Generally, you won't face license suspension if you get a ticket for speeding or rolling through a stop sign. But if you rack up too many moving violations or are convicted of a more serious driving-related offense, license suspension is definitely a possibility. Below you'll find a discussion of common reasons for license suspension, the procedure your state might follow to take your license away, and what you can do to fight a license suspension.
For minor traffic violations like speeding, running a stop sign, running a red light, or texting while driving, license suspension generally isn't going to be one of the possible consequences of a conviction. But if you accumulate too many tickets in a short period of time, you do run the risk of temporarily losing your driving privileges.
Most states handle driver license suspensions using a system that assigns a certain number of points for each type of moving violation. (Some states also imposed points for accidents.) If you get too many points in a certain period of time (two or three years in many states), you'll face license suspension.
Each state's point system is different. But, generally, a driver will start to risk license suspension after being convicted of three or four moving violations within the relevant time period. Point suspensions normally range from about 30 days to six months.
Of course, the best way to keep your points down and avoid a point suspension is to not get tickets. But if you do get a ticket, there's another way to keep points off your record. Most states allow drivers to complete traffic school (also called "defensive driving") for a first violation within a certain period of time (usually, one year to two years). When a driver does traffic school for a violation, no points are assessed to the driver's record.
In states that don't use point systems, drivers generally can still face license suspension for getting too many tickets. In these states, license suspension typically won't happen after a first violation. But drivers who get multiple tickets within a certain period of time (normally, one to three years) could face at least the possibility of license suspension.
In some states, traffic court judges have the discretion to suspend a driver's license for any traffic conviction. Most judges in these states probably don't use this discretion often. But if a case involves aggravating factors such as an accident or the driver having several recent violations, it certainly increases the chances of the judge ordering a suspension.
Typically, license suspensions for getting too many tickets or violation points range from about 10 days to a year. The first suspension for traffic tickets is usually at the lower end of that spectrum (10 to 90 days or so). However, drivers who keep getting tickets after a suspension will be looking at longer suspension periods like six months or a year.
Although minor traffic violations won't normally lead to license suspension unless the driver keeps getting tickets, some more serious violations can result in the loss of driving privileges even for a first offense.
For a first DUI conviction, the driver generally faces a suspension of around six months to a year. A second or subsequent DUI conviction might carry a license suspension of anywhere from one to five years. Some states will even permanently revoke the licenses of drivers who accumulate multiple DUI convictions.
Vehicular assault and vehicular homicide are serious traffic offenses because they involve someone being seriously injured or killed. In most states, drivers convicted of either of these offenses can expect to lose their license for some period of time. Vehicular homicide often carries lifetime license revocation.
States generally impose license suspension for traffic offenses that are particularly dangerous. So it's pretty for license suspension to be one of the possible penalties for reckless driving or excessive speeding violation (both pose substantial risks to other people). License suspension periods for these types of offenses are generally for a year or less.
In most states, drivers who are under the age of 18 are subject to stricter rules than older drivers. Under these types of rules, underage drivers may face license suspension for even a first minor traffic offense.
Depending on the circumstances of your suspension, you might be able to obtain a "hardship" license to drive to and from certain places during your suspension. Typically, a hardship license comes with restrictions that limit where and when the person is allowed to drive. For DUI/DWI offenders, having an ignition interlock device (IID) installed might be a prerequisite for obtaining a hardship license.