In 2004, the State of Georgia revoked or suspended 306,000 Georgia driver’s licenses, a trend that is on the rise, local police officials say. Bad driving, drunk driving, driving without a license and driving without valid vehicle registration or insurance are all ways a person can have their driving privileges suspended in Georgia.
Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin attributes the increase in suspensions to better enforcement of traffic laws. The most common reason people have their licenses suspended is for committing a serious traffic offense, Griffin said.
People who are living or working in the United States illegally are unable to get a driver’s license in Georgia, Griffin said. A proposed law currently being considered in the Georgia Legislature would require law enforcement agencies to determine the nationality of a person charged with a felony, driving under the influence or driving without a license. The law would also strengthen penalties for driving without a license.
There are three ways persons may lose their driving privileges, according to the Georgia Department of Driver Services: if a person fails to give the required or correct information on a driver’s license application, their license can be canceled; if a person is convicted of one of 13 offenses or accumulates a certain number of points for other offenses, their license may be suspended; if a person has their license suspended three times within five years or is declared unfit to drive for mental, physical or other reasons, their license can be revoked.
Drivers under the age of 21 can have their licenses suspended if they are convicted of any of 11 offenses, including alcohol-related crimes.
Under Georgia’s teen driver’s laws, the licenses of anyone under 18 can be suspended for accumulating four driver’s points within one year or for violating rules related to school attendance and behavior, including dropping out of school or accumulating excessive absences.
Ways a License Can be Suspended or Revoked
Being convicted of any of the following offenses can result in an automatic suspension of a driver’s license: homicide by vehicle; DUI (alcohol or drugs); felony using a car; fleeing/attempting to elude officer; fradulent/fictitious use of or application for license; hit and run; racing; refusal to take a chemical test for intoxication; driving on suspended/canceled/revoked license; canceled or suspended vehicle registration; driving without insurance; failure to appear in court; possession, manufacture, cultivation, sale or transfer of a controlled substance or marijuana; accumulation of 15 points within 24 months (including out-of-state offenses).
Griffin said he believes a significant portion of people caught driving with a suspended license have already broken traffic laws in the past.
“We’re seeing a pattern of bad drivers being arrested for driving with suspended licenses,” Griffin said. “I think your statistics and criminal histories would show that with most of the people we catch, it’s not a case of a person having their license suspended without having a previous traffic offense. People with multiple convictions on driving with a suspended license have a total disregard for traffic laws.”
A person’s driver’s license can be automatically revoked by reaching habitual violator status, which occurs after a person receives three convictions on offenses for which a license can be suspended.
Licenses can also be revoked if a person refuses to submit to a driver’s exam after being given notice of reasonable grounds for doing so, or if they are otherwise declared incompetent or unfit to drive.
Penalties For Driving on a Suspended License
Under Georgia law, a judge is supposed to give violators of traffic laws at least a few days in jail if they are caught driving with a suspended license more than once. The maximum sentence violators can be given is a year in prison.
The first offense for driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor. People convicted of a first offense have to stay at least two days in jail and pay a minimum fine of $500. Their license will be suspended for an additional six months on top of their previous suspension. In addition, to meet their reinstatement requirements, offenders will have to pay for two defensive driving classes and two $200 fees, instead of just one of each.
A second or subsequent offense for driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. People convicted of a second or subsequent offense have to spend at least 10 days in jail and pay a fine ranging anywhere from $1,000-$2,500, as well as having their license suspended for additional time.
Being convicted of under the influence can carry jail time, too. A person must serve one day in jail after their first DUI conviction, two days after their second and 10 days after their third.
License suspensions start as soon as a person is convicted of violating a traffic law that results in a mandatory suspension. However, licenses can also be suspended at other times, such as when a person fails to appear in court for a traffic law citation or if vehicle insurance lapses. A person does not get credit for a suspension time until they have turned in their license to the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
How to Obtain a Limited Driving Permit
People convicted of one of the offenses that trigger a mandatory license suspension can obtain a limited driver’s permit, unless they are convicted of driving on a suspended license.
Limited driver’s permits can be obtained for going to work or performing work duties, traveling to receive medical attention or prescription drugs, attending classes at a college or regularly scheduled school, attending a driver’s education class, assessment program or treatment program that is court-ordered or to take a vehicle to be serviced in the event an ignition interlock device is installed by court order.
People with suspended licenses can also request that their license be reinstated once certain requirements are met.
For more information, people may call the Department of Driver Services toll-free at (866) 754-3687 during weekday business hours or send a letter requesting reinstatement requirements to: Georgia Department of Driver Services, P.O. Box 80447, Conyers, GA 30013.
Mailed requests must contain a person’s name as it appears on their driver’s license, their license number, date of birth, correct mailing address and their signature.