Go directly to: Virginia Suspended License Laws
This section covers topics such as: US legal status and deportation risk; habitual offender status; when you may lose driving privileges; suspended or revoked license due to disability and/or addiction; and more
Virginia Suspended License Defenses
Important Message from our Fairfax traffic attorney
The information on this page is not legal advice, but is helpful information from our Northern Virginia, Fairfax traffic attorney. If you have an upcoming case in Northern Virginia, call (571.316.2639) or send us a message to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation (phone – web – in-office = your choice).
Many different circumstances can lead an accused driver to seek the answers to questions:
- driving privileges (past, present, or future);
- restricted license and what that means;
- whether the offense charged will result in a suspended license;
- ability to restore a previously revoked license;
- chance one can avoid a suspended license upon conviction in Virginia; and/or,
- jail time.
Virginia Suspended License Laws
Important: The Accused’s Legal Status
Due to the status of the offense — driving when a license is suspended (or revoked) is a crime in Virginia, and because it is a Class 1 misdemeanor — a judge can sentence a convicted individual to:
- up to 12 months of confinement as a Class 1 misdemeanor
- $2,500 fine; and/or
…and it is important all non-citizens read and understand this section:
When a person who is not in the United States legally and is held after an arrest, or after a conviction resulting in jail time (even time in a non-federal, county or city jail, such as the Fairfax adult detention center), Federal authorities may place a detainer on the individual, which could lead to deportation. Therefore, it is often an urgent concern to those facing a traffic/license violation…the goal being to avoid jail time.
Common license-related offenses we see tend to be:
- Driving without valid license (46.2-300) (no O/L);
- Driving with suspended (46.2-301); and
- Driving after revoked due to DWI (18.2-272)
If you are not a legal resident of the United States, going to jail may result in deportation. Therefore, it is imperative you talk to a Fairfax traffic attorneyand/or Provo criminal lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions of Virginia Traffic Lawyers
Will I automatically lose my license if I am convicted of my traffic charge?
First, the laws in Virginia may or may not require automatic suspension or revocation of one’s driver’s license if convicted of an offense. For example, this law in particular lays out some examples of required revocation.1 (If you read the statute, you will find a range of offenses, from the somewhat obvious (e.g., involuntary or voluntary manslaughter), to the less apparent, such as making of a false statement to DMV on a license application.
Sometimes, even a single conviction can result in license suspension…
Dear Virginia Traffic Lawyers: no accident occurred. Does that mean the offense is not considered serious?
It is worth noting that just because no accident occurred, it does not automatically mean the offense is not considered/treated as a serious violation for purposes of suspension or revocation in this context.2 Virginia law3 provides more details if you are interested in the instances when the Commissioner of the DMV can suspend or revoke a license.
Committed Felony in Another State: Will Virginia Suspend My License?
This can happen if the conviction resulted in another state! If you were convicted of a felony and it involved the use of a vehicle, then the law1 states any person’s license in Virginia be revoked for a full year from the time the notice of the conviction is received by the DMV. For details regarding your case-specific inquiries (perhaps you are not sure how a felony conviction in state A will be treated, or would be treated, by Virginia), certainly do not hesitate to mention this when you talk to a local Fairfax traffic attorney and criminal lawyer.
Can Virginia Suspend a License due to Disability?
It may sound shocking at first, but, the answer is, yes. If Virginia determines a driver to be incompetent – meaning they are not thought to be able to safely operate a motor vehicle – then such license may be suspended (or revoked).
A person’s license will be suspended5 if:
- they are adjudicated incapacitated (in the context of guardianship/conservatorships
- the individual is not competent to drive: addiction to drugs or alcohol, retardation, or mental illness.
Regarding Alcohol (DWI) and Revocation:
The license will not be suspended, but rather, revoked, if convicted a second time of driving while under the influence within ten years or a third conviction within ten (10) years.
Read more about Virginia DWI penalties here, view our DWI penalty comparison chart (compare BAC level, offense number, and other aggravating factors, such as having a child in the car).
How Do I Know Whether or Not I’m a Habitual Offender in Virginia?
If you were deemed a habitual offender by the DMV, you should have received notification. The courts in Virginia used to declare people meeting specific criteria as habitual offenders, but the Habitual Offender Act no longer operates to label drivers in this way. In short, a person considered to be a habitual offender would technically have committed the offenses prior the second half of 1999.
What if I am a Habitual Offender?
If you were declared a habitual offender prior to July 1999 but never took the steps required to restore your license, be aware that the crime of driving while a license is revoked due to habitual offender status is a very serious offense. The same is true if you have no privilege to drive, because it has been revoked after a 2nd or 3rd DWI conviction.
Was your license suspended or revoked due to a failure to make timely payments (fines and costs)?
Ask a local Virginia Traffic Defense Attorney if you qualify to petition for restoration of driving privileges by paying fines and costs.
