States suspend driver’s licenses for all kinds of reasons. People generally expect that a driver’s license can be suspended for driving-related issues, like Driving While Intoxicated, refusing to submit to a breath or blood test when arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, or accumulating too many points (or moving violations). But did you know that 41 states suspend driver’s licenses for unpaid tickets and court costs, causing 7,000,000 people to lose their license for that reason alone? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as driver’s licenses can be suspended for:
- Not coming to court;
- Not having insurance;
- Unpaid judgments arising from motor vehicle crashes;
- Falling behind on child support;
- Owing money to the state; and
- Defaulting on student loans.
There are countless ways for a driver’s license to be suspended, and the laws vary from state to state. And many suspensions have nothing to do with highway safety. That’s why, on average, 7.4% of all driver’s licenses in the United States are suspended or revoked at any given time.
So if you learn that your driver’s license is suspended, what should you do? It depends on the reason for the suspension. If you know why your driver’s license is suspended – particularly if there is only one suspension – you may be able to fix it yourself, depending on the circumstances. Otherwise you may need the assistance of an attorney.
Start with the Notice of Suspension. Your state’s licensing agency should mail you a Notice of Suspension that informs you of the suspension and the reason. Some notices provide information about how to get reinstated or how to apply for a Limited Driving Privilege (“LDP” also called a “hardship license”). The Notice of Suspension probably includes a telephone number or website address to obtain more information.
If you never received the Notice of Suspension or you cannot find it, then you need to call the licensing agency (the Secretary of State, the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Driver’s License Bureau, or whatever governmental agency is responsible for issuing driver’s licenses in your state). They may be able to mail you a duplicate Notice of Suspension or provide information about the suspension over the telephone. Alternatively, you can request a copy of your driving record, which will indicate any suspensions.
If you have only one suspension and it is straightforward to address, you may be able to do it yourself. For example, if your license is suspended for not having insurance, you should send proof of insurance to the licensing agency. If you owe money (for a traffic accident, a judgment, child support, or taxes), you may be able to agree to a payment plan and have your license reinstated after making a certain number of payments. And if you accumulated too many moving offenses (also known as a “points suspension”), the licensing agency should have straightforward instructions for reinstatement.
For other types of suspensions, particularly if there are multiple suspensions, or if your license is revoked, you will need the assistance of an attorney. If a court suspended your driver’s license because you failed to come to court, you will need an attorney to straighten it out. And if your license was suspended or revoked because of one or more DWI convictions, it may be necessary to file a petition in court, which will require the services of an attorney. Only attorneys can appear in court on your behalf, so any issue that requires a court appearance means you will need an attorney.