Because drivers with invalid licenses were involved in 19 percent of deaths on U.S. roads in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Virginia takes driving on a suspended or revoked license seriously. If you’ve been caught doing so, it’s important you understand Virginia laws surrounding license suspension and revocation, what penalties you may face, and how an attorney may be able to help you.
Why Suspend or Revoke a License?
The law sees driving as a privilege, not a right, so there are many circumstances under which a person’s license may be suspended or revoked, including:
- Drunk driving or refusing sobriety tests
- Reckless and aggressive driving
- Leaving an accident where someone was killed or injured
- Driving without insurance
- Accumulating too many driving points on your record
Additionally, the state may suspend or revoke driving privileges for reasons not related to traffic offenses, which can include:
- Defaulting on child support payments
- Failing to pay court fees
- Failing to pay state taxes
- Being deemed unfit to drive by reason of mental illness or other disability
Suspension Isn’t as Severe as Revocation
If the court or an officer suspends your license, it’s temporary—so you can attend classes and pay a fee to reinstate your license after the suspension period expires. Additionally, if your license is suspended and it’s your first offense—or your second offense after an 18-month control period—you may be eligible to petition the court for a restricted license, which allows you to travel to:
- School (either yours or your child’s)
- Doctor appointments and emergency rooms
However, if your license is revoked, you’ve lost driving privileges permanently.
Penalties Follow Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License
If you’re caught driving on a suspended or revoked license, it’s considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, and the penalties include:
- First offense and second offense. The driver will be subject to up to 12 months in jail, up to $2,500 in fines, and an additional suspension period matching the time of the initial suspension—or up to 90 days.
- Third or subsequent offense. A third offense includes the same penalties as a first or second offense, but it also includes a mandatory 10-day jail sentence.
If the court believes you are a habitual offender—which means you’ve received 3 major or 12 minor convictions within 10 years—and your license is revoked, you could face penalties, including:
- A jail sentence up to 90 days or 5 years
- A fine up to $2,500
An Experienced Attorney Can Defend You
Because these penalties are severe, it’s important to enlist the help of an experienced attorney who can employ solid defenses, including arguments that:
- You didn’t know about the suspension or revocation. If you’ve been accused of driving on a suspended or revoked license, the state must prove that you knew about the sanction. It’s possible you never received notification and, therefore, were not aware you broke the law.
- You weren’t driving. At least one witness must have seen you operating the vehicle in order for the state to punish you for the offense. Perhaps the officer approached you only after you were out of the vehicle and has no way to prove you were driving in the first place.
- You should not have been stopped. If you were caught driving on a suspended or revoked license only after a police officer made a traffic stop, it may be possible to show that the officer didn’t have sufficient cause to pull you over at all. If the stop is found to be unlawful, any offense discovered as a result of that stop must be suppressed.
- You were driving to “save life or limb.” If you violated your license suspension or revocation in order to save the life of a family member, your attorney may be able to convince the court to lower or dismiss your charges because your actions in that situation were justified.
If You Need Legal Assistance, We’re Ready to Help
Dealing with a suspended driver's license can be difficult, but if you’re convicted of driving on a suspended license, you face even greater challenges. At the law firm of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, our attorneys know how to challenge the prosecution's case. We will work to have your charges dismissed or reduced and, if a trial is necessary, we can build a solid defense for you. To speak with a member of our team, start a live chat on our website.