What Happens If You Drive With a Suspended License?

Driving with a suspended license is a serious offense in every state. Many states consider the offense a misdemeanor. It's punishable by penalties that often include jail time and fines but this varies widely by state. Check your license status to be sure it's valid and you're not driving illegally.

Penalties for Driving Illegally

Penalties for driving with a suspended license vary by state and whether you have been caught before. In some states, like California, the law enforcement officer may immediately place you under arrest and escort you to jail. You might be allowed to post bail, depending on your history and the reason your driver's license was suspended. Repeat offenders typically pay increasingly higher amounts. Other possible penalties include community service, fines and the cancellation or revocation of your license.

Court Appearance

You may represent yourself in court or have an attorney represent you. The ruling depends on the seriousness of the offense and could range from a fine to jail time. Again, penalties vary among the states. For instance, first-time offenders in New Jersey pay a fine of $500, which increases by $250 for each repeat offense, up to $1,000 at the time of publication. Driving with a suspended license while drunk in the state earns you 10 to 90 days in jail or 45 days if you had an accident. In Arizona you could be sentenced for up to two years.

Your Vehicle

If you were driving with a suspended license with licensed passenger in your car, who is legally able to drive, the police officer might allow that person to drive your car home. If not, the officer might allow you to call a friend or family member to come and pick the car up, if the person can arrive in a reasonable amount of time. If there is no one to help you, the officer must impound your car. Impound lots charge steep daily fees for storage that accumulate until owners are able to retrieve their vehicles.

Your Insurance

Insurance companies typically increase the rates for customers with driving infractions, accidents and suspended licenses. Most terminate service for repeat offenders and this is likely to happen if you're caught driving illegally. It would be difficult to obtain new coverage with this history.

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