Base legal cautions driving with suspended license

  • Published
  • By Capt. Meredith Steer
  • Eglin Legal Office
A surprising number of people are ticketed for driving with a suspended license on base and a common problem seems to be that many do not know there are two steps to reinstating their license after it has been suspended-contacting both the ticket-issuing court and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

In Florida, and most other states, the state may suspend a driver's license for a variety of reasons. A license is usually suspended for failure to pay traffic tickets, failure to pay child support on time and failure to appear in court when you have a mandatory court appearance.

It is also not uncommon for a driver's license to be suspended due to administrative error. For example, a clerk forgets to enter the information into the system and it gets reported to DMV before the clerk fixes his error.

If your license is suspended, you should receive a notice in the mail. However, the notice will be sent to the last known address. Military members need to understand the last known address may not be their current address.

Here's an example of what typically happens. A person receives a notice that their license has been suspended for not paying a minor traffic ticket. The person thinks back and realizes that, indeed, he forgot to pay the minor traffic ticket received in the mail while on vacation a few months ago. Immediately the search for the ticket begins, the court is contacted and the ticket plus the late fees are paid. The clerk, who receives the payment, notifies DMV.

What the clerk may forget to mention is that court payment received doesn't mean the process of reinstatement is complete with DMV.

The second step in reinstating a suspended license is contacting the DMV, who verifies that the traffic ticket is no longer outstanding. They also will require payment of a reinstatement fee before the license is officially valid. Even if you receive a second notice in the mail informing you that your license has been reinstated, your license is not reinstated if you have not paid the reinstatement fee.

Make sure that you keep proof or evidence that you paid your tickets, especially if your license is from a different state. It will make things a lot easier on you if the clerk does not follow through and notify the DMV.

Anyone cited for this offense in Florida will likely be charged for driving with a suspended license without knowledge. There is a mandatory court appearance and fine of $60 plus a $25 processing fee and the appearance doesn't involve points on a driver's license.

However, the judge might mention that by appearing in court, you are now on notice of the problem and if you are cited again before having the license reinstated, you will be charged with driving with a suspended license with knowledge. This is a much more serious offense and involves much greater fines.

You could also be charged with driving with a suspended license with knowledge if you receive a second citation before your court date for the first one. Once you are cited, stop driving and carpool with someone else until you have fixed the problem.

The lesson learned here is avoid a suspended license, first and foremost. However, if you end up in that situation make sure you follow through with the ticket-issuing court and DMV. Don't wait until you are charged on base to remedy the situation.