A driver’s license is possibly the most valuable possession a person can have, after all, how would you live without one. Not having a driver’s license is a tremendous burden as it impacts your ability to work and, if you support a family, your ability to look after them. Not to mention the problems when an emergency situation arises. It is especially difficult in rural areas or the Pittsburgh region where public transport is almost non-existent.
If you have been caught driving while your driver’s license was suspended, revoked or canceled, even though you had a very good reason for doing so, the police officer who pulled you over and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may not agree with you. You could be facing serious penalties and if you have incurred multiple license violations or your original suspension was because of a DUI offense, you may be sentenced to mandatory jail time.
Know what you can’t do when your license is suspended:
Most people do not realize until it is too late what a major offense it is to drive on a suspended license. Many drivers are unaware of a suspension until they are stopped for another traffic violation. Don’t despair. By addressing the underlying circumstances of the offense or offenses, lawyers experienced in traffic law can ensure that you are not unfairly punished or unjustly accused of a crime. You can fight to restore your freedom and to have your driving privileges restored.
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Suspended License Violations in PA
There are many reasons why your driver’s license could be suspended including DUI (Driving Under the Influence), numerous speeding ticket points, drug possession or driving under the influence of drugs, unpaid parking fines, and even arrears in child support.
Pennsylvania statute places driving while suspended into two categories:
- Driving while suspended for non-DUI causes (153a). A first offense normally does not carry a mandatory sentence, but certain district courts may impose a jail sentence. Subsequent offenses can get you up to 6 months jail time.
- Driving while suspended for DUI reasons or refusal of a breathalyzer test. On a first offense, a mandatory minimum sentence of 60 days and a maximum of 90 days applies. A second offense will get you a minimum jail sentence of 6 months and for a third offense, you will sit for a minimum of 2 years. If you have any alcohol or drugs in your system when you are pulled over, the minimum jail sentence is 90 days.
Driving Without a License in Pennsylvania
There are three scenarios for driving without a license. You have been stopped for a traffic offense and:
- You have a legitimate license but it is not in your possession. If you are licensed to drive but lack proof when you are pulled over, it is an offense that may be dismissed if you can prove that you had a valid license at the time of the offense. You may have to pay a fine.
- You have never applied for a driver’s license or your license has expired. Pennsylvania Statute 1505 states that no person, except when expressly exempted, may drive any vehicle on a highway or on public property in the Commonwealth unless the person possesses a valid driver’s license. Offenders are subject to a minimum fine of $200 unless satisfactory proof is furnished that a valid license was held on the last day preceding the previous license period, and no more than 1 year has elapsed since the last date of renewal. There will be a fine of $25.
- You were driving while your license had been suspended, revoked or canceled by the authorities. The fine for first-time offenders can be up to $500. If the suspension was due to a DUI, the fine for a first-time offense will be $1,000.
License Suspension Due to DUI Offences
Act 24 has lowered the legal Blood Alcohol Limit (BAC) from .10 to .08 creating a new tiered approach. A combination of an offender’s BAC level and prior offenses will determine the penalties and licensing requirements of an individual. The law focuses on treatment rather than strictly suspension and punishment for first time DUI offenders.
The three levels are:
- General impairment – .08 to .099 BAC
- High BAC – .10 to .159 BAC
- Highest BAC – .16 BAC and higher
The following license suspensions will be imposed:
- No suspension for first offenders with a BAC below .10 and if certain criteria are met. 12 months suspension for second and subsequent offenders.
- Greater than .10 BAC but less than .16: 12 months suspension for first and second offenders. 18 months for third or subsequent offenders.
- Greater than .16 BAC: 12 months suspension for first offenders and 18 months for second offenders.
Your Driver’s License Has Been Suspended, Now What?
Many drivers in Pennsylvania think that they can drive after a suspension period has elapsed. This is a mistake as you may be eligible for reinstatement after your suspension has been served, however, you have to go through the appropriate steps to have your license officially reinstated. In repeat DUI cases this may include an ignition interlock device.
If you are caught driving before your license has officially been reinstated, you will be subject to the same statutory penalties that existed during the suspension period.
Many people unknowingly rack up a number of suspended license violations in a short period of time which may result in a 30-day mandatory jail sentence. Driving without a license can get you a criminal conviction and a black mark on your driving history, as well as other adverse consequences that may have a detrimental effect on the rest of your life.
Qualified lawyers are experienced in walking a case back to avoid the severe criminal penalties imposed on people caught driving without a license, or while under suspension.
How to Fight for your Right to Operate a Vehicle?
Many drivers in Pennsylvania with license suspensions are unaware they have certain rights such as the right to apply for an Occupational License (limited work license), or a Probationary License. Both these limited licenses, under certain circumstances, will allow you to drive legally even though your license has been suspended in order to allow you to earn a living or continue your studies.
Extensive Driving Records
You may also have the right to appeal a conviction for suspension of your driver’s license, even if they occurred many years ago. Called Nunc Pro Tunc, these late appeals presented in the right way can help remove years of suspension from a driver’s record. A record review can find errors that that may have caused years of the suspension being added to your records. This may result in many years of the suspension being removed from your driving records.
You may also have your driving record reviewed and corrected through administrative hearings that may result in the restoration of your driving privileges. Although this process can be frustrating and complicated it may also result in credit for suspension time that had not been given when circumstances were favorable.
If you have been notified that your operating privileges have been recalled because of doctor’s reports of medical conditions you have the right to appeal the decision if you feel that you are a competent driver.
This is important to note that…
Even if your license has been suspended by PennDOT, it is crucial for you to do everything you can to continue driving in order to fulfill the requirements of your employment, family, and overall life.
Sometimes when people have to drive in order to support themselves and their families they feel they have no choice but to drive while under suspension. This does not have to be the case and you don’t have to place your driving record in more jeopardy.
Through a process of hearings, petitions, corrections, and back credits suspensions can be reduced or removed, enabling you to obtain a ‘work’ license or a full license that will enable you to drive legally in Pennsylvania again.