When Your License Gets Suspended for Non-Driving Violations

September 19, 2018

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

Many of us need to drive to get to work, take care of our children, or attend school. However, there is no absolute right to drive in the state of New York – it is considered a privilege, and you can be subject to a license suspension or revocation by a judge or by the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”).

Here, we’ll discuss some of the ways your license can be suspended or revoked, even for non-driving violations. As there are many complicated regulations relating to driver’s licenses and driving privileges, if you have a concern about your specific situation it is best to consult with an attorney experienced in dealing with such issues.


Suspension vs. Revocation

A suspension is when your privilege is taken away for a period of time prior to it being restored. There may be a suspension termination fee before you can drive again.

A revocation, however, takes away your privilege indefinitely. You must re-apply for your driving privilege once the revocation period has lapsed, although in some circumstances a revocation can be for life. There are often civil penalties associated with a revocation by the DMV.


Traffic Tickets & Intoxicated Driving Charges

Traffic tickets are commonly how people end up with suspended or revoked privileges. Failing to answer a ticket or pay a fine or civil assessment will result in a suspension that is only lifted when you answer the ticket or pay the fine. Accumulating 11 or more points within an 18 month period, or having too many speeding convictions within that period of time, can also result in the loss of driving privileges. Various other types of tickets may result in suspensions or revocations, including speed contests and leaving the scene of a fatal or personal injury accident. Loss of privileges also results when convicted of operating a vehicle without insurance or proper registration, or if a death or assault occurs as a result of the improper operation of a motor vehicle.

If you are arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI“) or other similar types of charges, your license may be suspended for 30 days whether you are convicted or not. Thereafter, if you’re convicted of alcohol or drug related driving offenses, your license can be suspended or revoked for up to one year. Revocations could be longer if the driver is under the age of 21 at the time of the offense, or if the driver has prior alcohol-related convictions. Further, you may have an additional revocation imposed if you refuse to submit to a chemical test. There are additional penalties for multiple offenders, including the possibility of lifetime revocation of driving privileges.


Drug Charges

Absent “compelling circumstances,” if a person is convicted of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 7th Degree, a class A misdemeanor, he or she will face a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension. This suspension is imposed whether or not the drugs were present or anywhere near a vehicle. Whether compelling circumstances are present to avoid the suspension is up to the sentencing judge.

A recent article discusses the legislative history of why drug convictions are punished with such suspensions. During the drug epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, it was believed that  incarceration wasn’t adequately deterring drug use, as few casual users were facing jail time for simple possession. It was believed that losing the privilege to drive would dissuade people from possessing and using drugs – particularly young people. Some have criticized that the suspension unfairly punishes those who make the conscious decision not to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence.


Failure to Pay Child Support

Child custody and support proceedings can be difficult, with one of the consequences of unpaid child support being the suspension of driving privileges. If the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (“OTDA”) reports to the DMV that a person has failed to pay child support, the DMV will suspend a driver’s privileges. The DMV will remove the suspension when the OTDA notifies the DMV that payment was resolved. During the suspension period, the person may be eligible for a restricted use license, which would allow them to drive for work and child care.


Other Types of Suspensions and Revocations

If you make a false statement on an application for a license or registration, or have someone take a road test for you, you can have your license revoked for six months or longer. Additionally, if you illegally purchase alcohol by using an altered or fraudulent ID card as proof of age, your driver license or privilege will be suspended.

There are certain types of court judgments which can also subject a person to a suspension or revocation. For example, if a person fails to satisfy a court judgment relating to a traffic accident, the person may have his or her privilege to drive suspended or revoked.

DMV can also hold hearings for fatal traffic accidents, the result of which can be a suspension or revocation. Further, the DMV can conduct hearings and examinations, pursuant to its driver re-evaluation program, to determine whether a driver is qualified to drive or not.

The above information addresses suspensions and regular, non-commercial driving privileges. If you have a commercial driver’s license (“CDL”), there are separate regulations governing suspensions and revocations for such privileges.