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There are many reasons why an individual might have their license suspended, and the effects of license suspension can be widespread, so it’s entirely reasonable to wonder, how long does a license suspension stay on your record?
But, the laws of each state are varied, so in order to know exactly how long does a license suspension stay on your record, you need to run a background check on yourself in your state, to see if it’s still public record.
And, you need to understand the laws of your state in order to know how long it will impact you.
This article explores the different scenarios which can result in a license suspension as well as how a license suspension can impact background checks. Learn about license suspension and reinstatement and find out exactly how long license suspensions stay on record.
How Long Does a Suspended License Stay on Your Record?
“Suspended” is one of the status conditions which can be applied to a person’s driver’s license, and it is more severe than all the other statuses except for “Revoked.”22 A suspended license is where an individual loses their driving privilege for a period of time specified by the court.8 Unlike with revocation, the individual is not required to surrender their ID and can apply to reinstate their license once the suspension period has elapsed and all court orders have been met.1
A license suspension is a punishment that may be issued for a wide variety of reasons. In some cases, the reason for license suspension may be because an individual failed to pay court fees and traffic fines or failed to show up for traffic court. In other cases, the individual may have committed too many minor traffic offenses which resulted in an accrual of license points above the threshold for suspension.8
In some instances, a suspension may result from a criminal traffic offense, such as DUI. A suspension typically lasts at least a few months but often longer and typically requires payment of a reinstatement fee to restore to active status.3
Having a suspended license makes it exceedingly difficult for an individual to be a productive member of society and can even impact the individual after the suspension period ends, and many people ask, how long does a license suspension stay on your record?
First of all, it is important to understand that the suspended license does not show up on an individual’s criminal record. While it is sometimes issued as a punishment for criminal driving, it is not a crime. A suspended license is recorded on an individual’s driving record.
The most important factors in determining the length of time a suspended license stays on a person’s record are the reason for the license suspension and the state of residence. As mentioned above, a driver’s license can be suspended for many reasons, and the reason has a great impact on the length of the suspension and how long does a suspended license stay on your record.
For example, a license suspension resulting from an unpaid fine can usually be settled instantly by paying the necessary fees, thus ending the suspension period. In contrast, a suspension secondary to a drunk driving offense is likely to last much longer and require additional steps.14 It can take years for the points from traffic-related offenses to fall off of a driving record.
The license suspension generally appears on the record until the associated offense has been removed.19 Additionally, states have their own laws which impact how long license suspensions are retained on driving records. The next section looks at each state’s laws and timeframes.
How Long Does a License Suspension Stay on Your Record in Each State?
Having established that license suspensions show up on driving records and typically not criminal records, many people may wonder “How long does a license suspension stay on your record in each state?”.
As mentioned previously, driving records provide a comprehensive account of an individual’s lifelong driver history. So technically, the answer is that the suspended license stays on the record forever. However, from a functional point of view, driver’s license points typically fall off in 3 to 5 years, and it is unlikely for someone to request an individual’s MVR report looking back further than 5 to 10 years.
Hence, driver’s records typically do not show suspended license records after the points have dropped off. In states that do not use a point system, the suspension may show and display the date when it was cleared and all driving privileges were restored. View the table below for each state’s vehicle laws, as well as the time range the laws dictate.13
Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act: How To Apply
Many states have been working on driver’s license suspension reforms, such as those adopted by Georgia and New York (briefly discussed earlier in this article), and individuals are eager to take advantage of these new laws which can get them back behind the wheel sooner. With regards to the driver’s license suspension reform act, how to apply is not always a formal process and many individuals are automatically eligible for the benefits.
However, a good starting place is to contact the DMV or traffic court where the suspension was issued. They can guide concerned individuals on how to proceed and may also be able to set up payment plans to get individuals on the road sooner.6
How To Check if My License Is Suspended
Driving on a suspended license is the last thing an individual wants to do as the consequences can be severe.
Many people who need to learn how to check if my license is suspended, can access the information at the state level.
