Is your driver’s license suspended? Do you owe surcharges because of tickets or DWI convictions? If you answer yes to either one of these questions, this post is for you.
It is remarkably easy for you to dig yourself into a terrible hole with your driver’s license. Once you get your license suspended the first time, you are at risk of falling into a vicious and relentless cycle of more suspensions, more surcharges, and more potential arrests.
So, how does this happen? You can fall into this trap many different ways. The most common way I’ve seen is too many tickets. If you have three speeding tickets in a year, you will have a license suspension. These are commonly known as points suspensions, ie. too many points in a year equals a license suspension. Also, you can get a license suspension for just one Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility (no insurance ticket) or one Driving While License Invalid (Expired DL). Those offenses also carry surcharges that must be paid to DPS every year for three years in order to maintain a valid license. Most people don’t think or don’t realize that this can happen. People commonly overlook these tickets and instead of avoiding the convictions by sending proof of insurance or a valid DL, they simply pay the fine and court costs and forget about it. That’s the absolute worse thing you can do. By doing that you just agreed to a license suspension and a surcharge. To compound the matter, people don’t ever receive notice of the suspension because their address with DPS is different than where they receive mail, and then one day they get pulled over for something stupid and get arrested for Driving While License Suspended (DWLS). DWLS, you guessed it, carries a suspension of your DL and a DPS Surcharge. Cycle starts over again. More suspensions, more surcharges, and no notice. With the surcharges, DPS gives you the option of paying them yearly up front, or monthly. If you pay the surcharges monthly, and miss a month, your license gets suspended. If you miss the due date at all, your license is suspended. So what started out as forgetting to put your insurance card in your glove box has turned into a night in jail, thousands of dollars in surcharges, lawyer fees, and years of license suspensions.
This cycle is also very common for people with DWI arrests, Boating While Intoxicated arrests, Reckless Driving, and Possession of Marijuana (Marihuana) convictions. First, with DWI/BWI cases, you can lose your license through the ALR process even if you do not get a conviction. You have to have a lawyer to walk you through that process, or you almost certainly will find yourself in this pitfall I’m telling you about here. Additionally, with Reckless Driving and POM convictions, your license is automatically suspended by DPS and you will not know that unless you have a lawyer that knows (no, not all lawyers or judges know this), or you get the Notice of Suspension in the mail from DPS. Minors who receive MIP or MIC convictions also are looking at DL suspensions. Once suspended, your halfway in the hole, and it gets real easy to fall in deeper from there.
How do you avoid this terrible cycle? First, ALWAYS make sure your current address is on your Driver’s License. This is the address DPS will send any Notice of Suspension forms to notify you. All Notice of Suspension forms give you instructions on how to request a hearing before your suspension goes into effect. Those instructions typically include a deadline of 15 to 20 days to request the hearing, and failure to do so means the suspension is automatic. It is imperative that as soon as you receive the Notice of Suspension you contact me so I can ensure the request is done correctly and your right to a hearing is preserved. These hearings can be won if done correctly or you may be eligible to have the suspension probated.
You will not receive a Notice of Suspension if you fail to pay your surcharges because that suspension is automatic, and lasts as long as you are behind on your surcharges. There a couple of things I can do to take care of your surcharges. First, the legislature provided a new law effective September 1, 2011, that allows judges to waive the surcharges in certain situations, such as indigency. I have done several of these orders. This can be done for all types of surcharges from DWIs or tickets. Another way to handle past due surcharges is to get set up on manageable payment plan with MBS which is the company that collects the surcharges for DPS. A manageable payment plan will help insure that you do not miss a payment and suffer an automatic suspension that puts you deeper into the hole. Finally, if necessary, and if you qualify, I can secure an Occupational Driver’s License for so you can keep driving for work and other essential household duties. This is typically the way we handle ALR suspensions, but they are useful for conviction or points suspensions as well, and prevent you from driving without a license that will get you arrested.
If you have any driver’s license issues at all, contact me for a free consultation. It may be easier than you think to get it straightened out, but it might take an experienced DL lawyer like me to take care of it correctly.