Permissive License Suspensions for New York Traffic Incidents

August 7, 2019

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

Driving is considered a privilege and not a right. As such, the Commissioner of the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) may suspend or revoke your license if you are a risk to yourself or others on the road.

Most people know their license may be suspended or revoked for certain intoxicated-driving convictions, or for having too many points. However, there are also several other reasons your license may be suspended or revoked. Below, we discuss some of these lesser-known ways you may lose your license.


Law for Permissive License Suspensions or Revocations

Section 510(3) of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law outlines several reasons for which a driver’s privilege may be suspended and/or revoked.

  • For any violation of the traffic laws, whether it incurs points or not
  • Because of a physical or mental disability of the license holder
  • Where the driver has a demonstrated drug problem
  • If the license holder was convicted of any felony
  • Because the license holder is a “habitual or persistent” violator of traffic laws, whether in New York or other jurisdictions
  • For gross negligence in operating a vehicle “in a matter showing a reckless disregard for life or property of others”
  • If the license holder uses a vehicle to commit a crime
  • For evading prosecution for a traffic offense, or evading police to avoid arrest or identification
  • If the driver is a youth and is convicted of a crime (or adjudicated a youthful offender)
  • For menacing certain traffic enforcement agents


Hearings at the DMV

The DMV’s Safety and Business Hearing Bureau conducts hearings brought pursuant to VTL § 510(3). At the hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) will review evidence to determine if you should keep your license. And this includes police reports, and testimony of witnesses.

Importantly, note that the testimony at these hearings is sworn testimony. And that means it can be used in other legal proceedings. For example, a hearing pursuant to VTL § 510(3) may occur when you’ve been involved in a fatal car accident. Yet any statements at such a hearing can be used in other legal proceedings against you, such as a traffic trial, criminal prosecution, or wrongful death lawsuit. As such, it’s important to consult with a criminal defense attorney about how to proceed at such a hearing.


How Long Will the License Suspension or Revocation Be?

As discussed in a previous blog, a suspension is a period of time where the person cannot drive. Upon the completion of the period, the privilege to drive is automatically restored. In contrast, a revocation means after the specified period of time, the driver must re-apply for driving privileges.

There is no limit on the time an ALJ may impose for a suspension under VTL § 501(3). As long as the judge does not abuse his or her discretion, the suspension may be affirmed on appeal. For a driver whose license is revoked under VTL § 510(3), he or she may apply for privileges after 30 days. Unfortunately, a driver whose privilege is suspended or revoked may not apply for a restricted use license to get to and from work, medical appointments, etc.


Case Studies

McKenzie v. Fisher

The driver, who had consumed two alcoholic beverages, struck and killed an intoxicated pedestrian. The accident occurred in the early morning on a straight, level, and dry highway. Despite seeing the pedestrian when she was approximately 100 feet away, the driver did not slow down from traveling 40 to 50 miles per hour. When the driver was approximately three car lengths from the pedestrian, the pedestrian began walking into the driving lane. And then the fatal accident then occurred. The court re-instated a 90-day suspension imposed by the DMV pursuant to VTL § 510(3). In short, the court found there was substantial evidence to support a finding that the driver failed to exercise due care to avoid the accident.


Gerber v. NYS DMV

The driver collided with a motorcyclist while trying to make a left turn. The motorcyclist later died from the accident. At a hearing pursuant to VTL § 510(3), the ALJ determined the driver had violated three traffic laws and revoked the driver’s license. In his defense, the driver alleged the motorcyclist had been speeding, that when he began turning the motorcyclist was not in view, and that the motorcyclist had ingested marijuana and alcohol. Yet the evidence did not support the driver’s allegations, and the revocation of his driving privilege was upheld.


Margolis v. NYS DMV

In this case, the driver’s privilege to drive in New York was suspended, pursuant to VTL § 510(3), for 45 days after he was convicted of driving while using a cell phone. At the hearing, a police officer testified that he observed the driver using a cell phone at least three times while driving. This testimony was sufficient to sustain the charges against him and to support the assessment of a fine and the suspension. As such, the court held the suspension of the driver’s privilege “was not so shocking to one’s sense of fairness as to warrant annulment.”



  • VTL § 510
  • McKenzie v. Fisher, 39 N.Y.2d 103 (1976).
  • Matter of Gerber v. NYS Dept. of Motor Vehicles, 129 A.D.3d 959 (2d Dept. 2015).
  • Matter of Margolis v. NYS Dept. of Motor Vehicles, 170 A.D.3d 843 (2d Dept. 2019).