The Division of Motor Vehicles or Department of Transportation is in charge of sending suspension notices in the mail, so regularly monitoring snail mail and email is very important. Individuals who suspect their license may have been suspended can also contact the DMV or their insurance company for confirmation.20
How To Check if License Is Suspended Online
Individuals may also want to know how to check if license is suspended online, as more and more services are offered virtually for convenience. In many states, it is possible to request one’s own driving record online through the Department of Motor Vehicles or an equivalent entity.16
Government sites typically charge a small fee for records. Some states, such as Minnesota or Kansas, do allow an individual to quickly check driver status online. (See Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services or Kansas Department of Revenue.24,25)
Another option for individuals who want to see their entire driving history is to order a driving record check through a trusted third-party website.10
How To Get My License Back Without Paying
Reinstatement fees can be expensive, even over $1,000 in some states, and unfortunately, they are often a necessary part of the reinstatement process. While more states are beginning to waive fees or even automatically reinstate suspended licenses in cases of unpaid court fines, this is nowhere near universally adopted.
An individual may speak with the court and apply for a fee waiver in some states. States with driver’s license reforms in place are increasingly allowing judges to waive fees for low-income individuals.
Another option that is sometimes available is to provide the DMV with a copy of an SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility, from the insurance company. Maintaining the SR-22 with the DMV and car insurance for many months may allow for a waiver of reinstatement fees. However, an SR-22 often results in large hikes in insurance rates, so the benefit may cancel out.18
Suspended Driver’s License Background Check: Does a Suspended License Show Up on a Background Check?
Many who have wondered “What shows up on a background check?” are likely asking “Does a suspended license show up on a background check?” The quick answer is that it can, but doesn’t always.
Understandably, for individuals with a suspended driver’s license, background checks can carry an extra layer of worry and anxiety. The good news is that license suspensions do not show up on most background checks, including those which examine criminal records.
Although a license suspension is sometimes used as a punishment for a crime or driving-related offense, the license suspension in and of itself is not criminal. Note that driving on a suspended license is a crime and will show up on a criminal record check.
Most commonly, license suspensions show up on background checks which pull an individual’s MVR report from the Division of Motor Vehicles. All driving offenses and penalties are recorded on a person’s driving record and background checks which look at MVR reports often examine at least the most recent 5 years. A suspended license is likely to negatively impact background checks conducted for job positions that require driving (e.g. commercial driver’s license DOT background check) or jobs in positions of authority (e.g. law enforcement).
How Long Does a License Suspension Stay on Your Record for a Background Check?
The 50-state table above outlines how long a license suspension stays on an individual’s driving record in each state, but individuals are also wondering “How long does a license suspension stay on your record for a background check?” The timeframes in the table are reflective of when a license suspension is likely to impact an individual’s record and they extend loosely to background checks as well. Because a suspended license is a (sometimes) punishment for a crime and not an actual crime itself, criminal record checks which examine an individual’s arrests, charges, and convictions are unlikely to see the license suspension.
However, background checks which look at an individual’s driving history are likely to see the license suspension for up to 5 years or until the suspension is cleared from the record upon each state’s given time elapses. Note that the time frames begin when the license suspension period ends rather than when it begins. Thus, longer suspension times can contribute to an extended impact on background checks.
Will Suspended License Affect Background Check for Employment?
A suspended license can complicate employment considerably, particularly when an individual works in a position that requires them to operate company vehicles or travel for work. It can also complicate the hiring process, and here’s what individuals asking “Will suspended license affect background check for employment?” should know.
Though applications don’t necessarily ask whether an individual has an active license, they may ask other questions such as “Do you have a reliable vehicle or another way to get to work?” This is a reasonable question, as employers want to know that the person they hire can get to the job when needed. In many cases, an individual can answer this question honestly if they have a friend or family member to drive them or can use public transportation, and that may be the end of that discussion.
The background check process can be a different story as more and more companies are requiring background checks before hiring. What causes a red flag on a background check depends a lot upon the type of job the individual has applied for.
For jobs requiring driving, travel, or operation of company vehicles, it is very likely that the company will order a background check which examines DMV driving records for the last 5 to 10 years.2 In this situation, the suspended license would show up on the background check, as well as the reason for the suspension, making it tough for individuals to compete with more eligible candidates.11
Note that license suspensions secondary to a criminal traffic violation (DUI, reckless driving) are likely to adversely affect background checks at an even greater rate.12
Will a Suspended License Affect a Background Check for a Gun?
Background checks are becoming an increasingly common part of the gun purchasing process, particularly when buying from licensed firearms dealers. This is why so many people have asked “Will a suspended license affect a background check for a gun?”
