What happens when I drive on a suspended license?

What happens when you drive on a suspended license depends on any prior offenses on your record. Typically, the offense of driving with a suspended license is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, and it comes with hefty fines and possible jail time. You can avoid jail time if there are no outstanding warrants or additional violations on your record, but this is at the officer’s discretion and not a guarantee.

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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: Jul 14, 2021

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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 a license is suspended, the driver may be able to get a restricted one for limited driving.
  • It cannot be reinstated until your sentence is served and all of your fees and fines are paid. You might also have to pay reinstatement fees.

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 being a driver on a suspended license, enter your ZIP code in our free tool to find a lawyer near you.

What is the difference between a suspended 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 revoked is the same as suspended.

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

Charges that result in a revoked license are more severe than a suspension or are the result of multiple 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, 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.

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What happens when I drive on a suspended license?

If you’re caught, 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 plates could be seized or you may have to complete community service hours. Each state has different laws regarding suspensions and punishments. 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 is a misdemeanor. Depending on where you live, a first offense will result in fines, jail time, or both.

Subsequent convictions can quickly turn into felonies.

For example, if this is your third offense, 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 violation laws and suspensions 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. A traffic ticket can quickly turn into something bigger if a police officer searches your plates and finds out about your suspension.

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When can I drive on a suspended license?

If it is suspended, you may drive only if you qualify for a restricted license. This 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 outside of your restricted area or time frame, you’ll be charged with DWLR and will face the charges and fines mentioned above.

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

If you’re caught, 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 suspension period.

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.

What are the penalties for a conviction of driving after a suspension of your license?

The consequences of a conviction 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. Find a lawyer near you that understands your state’s laws. They could help you reduce your sentence and fines.

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How can you avoid jail time for driving on a suspended license?

This 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.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/_sFDH0oL3bI

Can you get away with driving with a suspended license?

This is illegal in all 50 states, so don’t push your luck.

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 this, 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 DL is suspended for non-traffic related offenses. Some states have made changes to their laws to reflect this, including Texas and Virginia in 2019.

How do you reinstate a suspended license?

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 might also have to pay reinstatement fees. You will also need an SR-22 filing for your car insurance. It’s recommended that you take a defensive driver education program 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.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ms-8-6Afoyc

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Where can I reinstate my license?

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

How can I find a lawyer?

After reading this guide, we hope you better understand your rights. Driving on a suspension 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

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