Breaking it down
When your Virginia driver’s license is suspended or revoked, you’re not allowed to drive — not to work, not to the grocery store, not to pick up your kids at school. A charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license can have serious consequences.
- You could face up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine, plus costs to get your driver’s license back
- Your car can be impounded
- You may have a defense if you weren’t technically suspended when you were pulled over, or if you didn’t get proper notice of the suspension
- You may be able to get limited driving privileges to keep your job during your suspension
Driving with a suspended or revoked license is a serious misdemeanor charge under Virginia law. It can result in jail time and thousands of dollars in fees and costs paid before driving privileges are reinstated. A conviction means having a criminal record, even though the suspension was the result of something as innocent as forgetting to pay a small fine.
Options exist for fighting a charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license. it may be your license wasn’t actually suspended, you weren’t given proper notice of the suspension before you were pulled over, or the police officer didn’t have a legal reason to stop you. An experienced traffic defense attorney may be able to help you avoid jail time and get your driver’s license back.
A lawyer also may be able to help you get your charge delayed or dismissed if you take th0.e necessary steps to get your license back before you have to go to court.
What It Means to Have a Suspended License
When your driver’s license is suspended, you’re temporarily not allowed to operate a motor vehicle in Virginia. You can’t legally drive to work or to the grocery store or to pick up your kids at school.
Once the suspension period is over, you can have your license reinstated by the Department of Motor Vehicles. You will need to comply with all of their reinstatement requirements, pay the reinstatement fee, and possibly attend a class or a group interview.
There are a number of reasons your license may have been suspended in Virginia.
- Failing to pay fines for court or a prior ticket
- A reckless driving conviction
- Having too many points on your driver’s license for traffic violations
- Failing to pay child support, jail fees, or a judgment against you from a motor vehicle crash
- Not maintaining insurance on your vehicle or failing to pay the state’s uninsured motor vehicle fee
- A health condition that affects your ability to drive, such as seizures, impaired vision, or loss of motor functions
What It Means to Have a Revoked License
When your license is revoked, you’re banned from driving in Virginia altogether. You also can have driving privileges reinstated when your license is revoked once you’ve complied with the terms, but you have to re-take the driver’s test and get an entirely new license.
Revocation happens under more serious circumstances than a suspension, such as:
- A conviction for driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Getting caught driving while your license is suspended because of a DUI
- Being convicted of voluntary or involuntary vehicular manslaughter
- Falsifying information when applying for a driver’s license, or taking someone else’s driving test or renewing someone else’s license for them
- Drug convictions even when driving wasn’t involved
- Committing a felony using a motor vehicle
- Driving away from the scene of a crash without stopping to provide your information
- Too many points on your license because of convictions while younger than 18
Penalties For Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License
Being charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license in Virginia can be costly and carry some stiff penalties, including:
- Fees and jail time
- Further loss of driving privileges
- Having your vehicle impounded
Under Virginia Code §46.2-301, driving with a suspended or revoked license is a serious misdemeanor. A first or second offense can result in up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, plus fees related to getting your license reinstated and getting your car released from being impounded.
A third offense within 10 years also comes with a maximum sentence of one year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine, but also carries a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail.
In addition to possible jail time and thousands of dollars in fines and costs, when you’re convicted of driving with a suspended license, you’ll receive another suspension equal to the original, so if you’re caught driving under a 90-day suspension, you’ll face another 90 days of no driving privileges.
When your license suspension was part of a conviction for an alcohol-related offense, your vehicle will be immediately impounded for 30 days under Virginia Code § 46.2-301.1 when you’re arrested on suspicion of driving during the suspension. If you’re convicted, the judge may impound your vehicle for an additional 90 days under §46.2-301. The law requires you to pay all of impound and storage costs before your vehicle is released.
To be convicted of driving with a suspended or revoked license, a prosecutor has to prove a few things:
- You were operating a motor vehicle
- Your license was suspended
- You had notice that your license was suspended
The term “motor vehicle” actually means a lot of things under Virginia law. It includes cars, but also motorcycles or any “self-propelled” machine operated on a street, road, or highway. The law specifically excludes mopeds, so you may have a defense to the charge if you were pulled over on a moped, but you have to have been traveling less than 35 mph.
Sometimes timing or paperwork issues can affect whether your license was actually suspended at the time you were pulled over. An experienced traffic defense attorney can help you spot details that might prove you were legally allowed to drive at the time you were arrested.
Virginia law also says you have to be notified that your license was suspended. If you were unaware of the suspension, you may have a defense to the charge, for example if you moved and the suspension notice wasn’t forwarded to you. This can be challenging to document, but a traffic defense attorney can help you determine if this is a valid option for your case.
Another important factor to consider is whether the police had a valid reason to pull you over. Law enforcement officers have to have a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that you’re doing something wrong — committing a crime or violating traffic laws. If the officer didn’t have a legal reason to stop you, then your charge can be dismissed even if you were actually driving with a suspended license.
Reinstating Driving Privileges
Sometimes the best defense is to take the steps to get your license back before you have to go to court. A judge may give you an extension if you’re making a genuine effort to pay your fines or meet the requirements to reinstate your license, but someone with a lawyer has a better chance at making this work. If you can get your license reinstated, the judge may be willing to dismiss your charge.
What you need to do to reinstate your driver’s license will depend on the circumstances of your suspension or revocation. The exact details of your individual requirements can be obtained from the Virginia DMV for a small fee.
- If your license was suspended because you didn’t pay fines or a judgment, you’ll need to pay those and provide proof of payment to the DMV.
- You’ll also need to provide proof of insurance before you can be reinstated.
- Reinstatement fees range from $40 to $220. Those fees will need to be paid prior to reinstatement as well.
- If you were ordered to complete a Driver Improvement Program, you must show that you’ve done that
- If your license was revoked, you’ll have to take your driver’s test again and pay for a new license.
Getting a Restricted License
During the time your license is suspended or revoked, you may have the option to apply for a restricted license offering limited driving privileges, depending on the reason your license was suspended or revoked. You’ll have to prove you meet any requirements imposed by the court granting permission for the restricted license, and you must pay a reinstatement fee before the DMV will issue your license.
You’ll also need to document why you need limited driving privileges, for example if you need to drive to and from work to keep your job you would obtain a letter from your employer on company stationary in support of that request. Driving outside of the terms of your restricted license will result in a charge of driving while suspended or revoked.
Facing a suspended license charge in Virginia?
If you’ve been charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license in Virginia, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help evaluate the details of your case and your options. For an appointment at our Roanoke office, call us at (540) 343-9349.