What Happens When: My License Gets Suspended?

“What happened? Why is my license suspended?”

If only I had a buck for every time a confused potential client has asked me this. Indeed, it’s one of the most common questions any traffic lawyer gets.

Sometimes, this question is easy to answer. Sometimes, it’s a little trickier.

As your attorney, I do not have access to your entire driving record. And in a state like New York, there are many ways that your license can be suspended.

An incomplete list of such reasons: tax debt, child support, DUIs, a pending high speeding ticket in some counties, a missed court date, an unpaid fine, an unpaid driver’s assessment, an unpaid bond, an insurance lapse, a high number of points on your license…

Et cetera, et cetera.

What can an attorney do to help if you’re suspended?

First thing is; I can work with you to figure out why you’re suspended. I have a few ways of doing this, from generating your driving abstract to good old-fashioned shoe leather; meaning, I dig around for answers in traffic court.

Then, we figure out how to address the suspension. For each variety of suspension, there is a different issue to address, and they vary in levels of difficulty. In some cases, I can lift your suspension in a matter of minutes or hours. In other cases, it’s a much more involved process.

If, for example, you are suspended due to a missed court date, you will need to first reschedule your date. Then, you’ll owe a suspension fee to the court of $70 per ticket.

Okay, I’m suspended. What do I do?

First, and I know this sounds obvious, but it bears repeating: Don’t drive!

If you get pulled over by a police officer while your license is suspended in New York, there's a very good chance you are arrested and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation (VTL 511). This is a misdemeanor that can potentially result in jail time. There’s a chance you could get lucky, but I wouldn’t bet on it. In many NYPD precincts, there is a standing order to arrest any motorist stopped with a suspended license. Even if the officer likes you, he may say he’s got no choice.

(If you get arrested for driving a suspended license, my office can help you with that as well — but you’d be better off avoiding that situation altogether.)

Next, it depends on why you are suspended. If you’re suspended due to points on your license, that suspension is usually set by a judge. The suspension will start and end on specific dates. The judge will tell you these details after the hearing, and you should also get a mailing from DMV.

If you are suspended for 31 days or more, you are entitled to a restricted license. Make an appointment at your local DMV and say you are applying for this. You will be asked to turn over your license and will be given a restricted license for a small fee. The restricted license allows a driver to drive between restricted locations, usually their home and their workplace. If you are driving outside the restriction, the license is not valid. If you live in Queens and work in Brooklyn, you will be allowed to drive on the BQE or the Jackie Robinson Parkway. But if you’re pulled over on the Southern State Parkway in Suffolk County, you might be arrested.

If you are suspended for 30 days or less, you are not entitled to a restricted license. Depending on your specific circumstances, a short suspension might, or might not, be a good thing. Let’s say you are suspended for ten days. Great, it’s a shorter suspension! But you cannot apply for a restricted license, which means no driving at all for those ten days.

(Yes, the TVB system has a small number of judges who will suspend a motorist for exactly 30 days. I won’t name their names here, but understand that this is no accident — they’re going out of their way to screw you over.)

As your attorney, I can influence the length of your suspension, and I also have trucks up my sleeve that can avoid many suspensions in the first place. You’re always better off hiring an attorney before, not after, you get suspended.

In Sum: You need to know which questions to ask.

First, why are you suspended, and for how long?

From there, you should be able to figure out what to do, and whether you need a lawyer’s assistance.

If you’re suspended, or afraid you might be soon, call Stites Law at (212) 729-0472.