What is the Difference Between a Suspended and Revoked License?

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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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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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What you need to know…

  • States have different rules about losing your driving privileges.
  • You can’t drive for a limited period of time when your license is suspended.
  • If your license is revoked, you lose it permanently.
  • You can apply for a new license after revocation.

There’s a lot to keep up with when you drive. Maintenance and insurance can be confusing and expensive. If you get pulled over or ticketed, the consequences will complicate things further.

When dealing with the legal ramifications of driving, sometimes the terminology alone can be perplexing. Points on a license? Suspension? Revocation? What’s the difference between a suspended and revoked license, anyway?

We’re here to help.

If you need to know more about the differences between a suspended and a revoked license, you can learn more below. If you’re dealing with a license suspension or revocation already, there’s no substitute for consulting with an attorney.

You can begin your search for a local lawyer by putting in your ZIP code above.

What is the difference between license suspension and revocation?

Whether your license is suspended or revoked, you’re not allowed to drive. The major difference between the two is that when your license is suspended it remains valid, even though you won’t be able to use it until the suspension is up. A revocation, on the other hand, means your license is invalidated and you won’t get to drive legally again.

At least that’s the idea.

In truth, states have different ways to appeal a revocation and have your license restored. The real difference is how long it might take. A license is usually suspended for a fixed period of time, whether it’s 12 months or five years; a revoked license won’t be restored automatically no matter how much time has passed.

A permanently revoked license is possible but requires multiple serious offenses. In New York, for example, a driver must accumulate at least three serious driving-related offenses. These are driving-related felonies or fatalities. And even then, a permanent revocation is only a possibility and not a certainty.

What does it mean when your license is suspended?

There are two different ways to have your license suspended: a definite and an indefinite suspension. A definite suspension means your license is suspended for a fixed period of time. In most states, the amount of time that your license is suspended begins with 12 months.

An indefinite suspension does not have a set amount of time before the suspension will be lifted.

If it was a definite suspension, the suspended license reinstatement may happen automatically. If the suspension was indefinite, however, you may have to have the state’s DMV or courts take action to reinstate your license.

This video explains the process of reinstatement in Florida.


What does it mean when your license is revoked?

An indefinite license suspension has a lot in common with license revocation. Both of them mean you can’t drive again until you prove to the government that you’re capable of doing so safely and responsibly.

The difference is that a revoked license is completely invalid. If your license is only suspended, you can validly drive with it after the suspension ends. If your license is revoked, though, you will have to get a new license before you’ll be allowed to drive.

How do I get my revoked license back?

If your license has been revoked, you probably want to know how to get a revoked license back. That assumes that you can get your revoked license back, though. If your license is revoked, it means the license has been canceled by the state.

Can a revoked license be reinstated? Unfortunately, no. Once your license is revoked, your license is gone forever. You may be allowed to drive again, but to do so you’ll have to address all the reasons your license was revoked in the first place.

Even after that, you have to get your license the same way everyone else does: by taking a written test and a driving test and paying all the required fees to the DMV. According to AAA, every state requires a written or oral exam, a driving test, and a vision test to get a license.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Suspended and Revoked Licenses

Some of the most commonly asked questions about license suspensions and revocations are addressed below.

#1 – Can you check to see if your license is suspended?

There are several ways you can check to see the status of your driver’s license. In most states, you’ll receive a notice in the mail when your license is suspended or revoked. If you didn’t get a notice, you should be able to check online, by contacting your DMV, or by requesting a copy of your driving record.

#2 – What does a canceled driver’s license mean in Florida?

In Florida, as in most states, your license can be suspended or revoked. The amount of time you’ll lose your license will depend on what caused you to lose it in the first place. Different crimes and infractions have different penalties.

You won’t be allowed to get a license in Florida at all if your license is suspended or revoked in another state. To figure out how to reinstate a suspended license in a different state, you’ll need to contact the jurisdiction that suspended your license in the first place.

#3 – What are some examples of how a person’s license can be revoked?

The exact offenses that can result in a license being revoked vary from state to state. Many states will revoke a license for:

  • Conviction of certain drunk or drugged driving offenses
  • Conviction of a felony involving a motor vehicle
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident in which your vehicle was involved

The exact offenses that can result in a license revocation will be different in different states. For example, Montana law requires a license suspension or revocation for a conviction of stealing gas, while Texas courts will suspend your license automatically for 180 days for all drug and controlled substance convictions.

#4 – What are the consequences for driving with a suspended or revoked license?

The consequences of driving on a suspended or revoked license can be severe. You could be fined or jailed for driving without a license or with a suspended or revoked license. In addition, some states can suspend your car registration and impound your vehicle.

#5 – How is getting your license back changing?

Many jurisdictions can suspend or revoke your license for not paying traffic or even parking tickets. In some places, this is changing. A supreme court case required Tennessee to reinstate many licenses suspended over the drivers’ inability to pay, and the video below highlights a plan to reinstate licenses in Milwaukee.


South Carolina offers a similar program to the one discussed in the video, though in South Carolina drivers must apply and the program is only available for a limited time each year.

Bringing it All Together

The difference between having your license suspended and revoked is pretty simple. When your license is suspended, you can’t legally drive for the duration of the suspension. After the suspension is served, though, your license will be valid again.

If your license is revoked, that means it’s canceled. If you ever want to drive again, you’ll have to petition the DMV or the court. Even after that, you’ll need to go through all the steps to get a license as if you never had one in the first place.

Did we tell you everything you need to know about suspended and revoked licenses? If you’re dealing with a suspension or revocation of your own, the best way to get specific answers is to consult with a local attorney.

You can begin your search for an experienced attorney in your area by entering your ZIP code in the search tool below


  1. https://dmv.ny.gov/tickets/penalties-multiple-offenders
  2. https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/drivers-license-examination/
  3. https://www.stateofflorida.com/driving-privilege/
  4. https://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca/title_0610/chapter_0050/part_0020/section_0050/0610-0050-0020-0050.html
  5. https://www.dps.texas.gov/driverlicense/drugoffenses.htm

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