Various reports from agencies such as the Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center have found that one in every six Virginia drivers had a suspended license leading in to the 2019 changes to Virginia’s driving laws.
Worse yet, most Virginia motorists were unaware of how easy it is to suffer a license suspension.
While things are slightly different now, it’s still surprisingly easy to lose your license in Virginia.
In this article, we’ll go over a few common reasons that the Virginia DMV might suspend your license.
We’ll also talk about how you can get your license reinstated once your suspension period is over.
Editor’s Note: A recent budgetary amendment has changed how Virginia treats individuals who have had their licenses suspended due to unpaid court costs and fines.
Learn more by reading our article, “Virginia Code Updates for 2019: An Overview of the New Laws.”
1. Not Paying Court Fines
Editor’s Note: This section has been updated to reflect the 2019 changes to Virginia’s suspended license laws.
Before a budgetary change in 2019, Virginia was one of several states that would suspend or even revoke a resident’s driving privileges if they failed to pay their court costs or child support.
This included both fines for criminal offenses and infractions, as well as miscellaneous costs such as the fee for entering into an alcohol safety program.
However, a budgetary amendment introduced by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recently changed this entire dynamic, leading to a reinstatement of driving privileges for several hundred thousand Virginia residents.
This amendment specifically states:
“[N]otwithstanding the provisions of § 46.2-395 of the Code of Virginia, no court shall suspend any person’s privilege to drive a motor vehicle solely for failure to pay any fines, court costs, forfeitures, restitution, or penalties assessed against such person. The Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles shall reinstate a person’s privilege to drive a motor vehicle that was suspended prior to July 1, 2019, solely pursuant to § 46.2-395 of the Code of Virginia, and shall waive all fees relating to reinstating such person’s driving privileges. Nothing herein shall require the Commissioner to reinstate a person’s driving privileges if such privileges have been otherwise lawfully suspended or revoked or if such person is otherwise ineligible for a driver’s license.”Budget Bill – HB1700 (Chapter 854) Item 3-6.03
Essentially, this amendment notes that, in spite of the laws noted in the amendment, the Commissioner of the DMV “shall reinstate” the driving privileges for any Virginia resident who, if not for outstanding court fines and fees, would otherwise be eligible for a license.
To read the two laws that this amendment is changing the implementation of, see:
- Virginia Code § 46.2-395 — Suspension of license for failure or refusal to pay fines or costs.
- Virginia Code § 46.2-411 — Reinstatement of suspended or revoked license or other privilege to operate or register a motor vehicle; proof of financial responsibility; reinstatement fee.
2. DUI/DWI Charges and Convictions
In Virginia, Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (“DUI”) is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
In addition to penalties such as fines and jail time, the court will order that your license be immediately suspended for a duration of either 7 days (for a first offense) or 60 days (for a second or subsequent offense).
This preliminary suspension as a result of a DUI charge is referred to as an administrative license suspension.
If the court convicts you of DUI, the judge will usually suspend your driving privileges for a much longer period.
The length of your license suspension will depend on the number of previous DUI convictions on your record:
- First Offense — License suspension for one year.
- Second Offense — License suspension for three years.
- Third or Subsequent Offense — License revocation, seizure, and forfeiture of vehicle.
If the court revokes your license, you will need to petition your local Circuit Court for reinstatement.
Generally, you’ll need to wait at least five years to do so, and possibly more.
In the meantime, most local courts set guidelines that will improve your chances of reinstatement.
These usually consist of alcohol or drug awareness classes, community service, and the like.
Driving after your license has been suspended or revoked is a crime in itself, which carries up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Restricted Driving Privileges
Depending on how your DUI case works out, you might be able to receive restricted driving privileges.
This means that you are allowed to drive, but only in certain circumstances.
For example, the court may allow you to have a restricted license to permit you to go to work, alcohol and drug awareness classes, and court appointments.
A violation of these conditions is treated the same as driving on a suspended license.
3. Vehicular Felonies
In Virginia, judges typically punish all motor vehicle felonies with license suspension or revocation.
Additionally, as noted in the DUI section above, the Virginia DMV can suspend or revoke your license “administratively.”
This means that you’ll lose your license as a result of encoded procedures, rather than as a result of a specific criminal conviction.
The most common example of this fact is a license suspension due to DMV demerit points (which we outline in the next section).
Because vehicular felonies have a high chance of placing you above the point threshold, it’s common for such felonies to lead to an administrative suspension of your license.
4. DMV Demerit Points
Everyone starts out with 0 points on their license.
Every year you go without a traffic ticket or accident, the DMV adds one point, to a maximum of five.
However, if you’re found guilty of a traffic violation or traffic related misdemeanor, the DMV will deduct points from your license.
Each offense takes between 3 (texting and driving) and 6 (reckless driving) points. If you lose too many points, the DMV may suspend your license.
In this regard, the most important cutoffs are:
- –12 points in one year, or –18 points in two years. If you reach this level, the DMV will require you to take a mandatory driving course. If you do not, the DMV may suspend your license.
