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If you rely on your driver’s license for work, read this!

Imagine you could no longer drive, effective immediately. What would you do? Living in the Hudson Valley, many of us do not have the option of taking public transportation to work, the grocery store, or the doctor.  We require and rely on driving ourselves.  You may even require your driver’s license not only to get to a job, but to actually do the job.

Are you in a business to business sales job that requires you to call on clients at their offices? Pharmaceutical sales perhaps?  Do you deliver furniture or appliances in a company truck? Work in pest control? There are an infinite number of jobs which require driving. If you take a moment to actually imagine your life without the ability to drive, the sudden loss of driving privileges can be a scary thought.

Yet the possibility is not as outrageous as we think.  We are all generally aware that drinking and driving offenses can come with the loss of driving privileges, although many readers will not know of all the various ins-and-outs of those rules, let alone the almost infinite maze of sanctions, assessments, revocations and suspensions definite and indefinite, permissive and mandatory, that is set forth in New York’s law.  This blog does not attempt to explain all of them.  Rather, this piece provides an overview of the general scheme so that readers can understand that even when a matter appears to be a minor traffic issue, there are often greater legal implications specifically relating to their continued ability to operate a motor vehicle.

First, it is well-settled in the law that one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is a privilege and not a right.  That is why various laws allowing the suspension or revocation of driving privileges, sometimes even without notice or a hearing, have been upheld as constitutional.  For example, if you are even charged with an alcohol-related driving offense and the court’s file contains an original and certified report showing that your blood alcohol content at the time of the arrest was a .08% or more, the Court is required to suspend your driving privileges beginning with your first appearance in court, before you have even been proven guilty! Thus, it is possible that you won’t even be allowed to drive home from the courthouse, unless you qualify for a hardship exception to this rule, which is a subject beyond the scope of this blog.

An alcohol-related driving offense is likely to lead to a suspension or revocation of a driver’s license.  What is not generally known is that even in this area of the law, the types and lengths of these sanctions vary.  These matters, like the subject of the hardship license, are beyond the scope of this blog.  However, even when alcohol is not involved, one’s license could be revoked or suspended for myriad other reasons.

In discussing some of these reasons, it is also important to note that there is a critical difference between having your license revoked and merely suspended.  A revocation actually terminates the driver’s existing license.  After the period of revocation ends, the driver must re-apply for their driver’s license through the Department of Motor Vehicles.  This leads to a record review of 25-years of driving history.  A revocation is a problem for a driver with three or more alcohol-related driving incidents in a 25-year period leading up to the commission of the offense for which they are now revoked, because in certain combinations, these convictions and other serious traffic incidents can combine so that the driver is permanently ineligible for re-licensure.

A suspension, on the other hand, does not require re-application to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and is not subject to a record review.  The full license is automatically restored upon termination of the suspension.  Suspensions can be definite or indefinite.  For example, when one is convicted for the first time of driving while impaired by alcohol (as opposed to intoxicated, which is a different and more serious offense under our law), their license will be suspended for 90 days. This is a definite suspension.  On the other hand, if you have ever forgotten to respond to a traffic ticket, your license was suspended by the court (quite possibly without your knowing it!).  In this scenario, you are suspended indefinitely until you make contact with the court and pay a suspension lift fee.  You must then still answer and resolve your original traffic ticket.

Bearing this in mind, there are an endless number of non-alcohol related ways for your license to be suspended or revoked.

  • Accumulating 11 points on your driver’s abstract in any 18-month period will lead to a suspension.
  • Ever use your cell phone and drive? That’s 5 points in one shot.
  • Really lay down your lead foot on 84 or the Thruway? Speeding between 21-30 MPH over the limit is 6 points.
  • It’s easy to see how quickly this could add up for some of us.
  • Three speeding convictions within 18 months will lead to a six month revocation of your license.
  • Leaving the scene of a traffic accident without reporting it will lead to a revocation as well.
  • So will three convictions for passing school buses in three years.
  • If you are in trouble for a non-driving offense and skip out on court after posting bail, suspension of your driver’s license is required.
  • You can also be suspended for failing to pay child support, or being convicted of any felony, even if not driving related.
  • Use your license in an unlawful way, such as allowing your younger and underage look-alike cousin to try to buy alcohol with your license as an ID, and you can expect to have your license suspended.

Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 510 provides most (but not all) of the statutory authority for the suspension and revocation of driver’s licenses when dealing with non-alcohol related driving offenses.  The examples listed above are found in that section, along with countless others that could never be summarized here.

What is important to note, however, is that the statute itself is 13 pages long, full of various ways in which any type of court, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or even the superintendent of the New York State Police can suspend your license! Some of these suspensions come with little or no notice and it’s common to receive a notice from DMV in the mail that your license will be suspended within a few days.   An attorney experienced in traffic matters can appeal or conduct a fair hearing before the DMV.  The point of all this is that it’s impossible to tell you exactly what will happen in every traffic situation but that the safest bet for you is not to assume your next traffic matter is insignificant.

Christopher J. Cardinale, AssociateChristopher J. Cardinale is an associate attorney with the firm and practices family, matrimonial and criminal law.  He can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email.


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