Personal Finance

13 Ways You Could Lose Your License Without Getting Behind the Wheel

13 Ways You Could Lose Your License Without Getting Behind the Wheel

Your driver's license may be suspended for a number of surprising reasons that have nothing to do with driving.
What might you have done to get your license suspended?
What might you have done to get your license suspended? Source: Getty Images

There are obvious things that can cause you to have your driver's license suspended — for instance, driving under the influence or driving recklessly. You can even lose your license for driving without car insurance.

But what most drivers don't know is that a surprising number of nondriving violations can result in the suspension of your license. While laws vary by state, there are more than a dozen ways your license can get suspended that have nothing to do with your actions behind the wheel or even the number of unpaid parking tickets in your glove compartment.

While you're more likely to lose your license for an action you take behind the wheel, there are plenty of opportunities for a license suspension without ever getting in the driver's seat.

Reasons your license may be suspended

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it's a good representation of all the (nonvehicular) reasons your department of motor vehicles may take your license away. In most cases, a conviction will result in a driver's license suspension. But if you're a frequent offender, your state could permanently revoke your license or even send you to jail.

While we listed states with these offenses, a state's exclusion from the list isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card — these offenses may result in a license suspension in another state.

1. Failure to pay child support

If you are delinquent on child support payments — and the amount and timing vary by region — you could have your license suspended. You'll be notified and given the chance to correct the situation before that happens. In some states, however, you may apply for a temporary license if losing your car would make it hard to get to work and earn income to make child support payments.

Where this applies: Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia

2. Underage possession of alcohol

If you're under the legal drinking age and are caught tippling — and in some cases, smoking tobacco — you could get your license suspended. Most states suspend licenses for 60 days up to a year, depending on the state and how often you've committed this offense.

Where this applies: Most states

3. Doing illegal things with your license

While this sounds vague and nefarious, it simply means using a fake driver's license or misrepresenting information about yourself on your driver's license. You also don't want to share your license with your friends (like you would your Netflix account) so they can get into a club or drink underage. Other ways you'll run afoul of the law and risk license suspension: having multiple licenses or using your license for illegal purposes, such as committing fraud.

Where this applies: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

4. Conviction for a drug offense

Details vary by state, but if you're convicted of a drug-related offense, your license may be in jeopardy.

Where this applies: Massachusetts, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont

5. Defaulting on your student loans

While it's tempting given that the average student loan debt is up to nearly $33,000 per borrower, skipping out on your student loans won't do you any favors. It could even result in a license suspension in many states. That means you'll need to deal with the DMV — in addition to your lender.

Where this applies: Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington

6. Skipping school

If the "be cool, stay in school" campaign doesn't motivate you to show up for roll call on a daily basis, perhaps this fact will. Some states will take away your privilege to drive if you frequently miss class. In Florida, for example, teens under 18 can have their learner's permit or license suspended for missing more than 15 days of school with unexcused absences within a 90-day period. In Vermont, dropping out of school can land you in the same boat.

Where this applies: Florida, Vermont

7. Writing bad checks

If you accidentally bounce a check, that's one thing. But if you're writing bad checks on purpose, in some states it can result in a license suspension.

Where this applies: Indiana

8. Boating while intoxicated

If drinking and driving can lead to a license suspension, you can see why drinking and piloting a boat would equally be frowned upon. And if you get caught, you could lose your ability to drive on land.

Where this applies: Alaska, California, Texas, Utah

9. Failing to pay what you owe to the state

Owing money to the federal government is one thing — but owing money to your state can cost you your license, at least temporarily. Usually this is for large debts, around $10,000 or more, and the state will notify you of the situation before you lose anything.

Where this applies: Iowa, Massachusetts, South Dakota

10. Vandalism

While you may think you're the next Banksy, many governments consider it vandalism to spray paint artwork on public buildings. Drawing graffiti in the Golden State, for instance, results in a driver's license suspension.

Where this applies: California

11. Advocating the overthrow of the government

The Revolutionary War gave us our great nation (and the entitlement to choose coffee over tea), but these days, you could face a fine or even prison time if you're convicted of this offense. In New York, you could also lose your ability to drive your car.

Where this applies: New York

12. Operating an amusement ride while intoxicated

While this applies to a very specific subset of the population — namely, amusement park and carnival ride operators — it's a big no-no. You could lose your driver's license if you operate or assemble an amusement ride while under the influence.

Where this applies: Texas

13. Parental withdrawal

Typically, parents must give minor children permission to obtain a driver's license. But if you're under 18 and somehow screw up this privilege, Mom and Dad can withdraw that permission, effectively suspending your license.

Where this applies: Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Vermont

How long is a driver's license suspension?

The length of the license suspension depends on the state, the severity of the offense and whether you're a repeat offender. But many suspensions run from about 30 days up to a year.

What's the impact of having a suspended license?

Obviously, you can't drive with a suspended license. If you get caught driving with one, the state may impose a fine, extend the length of your license suspension or even send you to jail. And the penalties increase if you're a repeat offender.

That said, in some cases you might be eligible for a "hardship license" that allows you to drive in some cases. For example, you may be able to drive to work if you have no other way to get there. But there are limitations. You can't take your vacation road trip using your hardship license, for example.

There's also the matter of ID. Often — but not always — you must surrender your driver's license, leaving you without photo identification unless you have a passport. You may be able to get an identification card from your municipality, and the court can instruct you on how and where to do that.

With a license suspension, you can work your way back into the good graces of the law by paying a reinstatement fee and fulfilling other terms outlined by the court or the department of motor vehicles.

And if your license is revoked, your driving privilege is permanently taken away and you can never legally drive in that state again.

How can I get my suspended license reinstated?

Restoring your license will generally require you to complete your suspension sentence, take a defensive driving course or other traffic class, and get an SR-22 from your insurance company. An SR-22 is a document that your insurance company files on your behalf; it confirms you're carrying at least the minimum coverage.

You'll also have to pay a reinstatement fee, which varies by state. In Connecticut, for instance, that fee is $175. In many states, the reinstatement fee depends on the reason for suspension. For example, it costs more money in Nevada to reinstate your license if you lost it for an alcohol- or drug-related offense.

Many of the logistics of driver's license suspension are state-specific, but if you keep yourself on the right side of the law, chances are you won't have to worry about a suspended license running you off the road.