- –18 points in one year, or –24 points in two years. At this point, the DMV will suspend your license for 90 days. At the conclusion of those 90 days, you will need to take a driving improvement course. If you do so and pay the appropriate fee, the DMV will reinstate your license. You will then be on DMV probation for six months.
Keep in mind that in Virginia Judges do not have the liberty of lowering these point values during sentencing.
This means that a conviction for reckless driving, for example, will always be six points on your license.
Traffic Violations in Other States
Virginia is part of the Driver’s License Compact. This means that if you commit a traffic violation in most other states, that will be reported back to the Virginia DMV.
The Virginia DMV will then deduct points based on applicable Virginia laws.
For example, let’s say you receive a speeding ticket in South Carolina because you were going 21 mph over the speed limit.
In South Carolina, that might be a 4-point offense. In Virginia, however, it’s a 6-point violation.
Because the points on your Virginia license are assigned by Virginia law, you will lose 6 points on your license in this case.
If the DMV reinstates your license after suspending it for losing too many points, they will put you on DMV probation for six months.
If you receive a ticket for any traffic violation during this time, your license will be suspended again.
At the end of this six-month period, you will enter the “Control Period.”
If you receive a ticket during this 18-month period, the DMV will place you under probation again.
Demerit Points for Minors
In Virginia, minors have demerit points on their licenses just like adults.
However, the Virginia DMV does not suspend minors’ licenses based on these points.
Instead, minors suffer the following penalties if they commit a traffic offense that would normally deduct points:
- After the first conviction, Virginia law requires the minor to attend a driver education class. If they fail to do so, the DMV will suspend the minor’s license.
- Following a second conviction, the DMV will suspend the minor’s license for 90 days.
- After a third conviction, the DMV will suspend the minor’s license until they turn 18 (minimum one year).
Any points you lose while a minor will stay on your license as an adult.
Similarly, Virginia does not expunge your driving record when you turn 18.
5. Driving Without Insurance
Virginia, unlike almost every other state, does not actually require its drivers to have car insurance.
Instead, Virginia drivers may elect to pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee to the DMV every year.
This fee does not replace or provide insurance. If you get into an accident on the road, you’ll be stuck paying damages out of your own pocket.
If you fail to purchase insurance or pay the UMV fee, the state may find you guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
In addition to the usual penalties, the state will immediately seize your plates and suspend your license.
This suspension will last until you pay the UMV fee or acquire insurance.
Finally, you will also need to submit proof of future financial responsibility to the DMV, as well as paying a reinstatement fee.
6. Falsifying Information to the DMV
In Virginia, it is illegal to knowingly provide the DMV with false information while applying for a driver’s license.
If the court discovers that you have done so, they will revoke your license as well as issue you a fine and/or time in jail.
In most cases, doing so is a misdemeanor.
However, falsifying information for the purpose of acquiring a firearm or providing proof of residency is a felony in Virginia.
Note that this is not the same thing as lying to a police officer.
While also a crime, Virginia judges do not typically punish false reporting with license suspensions.
7. Medical or Physical Conditions
In some cases, the state may decide to indefinitely suspend your license based on a persistent medical or physical condition.
However, if you can provide a statement from a physician proving your fitness to drive, the state may lift the suspension.
They may choose to do this immediately, or they may require you to take a new driving test.
Additionally, the Virginia DMV may require you to submit periodic medical reports to maintain your driver status.
Other Things to Consider
Once your license has been suspended, there are a few scenarios you need to consider so that the problem doesn’t get worse.
License Suspension and Moving to a New State
After having their licenses revoked, many drivers attempt to obtain a new license in a different state.
This is almost always a bad idea.
Virginia is a member of the Driver’s License Compact, and communicates with other states about driving charges.
Members of this compact do not grant licenses to individuals who have had their licenses suspended or revoked in other states until that suspension has ended.
In the case of revocations, the person would have to petition a circuit court in Virginia to reinstate their driving privileges before they can obtain a driver’s license in another member state.
The states of Georgia, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Tennessee are not part of the Driver’s License Compact.
However, each of those states still uses the same country-wide driver database, the National Driver Registry, to do background checks on new drivers.
For that reason, those states may still refuse to grant a new license to someone who has a suspended license in Virginia.
Finally, remember that it is illegal to falsify information on a driver’s license application in any state.
Doing so could incur substantial fines, and potentially other penalties.
At the end of your suspension period, you may petition the Virginia DMV to reinstate your license.
The requirements for this will vary based on the nature of your suspension.
However, you must always provide the following:
- Certification of insurance, or proof that you have payed Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee
- Valid identification, likely including proof of residency
- A license reinstatement fee, which will vary based on the reason that your license was suspended
A license revocation is different from a license suspension.
If a judge revokes your license, that license will be taken away permanently, or at the very least for several years.
At the end of the recommended waiting period you may petition the court to reinstate your license.
You must also request approval from the DMV for a new license and follow the process as if you were applying for the first time.
It’s surprisingly easy to lose your license in Virginia. However, it’s much more difficult and expensive to have your license reinstated.
For that reason, it’s in your best interest to contact a lawyer immediately if you are charged with anything on this list.
Under no circumstances should you wait until the DMV suspends your license to seek legal counsel.