If a driver was adjudicated habitual offender status because of convictions for failure to pay fines and/or costs (resulting from a suspension or revocation) may possibly petition for restoration of driving privileges upon the right circumstances. This is an exception to the general rule.6
What is the penalty for driving as a habitual offender (before restoration of my driving privileges)?
It may be a felony! Furthermore, the convicted individual may face up to five years in the penitentiary. Worse yet to some, no time may be suspended, unless the act of driving was due to an apparent emergency.7
Will my license be suspended for reckless driving in Virginia?
If convicted of reckless driving, your license may be suspended.4
For the relevant portion of the law above to apply, the Commonwealth must prove by at least clear and reliable evidence that behavior is a threat to society.8
Reckless driving charges in Virginia are not created equal: there are differing degrees of negligence, careless driving behavior, and/or lack of attention. When a court has the ability to suspend or revoke a license in the discretionary sense, the test as to revocation or suspension is necessity for public safety, which is itself grounded on prior conduct.9
Will I lose my license, or face a suspended license if I am convicted of a speeding violation?
If you face a non-criminal, non-reckless speeding infraction, you could still face license suspension. In general, a driver with a clean record who is convicted of speeding (the infraction), will not face license suspension (but may face issues with car insurance); if, however, the driver has so many points so as to result in 18 DMV demerit points in a year or 24 DMV demerit points in two years, then even a speeding ticket or other moving violation (even if not considered reckless driving), can result in a Suspended License in Virginia. Ask our Virginia Suspended License attorney about the issues you should be aware if you are licensed in another state.
If I refuse a Breathalyzer, will I have my license suspended?
The Virginia Implied Consent Law11 states that an unreasonable refusal to submit to a blood test (note: this is not the same thing as a request to take a test prior to probable cause exists), and the driver has been arrested based on a suspicion of DWI or driving while intoxicated, then the refusal can result in revocation of the driver’s privilege to drive.12
Common charges in Virginia resulting in a suspended or revoked license:
Conviction of a drug possession offense – even a first offense – will result in loss of driving privileges. As already mentioned on this page, reckless driving in Virginia may also result in license suspension.
Revocation is a bit different than suspension. Offenses resulting in revocation include use of a fraudulent or false identification for purposes of obtaining alcohol; failure to pay costs and fines (in some circumstances); and DWI – driving while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any intoxicant, among others.
Virginia Suspended License Defenses
As with any criminal prosecution in Virginia, the Commonwealth must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. While there are many feasible defenses unique to each case, this is a quick look at some of the most basic suspended License defenses in Virginia, categorized by the element the Commonwealth must prove to the trier of fact (the judge or jury):
- The accused (the defendant) was the person driving the motor vehicle;
- The accused’s license was suspended or revoked; and,
- The accused has knowledge / awareness his/her license is suspended or revoked.
It is rare for a person to be arrested or charged if he or she was not actually driving, but mistakes do happen. The prosecution has to prove that the person charged was on a public road (some roads are not considered public highways; ask your local traffic attorney if you have a question about this); he or she was the one driving; and it was at the time of the alleged violation.
If you consider how one is typically charged, you will see how it would take a particularly extraordinary set of facts to win on this point: it is possible someone is a victim of identity theft, and it is also possible that an identification of the driver was made after he or she exited the vehicle, and other people were in the car and could potentially have been drivers. But in the typical case where a police officer stops a driver, asks for his license, (or stopped him or her after running plates – which is another issue entirely), the commonwealth can usually prove this element.
Virginia suspended license laws are just that – laws. The suspended license or revocation must have occurred lawfully. In other words, some like a DMV transcript may be used to show indeed a driver was legally suspended or revoked of driving privileges, usually in connection with some other offense (but not always).
The more interesting – and common defense – is lack of knowledge one’s license was suspended or revoked. IF the police officer made the stop and asked the driver about knowledge of license suspension, then a response by the driver in the affirmative destroy any possibility this defense theory could work. If you never made an admission, on the other hand, you may be able to win at trial by (typically) showing that based on the driver’s DMV record / transcript, that notice should be presumed. There are interesting cases in Virginia that your Fairfax traffic attorney, Prince William traffic lawyer, or local Provo criminal lawyer can explain if relevant to your case. The markings and words on the transcript, for example, may not have been sufficient to convey notice on an individual. These cases are very fact-sensitive.
References Cited by our Fairfax traffic attorney
 See Com. v. Hill, 196 Va. 18, 82 S.E.2d 473 (1954); Lamb v. Mozingo, 198 Va. 432, 94 S.E.2d 457 (1956).
 Article 1 of Chapter 10 of Title 37.5
 Commonwealth v. Boone, 30 Va. App. 439, 517 S.E.2d 275 (1999).
 § 46.2-357
 Lamb v. Taylor, 198 Va. 621, 96 S.E.2d 124 (1957).
 Willis v. Com., 190 Va. 294, 56 S.E.2d 222 (1949).
 Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-874.1
 § 18.2-268.1
 Walton v. Roanoke, 204 Va. 678, 133 S.E.2d 315 (1963).
 See § 46.2-347, Code of Virginia