Not Only the DMV Can Suspend Your License: How to Get it Back


Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress had his driver’s license suspended in March 2013 because he failed to pay a Florida court-ordered settlement to the victim of a 2008 car crash.

In all likelihood, Burress’ name is in the National Driver Register (NDR), a computerized database that prohibits him from getting a license to drive in almost every other state as well  including Pennsylvania, where he works. A parallel program is the Driver License Compact (DLC), which effectively makes violations in other states apply to home-state laws of drivers.

This illustrates the many ways in which a driver can have his or her license suspended (and the far-reaching implications when that happens). The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can suspend a driver for any of the following infractions:

  • Accumulating excessive points – Within the scoring program known as the Negligent Operator Treatment System, this is when too many incidents of traffic violations and/or operation of an unsafe vehicle occur within set periods of time. DUIs, hit-and-run, and other misdemeanor or felony traffic convictions qualify as 2 point violations . In California, drivers are allotted 4 points within 12 months, 6 points within 24 months, or 8 points within 36 months.
  • Getting involved in an accident without proof of insurance (financial responsibility) – An automatic one-year suspension if uninsured at the time of an accident.
  • Not reporting certain accidents – If damages exceed $750 or there were injuries, you must file an SR1 report with the DMV.
  • Getting arrested or convicted for DUI – 6 month’s suspension on a first conviction and up to four years for subsequent convictions. DMV can also suspend a driving privilege on a first DUI arrest for 4 months even without a DUI conviction in court through an independent administrative action.
  • Drinking before turning 21 – With zero tolerance, any measurable amount of blood alcohol content (BAC) can result in underage drinker-drivers receiving a one-year suspension in California.
  • Refusing to take a drug or alcohol test – Even if you are factually innocent of DUI, refusing a blood, urine or breath test can lead to a suspended or revoked license through California's implied consent law, which requires an individual a police officer suspects of driving under the influence to submit to chemical testing if ordered by the officer.
  • Vandalizing property – While unrelated to driving, California’s hard stance against vandalism means that guilty parties who are juveniles or under the age of 18 can receive a one-year suspension or one-year delay before being able to apply for a license.
  • Failing to appear in court or pay a fine – The court refers both to the DMV, where suspensions are issued.
  • Failing to pay family support – Also while unrelated to driving, the Department of Child Support Services can impose a license suspension when child support payments are not made.

Note that license suspensions are in addition to fines, which can run as high as $2,000 for driving on suspended or revoked licenses. Jail time can also accompany certain moving vehicle violations that are considered either misdemeanor or felony such as,  DUI, hit and run, exhibition of speed, reckless driving, and speed contest.

Clearly, the loss of driving privileges can mean more than inconvenience – it can affect an individual’s ability to earn a living. 

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