What to Know About a Suspended License

Having a suspended license is the last thing anyone wants, but it’s important to understand what it means and what the ramifications are. 

For example, what would happen if you have a suspended license and you’re in an accident? What if you’re in an accident with another person who has a suspended license? How do you get a suspended license reinstated?

These are all common questions, and the topic of suspended licenses is explored below. 

What Is a Suspended License?

A suspended license means that you can’t legally operate a vehicle until your license is reinstated. 

Licenses can be suspended for different reasons, such as driving without insurance or drinking and driving. A license can also be suspended for not paying child support. Your license can be suspended for reckless or careless driving and a conviction for a drug offense other than a DUI. 

There are situations, as strange as it may sound, that your license might be suspended, and you don’t even know it. 

You can then, theoretically, get into an accident or get stopped by the police while being unaware you shouldn’t be driving.

Situations where you could potentially have a suspended driver’s license and not know it include:

  • You left the scene of an accident, but your license plate was caught on camera. 
  • You didn’t appear in court for a summons for a parking ticket or moving violation. 
  • You didn’t pay a surcharge, fee, or motor vehicle fine. 
  • You have an insurance lapse. 
  • Delinquent conduct by a minor, such as a teen skipping school. 

There are definite suspensions, and there are indefinite suspensions. 

A definite suspension ends within a certain period, as long as you’ve paid the fees. 

An indefinite suspension requires you to take a particular action to get your license reinstated. For example, you might have to pay your traffic tickets or child support. 

There are also states where your license may be indefinitely suspended for medical conditions that make it unsafe for you to drive. 

How Do You Know If Your License Is Suspended?

One of the first ways you’re likely to know if your license is suspended is by checking the mail. 

In most places, you’ll receive a suspension notification by mail. However, you might not get it if your address on record isn’t your current address. 

If you want to check and you didn’t receive mail, you can get a copy of your driving record at the DMV

In some states, you can do this online or by phone. 

You can also call your car insurance provider. They may know if your license has been suspended. 

If you receive a notice of suspension, make sure you read it carefully. 

Keep the paperwork as well, because you’ll likely need it as a reference. 

What If You Drive with a Suspended License?

If you drive on a suspended license and you’re caught doing so, there can be stiff legal penalties. In some states, it’s a misdemeanor charge, for example, and the fines can be steep as well. 

You might also have to pay additional fees to reinstate your license.

If you’ve ever had previous convictions for driving without a license or similar offenses, you can expect even more serious legal penalties. 

It could lead to a permanent revocation of your driver’s license. 

If you cause an accident and you’re driving with a suspended license, you might face criminal charges. 

You could have a traffic citation, big fines, and you may also face civil liability for causing the accident. 

The civil liability isn’t dependent on whether or not you were driving on a suspended license, but you could be viewed as a less reliable witness if you were driving with a suspended license. 

If you’re civilly liable for another driver’s damages, your auto insurance will have to pay for the losses of the victim of the crash, like medical expenses and damages to their vehicle. Your insurance premiums will probably go up, and your insurance could drop you as a customer. 

The concept of a license revocation was touched on above, but it is distinct from a suspension. 

When the DMV revokes your driver’s license, it’s taken away forever. Some of the reasons a license might be revoked include lying on DMV application forms or repeat DUIs. In some rare circumstances, you might be able to get a new license after a revocation but you’d have to request a hearing with the DMV, pay fines and penalties and then reapply for an entirely new license.

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