in a court order allows reinstatement of a suspended license.
Having your driver’s license revoked means that your license is completely gone. In some states, it is possible to petition the state to regain your driving privileges, but you’ll have to jump through some hoops. Paying all civil penalties and fines, and often completing the entire new license process in your state are requirements. This might include driver education classes, and retaking both the written and practical portions of your driving test.
If your license revocation is the result of multiple DUI convictions, regaining driving privileges will be more difficult.
Unexpected consequences of a license suspension.
The biggest difference to your wallet — aside from the one-time expense of fees and fines — will be to your auto insurance rates. Some states require you to obtain an SR-22 rider for your insurance. An SR-22 “is a vehicle liability insurance document required by most state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices for “high-risk” insurance policies.” The length of time you will be required to maintain an SR-22 varies by state and the seriousness of the offense.
During your license suspension, driving is illegal. To get your license reinstated, you may be required to attend a safe driving course, defensive driving course, or a traffic school. Upon conviction of a DUI, attendance in a drug and alcohol program or AA meetings can be part of your sentence. These programs and classes will be at your expense and can cost in the hundreds of dollars. Your state will also charge you a reinstatement fee after all other conditions for reinstatement have been met.
Surviving a suspended license.
It is an inconvenience to have your driver’s license suspended, but it is not the end of the world. Unless your job involves driving, the largest inconvenience is probably your daily commute to and from work. Finding a co-worker or friend that lives near you is usually the easiest fix. Offer to share fuel expenses, and most people do not mind helping out for a short period.
There are inexpensive alternatives in public transit if available in your area. Uber and Lyft can get expensive over an extended period. Either might be good in a quick pinch until you can make other arrangements, or for a trip to the supermarket. While coordinating your transportation will be a little more complicated than hopping in your car and going, it is not insurmountable.
In some instances, a person with a suspended license may appeal to the court for an occupational license or a hardship license. This provisional license allows a person to operate a vehicle under a set of strict rules. The court may allow the person to drive to and from work at set times to coincide with the individual’s work hours. It may include errands to take children to and from school or to travel to the residence of a disabled family member under the individual’s care.
A good resource for finding out the procedure and requirements for getting a suspended license reinstated is DMV.org (This is a privately owned website not affiliated with any state agency). The site maintains a point and click searchable database with requirements for each state. It is nearly effortless finding the information you need. You should verify all information with your state vehicle department also.
Drivers License Check
Getting caught driving with a suspended license will lead to more penalties including fines and the possible revocation of your license. If you are in an accident, your simple misdemeanor charge can escalate to a felony.
Why tempt fate? Getting caught driving on a suspended license will compound your difficulties and possibly result in revocation of your license.
When will police perform a license check?
Many municipalities perform random checkpoints, especially around holidays or after sporting events or concerts. Any time that you are involved in any type of traffic incident, police will check your driving record. Police cannot randomly pull you over and check your license — they must have a valid reason for the stop.
The practice of “discretionary license check stops” is prohibited in all states following a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Delaware v. Prouse. This means that police cannot stop a vehicle for the sole purpose of performing a license and registration check. License and registration checks must occur in conjunction with a violation of some kind. The violation can be a moving violation or an equipment violation, such as no tail light.
Knowing your rights during a vehicle stop will assist you in achieving a better outcome. If your license and vehicle registration are in order — current, not suspended, or revoked — you should be fine. If you have been drinking or indulging in other recreational pursuits, it is always best to leave the driving to someone else.