While some motorists regard driving as a basic right, the fact is that operating a motor vehicle is a privilege that must be earned and maintained by demonstrating safe and lawful driving. Under certain circumstances, an individual's Pennsylvania driver's license may be suspended or revoked for a specific length of time, depending on the person's driving record or history, and the particular violation(s).
REASONS FOR DRIVER'S LICENSE SUSPENSIONS
There are a variety of reasons why your Pennsylvania driver's license might be suspended. Some of these are related to specific driving violations, while others may be due to violation of other State laws. Following are some of the most common reasons for a Pennsylvania driver's license to be suspended or revoked.
- Driving Under the Influence. Your Pennsylvania driver's license will be suspended if you are found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The length of the suspension will depend on the degree of intoxication and your previous driving record. There are three degrees of intoxication in Pennsylvania:
- General Impairment - 0.08% to 0.099% blood alcohol content (BAC)
Periods of suspension up to one year, jail terms of up to two years and fines of up to $5,000. You may also be required to have an ignition alcohol lock fitted to your vehicle and be required to attend alcohol and drug treatment.
- High BAC - 0.10% to 0.159%
Periods of suspension up to 18 months, jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to $10,000. You may also be required to have an ignition alcohol lock fitted to your vehicle and be required to attend alcohol and drug treatment
- Highest BAC - 0.16% and over
Periods of suspension up to 18 months, jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to $10,000. You may also be required to have an ignition alcohol lock fitted to your vehicle and be required to attend alcohol and drug treatment. In addition, you may be charged with a first degree misdemeanor.
- Excessive Moving Violations. The state of Pennsylvania operates on a point system, in which drivers accumulate points on their license for every moving violation they commit. License restrictions and fines vary according to how many and how often you accumulate points.
- The first time you exceed six points, you must pass a written exam regarding traffic safety. If you do not pass this test within 30 days, your license will be suspended until you do pass. If you do pass, your points total will be reduced by two points.
- The second time you exceed six points you must attend a Pennsylvania Department of Transport (DOT) hearing. Failure to attend will result in a mandatory 60 day suspension. At the hearing, an examiner will examine your driving record. Based on his/her decision, you will have your license suspended for 15 days and must pass an on-road driving test. If you pass this test within 30 days you will have your driving record reduced by two points.
- If you exceed six points three or more times, you will have to attend a mandatory DOT hearing, at which an examiner will review your record and possibly impose a 30 day suspension. Failure to attend the hearing will result in license suspension until such time as you do attend.
- Exceeding 10 points will result in immediate suspension. The period of suspension will be determined by your previous suspension record - one previous suspension, five days per point; two previous suspensions, 10 days per point; three previous suspensions, 15 days per point; subsequent suspensions, one years suspension.
- Driving without Insurance. All motor vehicles driven in Pennsylvania must be properly insured. Failure to provide proof of valid auto insurance can result in your license being suspended.
- Driving with a Suspended License or no License. Driving with a suspended license will lead to an increase in the length of the suspension, and you may also be imprisoned for up to five years. The duration of the additional suspension varies depending on the reason for the underlying suspension. Your driver's license may also be suspended if you do not have your license with you while you are driving.
- Other Driving-Related Violations. Your Pennsylvania driver's license may also be suspended if you engage in reckless driving, are found to be at fault in a fatal accident, or if you abandon your vehicle on a public highway.
- Physical or Psychological Disqualification. The DOT can order a re-examination of any person who may not be fit to drive. An individual's driving privileges may be suspended if the re-examination finds they are physically or psychologically unable to drive safely.
- Non-Driving Reasons for License Suspension. A variety of non-driving violations or issues can result in your license being suspended. These include: not responding to a DOT notice or not appearing in court; failing to pay traffic tickets, fines or surcharges; and not paying child support.
- Failure to stop for a school bus. Your license will be suspended if you fail to stop for a school bus with flashing red lights.
- Excessive Speed. When a driver is convicted for speeding over 31 mph, the driver will have to attend a hearing and will get a 15 Day License Suspension or/and Special On-Road Driver's Examination. In a 15 day suspension, the driving record will show 5 points upon restoration.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PENNSYLVANIA DRIVER'S LICENSE IS SUSPENDED
Having your Pennsylvania driver's license suspended is a serious matter and it is essential to adhere to State law in the event that your license is suspended.
You will be notified by the Department that your license has been suspended. You must then surrender it to the Pennsylvania Department of Transport by mail or handing it in to:
PennDOT Bureau of Driver Licensing PO Box 68693 Harrisburg, PA 17106-8693
You will also need to include a completed Acknowledgment Form for the suspension/revocation.
If you believe your license may be suspended due to one of the reasons listed above it is advisable to speak with a traffic ticket lawyer or a DUI-DWI lawyer.
APPEALING A SUSPENSION
Before your license is suspended, you will receive a notification of proposed suspension from the Department of Transport. You have the option to appeal through your county's Court of Common Appeal, but there is no guarantee that any appeal will be successful. In addition, drivers whose license may be suspended due to accumulating excessive points may be eligible to enroll in a Driver Improvement Program. Completing a Driver Improvement Program may remove points from the current driving record, and in some cases can enable an individual to avoid having his license suspended.
You may be eligible to obtain either a probationary license, which will allow you to drive between the hours of 6:00am and 7:00pm, or under certain circumstances an occupational limited license. To apply for a probationary license, you need to complete a probationary license petition and pay the $85.25 fee. If your application fails, $25 of that fee is non-refundable. For an occupational limited license, you need to complete form DL-15 and submit it together with the $50 fee and proof of insurance. The Bureau of Driver Licensing will advise you within 20 days if your application has been successful.
In both cases above, you should send your application to:
PennDOT Bureau of Driver Licensing OLL/PL Unit P.O. Box 68689 Harrisburg, PA 17106-8689
RESTORING YOUR LICENSE
Once your suspension has expired, you can resume driving, provided you show proof of insurance and have paid any outstanding fees. Regardless of how many points you had on your license prior to suspension, the total on your driver record will be set to five.