While a suspended license can be used for the purpose of conducting background checks, a currently valid license is almost always required to complete the purchase of a firearm.5,17 But what about a previously suspended license that has since been reinstated? Does this impact a background check for a gun?
The short answer is that it is unlikely to show up on a gun background check because background checks for firearms are typically looking for red flags on an individual’s criminal record or mental health history, and not their driving record.5
NOTE that the issue of the suspended license may not, in itself, prevent an individual from “passing” a background check for a gun, and criminal offenses leading up to the suspended license (e.g. DUI, reckless driving) could.
How Long Does It Take To Reinstate a License?
Anyone with a suspended license is bound to ask “How long does it take to reinstate a license?” There is not a single answer to this question, as there are many contributing factors, which may include:
- Length of license suspension
- Reason for license suspension
- State of license suspension and the state’s laws
- The individual’s resources
Length of License Suspension
License suspension is issued as a penalty for a variety of behaviors, and the length of a suspension can vary from 30 days up to or even more than 1 year, in some cases. The period of license suspension must be completed before an individual can apply for license reinstatement.
Reason for License Suspension
A license may be suspended for seemingly trivial reasons, such as unpaid tickets or fines. In contrast, it may also be suspended for a significant traffic offense, such as DUI.
In the case of the former, an individual can often request to have their license reinstated as soon as the necessary fees are paid. In the case of the latter, individuals often have to take driving classes and even drug and alcohol classes before having their licenses reinstated. Some states may also require an individual to obtain a certificate of financial responsibility, known as an SR-22.20
For court-ordered suspensions, an individual should find out directly from the court what requirements must be met to have their license reinstated.18 The more elaborate the requirements, the longer the process takes.
How Long Does a Ticket Stay on Your Record for Insurance?
Insurance can be significantly impacted by marks on an individual’s driving record, particularly criminal violations such as DUI and reckless driving, or punitive marks such as license suspension and revocation. Some estimates indicate a 50% insurance premium hike for individuals with a suspended license,23 and will likely be even higher in cases where the license suspension resulted from a serious traffic violation, such as a DUI.
It is no wonder that individuals are frantically asking “How long does a ticket stay on your record for insurance?” In answer, most states use a license point system that tallies and records point accrued from traffic violations over a period of time. Too many points in a one or two-year span can result in license suspension or revocation.
Conversely, an individual who has not had any further violations can usually expect to see those points fall off over time. Insurance companies do consider license points and depending on the type of ticket, it can impact insurance rates for 2 to 5 years.23 Most insurance companies examine the most recent 5 years of an individual’s driving history.
State of License Suspension
In the same way that states have different laws for tracking and penalizing traffic offenses, they also have different methods for license reinstatement.
Some states have begun driver’s license suspension reform which disallows license suspension for unpaid fees or at least automates the reinstatement process.6,7 States which have begun reform provide easier pathways for an individual to reinstate a suspended license. The process will take longer in states without these reforms.4
The Individual’s Resources
License reinstatement almost always comes with an associated fee. In some states, the fee is less than $50 while in other states it can cost more than $1,000.20 Depending on what financial resources are available to the impacted individual, saving the required money to pay a reinstatement fee may take longer than expected.
What Is the Driver’s License Reinstatement Program? (Driver License Forgiveness Program)
The Driver’s License Reinstatement Program sometimes called the Driver’s License Forgiveness Program or Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act is a legislative initiative to change how and when licenses are suspended, to make the license reinstatement process simpler and more affordable, and to forgive and automatically reinstate driver’s licenses which were suspended for certain reasons.
Historically, driving privileges have been suspended for wide-ranging reasons, from negligent driving to unpaid court fees. It is even common for some licenses to be suspended automatically in the latter case, without a judge ever ruling on the issue.
Thus, more and more people who cannot afford to pay traffic tickets or court fees are losing work because their licenses were automatically suspended, in effect, increasing their difficulty paying the fees and fines. Some of the new legislation seeks to proactively help individuals who do not have the money for these debts.
Not all states have begun reforming their license suspension practices, but many states, such as Georgia and New York have.4 Here is what their new policies look like:
- Reduction of reinstatement fees
- Gives judges the ability to decide if and when to suspend a license, replacing the automated system
- Allows the court to waive fees and/or reinstate a license
In June 2021, the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act, New York Assembly Bill A7463B,27 became fully effective in the state of New York. The most important changes brought about by the new law include:6
- Discontinues practice of suspending licenses for unpaid fines and fees
- Reinstates licenses suspended for unpaid fines and fees
- Makes installment payment plans available for unpaid fees, fines, etc.
