Many Virginians, like their neighbors throughout the country, rely on their ability to drive a vehicle every day. But what can cause the state to take away that privilege? What are the best ways to prevent license suspension? And how do you get it back? Here's what everyone needs to know.
What Causes License Suspensions?
There are generally three routes to having a license suspended. The first is owing certain kinds of debt. Fortunately, eligible types of debt in Virginia are limited—including child support, certain DMV fees, and judgments related to vehicle accidents.
The second reason is failure to abide by the rules regarding being a driver. These are things like not maintaining required insurance or not completing a required driving course.
The final category of suspensions come from being convicted of certain offenses. One of the most common is reckless driving. You can also lose your license for providing alcohol to minors or intoxicated individuals, or for having too many traffic violations on your record.
Can You Get a Restricted License?
If you face the suspension of your license, you may be able to apply for a restricted license. A restricted license authorizes you to drive only for specific reasons, such as traveling to and from your job. You need to apply for this privilege through the DMV, but the judge will make the decision about whether or not to grant these limited driving privileges.
In some cases, you can apply for a restricted license immediately. This includes things like failure to pay child support or a conviction for DUI. Other circumstances—like a second or third DUI or a conviction for manslaughter related to driving—require you to wait up to three years to get a restricted license.
How Do You Get Your License Back?
If your license is suspended, how do you get it back when the waiting period is over? Virginia requires the driver to apply for reinstatement when they are legally allowed, rather than the reinstatement process starting automatically. You will need to start by obtaining a compliance summary and driver transcript from the DMV. This details what you must do to qualify for reinstatement and which steps have been completed.
Next, gather proof of any other requirements you were given before reinstatement would be allowed. For instance, the court may have ordered you to take a certain driving course. You will also need proof of insurance or the required uninsured motorist fee. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to apply for a renewal or replacement license if approved.
Pay the reinstatement fee promptly.
Can You Avoid License Suspension?
The best way to navigate license suspension, of course, is to avoid it altogether. If you are stopped by law enforcement and given a traffic violation, defend yourself vigorously. Fewer traffic convictions mean less chance of losing your license due to demerit points on that license. And if you are accused of a more serious driving offense—particularly reckless driving or DUI—explore all your defense options.
If you can't avoid a conviction, you may still be able to negotiate a lesser penalty. This is known as plea bargaining, a common defense strategy to minimize the severity of that conviction. For instance, your lawyer may be able to argue for lesser charges which have fewer demerit points or don't result in a second DUI conviction. These tactics can result in keeping your license.
Losing your license for any period of time makes your life more difficult and stressful. Whether you've already been suspended or there's still time to avoid it, start by getting experienced legal help. Tri Cities Law Group can help. We'll help you develop the best legal strategy to avoid or mitigate penalties like this. Call today to make an appointment.