Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 12, 2020

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What you need to know…

  • Driving on a suspended license can lead to a citation, fines, jail time, and/or impounding of your vehicle.
  • If your license is suspended, you may be able to get a restricted license for limited driving.
  • Your license cannot be reinstated until your sentence is served and all of your fees and fines are paid.

You may be asking: What happens if I drive on a suspended license?

The offense of driving with a suspended license is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, and it comes with hefty fines and possible jail time. If you’re caught driving under suspension, you could be arrested, your car could be impounded, and the state may suspend your car registration.

You can avoid jail time for driving on a suspended license if there are no outstanding warrants or additional violations on your record, but this is at the officer’s discretion and not a guarantee. If your driver’s license is suspended, you may face a minimum of four months in jail.

Read this guide for more information on what happens when you go to court for a suspended license. 

If you need legal assistance to help with charges related to driving on a suspended license, enter your ZIP code in our free tool to find a lawyer near you.

Driving With a Suspended License vs. Revoked License

Driving with a suspended license, called Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) in some states, is a misdemeanor that can come with a minimum of four months in jail. This doesn’t mean that a revoked license is the same as a suspended one.

The difference between a suspended and revoked license is that a revocation is the permanent seizure of your driving rights, while a suspended license is only temporary.

Charges that result in a revoked license are more severe than a license suspension or are the result of multiple license suspensions. If you are unsure whether or not your license is suspended, you can run a license suspension check by requesting your driving record from the DMV.

Driving while suspended might also come with lesser consequences than driving while revoked, but if you’re caught driving with a suspended license, you’ll still be facing criminal charges. Understand your rights and find an attorney near you that is familiar with your state’s traffic laws.

What happens when I drive on a suspended license?

If you’re caught driving on a suspended license, you can definitely expect a citation and fine. Your car will immediately be impounded for up to 30 days, and you may be arrested if you have other violations or charges against you.

Depending on where you live, your license plates could be seized or you may have to complete community service hours. Each state has different laws regarding license suspensions and punishments for driving while suspended. Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures for a list of suspended license laws by state.

Is it a felony to drive with a suspended license?

Usually, your first conviction for driving while your license is suspended is a misdemeanor. Depending on where you live, a first offense will result in fines, jail time, or both.

Subsequent convictions for driving after a license suspension can quickly turn into felonies.

For example, if this is your third offense driving on a suspended license, you will face felony charges in both Florida and Georgia that come with $5,000 fines and five years in jail. But if you live in Indiana, your first offense is considered a felony. Hiring a lawyer near you that specializes in traffic law and suspended licenses can help you navigate the individual laws in your state.

Can a cop pull you over for a suspended license?

Police officers can pull over any driver with probable cause. Speeding violations, burnt-out headlights, and suspicious behavior all qualify as probable cause. If an officer searches your plates and finds out your license is suspended or revoked, they can pull you over.

When can I drive on a suspended license?

If your license is suspended, you may drive only if you qualify for a restricted license. A restricted license will give you permission to drive to and from work, school, medical appointments, or any other necessary trips that are approved by a judge.

If you’re caught driving outside of your restricted area or time frame, you’ll be charged with DWLR and will face the charges and fines mentioned above.

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What happens if you get caught driving with a suspended license?

If you’re caught driving under suspension, you’ll most likely be arrested. You’ll receive a citation, a steep fine between $300 and $1,000, and a court date. Failure to appear in court can lead to harsher charges and a prolonged driver’s license suspension.

Depending on your circumstances, the officer may decide not to arrest you at the scene, but your car will be impounded regardless.

Now that you know what will happen if you drive with a suspended license, let’s take a look at your rights regarding conviction and sentencing.

Conviction for Driving After a Suspension of License

The consequences of a conviction for driving under suspension vary by state. Most state laws have tiered sentencing for suspended license charges. For example, a conviction of third-offense driving on a suspended license can come with up to five years in jail in some states.

If this is your first offense, you could avoid jail time for driving on a suspended license. Find a lawyer near you that understands your state’s laws. They could help you reduce your sentence and fines.

How to Avoid Jail Time for Driving on a Suspended License

Driving under suspension is a criminal offense, but hiring a lawyer could mitigate some of your charges. They will appear in court on your behalf and can argue for reduced or amended charges.

This video is an example of how a lawyer can help drivers avoid jail time for driving on a suspended license:

How to Get Away with Driving with a Suspended License

Driving with a suspended license is illegal in all 50 states, so don’t push your luck by driving without a legal driver’s license.

If you need to drive, you can request restricted driving privileges from the court that will put conditions on when and where you’re allowed to drive.

There is no way to get away with driving while suspended, but laws in many states are changing. According to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, studies have shown that suspending driving privileges is not effective, especially when the license is suspended for non-traffic related offenses. Some states have made changes to their laws to reflect this, including Texas and Virginia in 2019.

Suspended License Reinstatement

My driver’s license is suspended – now what? You can get your driver’s license back with a DMV reinstatement.

If your license is suspended, you cannot get it reinstated until your sentence is served and all of your fees and fines are paid. You will also need an SR-22 filing for your car insurance. It’s recommended that you take a defensive driving course too, as this can take points off your license.

Check out this video to learn more about SR-22 insurance filing and how you can reinstate your driver’s license.

Where can I reinstate my license?

Depending on where you live and the severity of your charges, you may apply to reinstate your license online or through the mail. However, the court can order that you must do so in person.

This is What Happens When You Drive on a Suspended License

After reading this guide, we hope you better understand your rights regarding driving with a suspended license. Driving on a suspended license is a criminal offense. You’ll be sentenced with fines and penalties, and you may even face jail time.

Enter your ZIP code below to help you find the right lawyer who can possibly reduce your sentence and fines for driving with a suspended license.

References:

  1. https://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/driving-while-revoked-suspended-or-otherwise-unli.aspx
  2. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d3abam/cops-can-pull-drivers-over-who-arent-breaking-the-law-the-supreme-court-could-change-that
  3. https://www.aamva.org/Suspended-and-Revoked-Drivers-Working-Group/
  4. https://www.kxan.com/news/starting-sept-1-a-program-that-left-1-4m-texans-with-suspended-licenses-will-be-repealed/
  5. https://www.whsv.com/content/news/Governor-wants-to-end-license-suspensions-for-unpaid-fees-503353961.html