- Allows drivers to petition the court for a fee reduction
- Mandates additional notice prior to suspending a license for unanswered traffic summons
- Allows drivers to reinstate licenses suspended for unanswered traffic summons/traffic hearings if they appear in traffic court or initiate a payment plan
Note: In general, suspended license reform does not apply to license suspensions secondary to dangerous or criminal driving.15
What Jobs Can I Get With a Suspended License?
License suspension can make it more difficult to be hired for some jobs, leaving many people wondering “What jobs can I get with a suspended license?” This may seem a bit obvious, but individuals with a currently suspended license should apply for jobs that do not require driving. Any company which requires travel, regular driving, or operation of machinery will likely be very difficult to secure. While this may seem to encompass a lot of domains, there are lots of jobs that do not require driving, including but not limited to:
- Customer Service
Does Driving Without a License Show Up on a Background Check?
Driving without a license or with a suspended or revoked license is one of the most serious traffic violations an individual can commit. Furthermore, it is a criminal traffic violation which is often charged as a misdemeanor. In other words, it goes on the individual’s criminal record!
For anyone wondering “Does driving without a license show up on a background check?” the answer is most likely, yes. This traffic offense shows up on both criminal records and driver’s records, and it is likely for a background check is to investigate at least one of these.11
If I Pay My Reinstatement Fee, Will My License Still Be Suspended?
In most states, a reinstatement fee is required to restore a suspended license to active status. However, this does not mean that the fee is the only thing required. Anyone who has ever inquired “If I pay my reinstatement fee, will my license still be suspended?” needs to know that this all depends upon the reason why the license was suspended in the first place.
Some license suspensions occur because court debts, fines, and fees are unpaid. In these situations, it may be entirely possible to restore a suspended license by paying the money owed to the court as well as the reinstatement fee.
For license suspensions issued as a punishment for a traffic-related offense, it may also be possible to restore the active status by paying the reinstatement fee once the suspension period has passed.
However, oftentimes, individuals are required to take defensive driving courses or other classes before the court will allow license reinstatement. Contact the court which ordered the suspension to find out what is required for reinstatement.
How Can I Find Driver License Number by SSN?
Anyone who has misplaced their driver’s license and needs to know their driver’s license number (DLN) has probably looked for a way to find driver license number by SSN. A social security number (SSN) is a key tool for verifying an individual’s identity. However, identity theft is a serious threat, and a SSN should never be input online to try and find a DLN.
Instead, individuals can find the DMV which issued the license using the USA.Gov DMV Search tool and contact them for further guidance.29 The DMV may request that the individual visit in person with an alternate ID and SSN to obtain the desired information.9
How Long Do Violations Stay on Driving Record? (How Long Does a License Suspension Stay on Your Record?)
Individuals, who are concerned about their suspended license staying on their record are likely also curious about any associated traffic violations and may be asking “How long do violations stay on driving record?” Although traffic violations can stay on driving records indefinitely in many states,21 driving records should not be negatively impacted forever. The length of time a violation appears on a driving record depends on the state where the individual lives and the type of violation.
As mentioned earlier, states have varying driving laws and methods for retaining driving records. Some states maintain all violations permanently on an individual’s visible driving record, and other states allow the offenses to “fall off” the driving record over time, usually as the associated license points are reduced. The most common time frame is a period of 3 to 5 years, but state policies are highly nuanced and individualized.
For example, according to the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State,28 most traffic violations in the state of Illinois stay on the driving record for 4 to 5 years. The exceptions are tickets that result in a license suspension or revocation, which stay for a minimum of 7 years after license reinstatement, and tickets for alcohol and drug-related traffic violations which remain on the driving record forever.
License suspensions are issued as punishment for a variety of behaviors, some criminal and some civil. Regardless of why a license was suspended, the potential impact of the suspension on an individual’s livelihood is profound.
For these reasons, it is important for people asking, how long does a license suspension stay on your record, to understand what leads to license suspension, how to check if a license is suspended, as well as exactly how long the suspended license stays on their driving record.