You may have heard someone say that “driving is a privilege, not a right.” While many people depend on being able to drive in order get to work or school, to go to the store, and to take care of their families, the truth of the matter is that driving is in fact a privilege.

Unfortunately, these privileges can be revoked or suspended for bad behavior. If that behavior rises to a heinous level, you can even lose those privileges for life.

How can My Driver’s License be Suspended?

A suspended driver’s license means that your driving privileges (granted to you by the state in the form of your driver’s license) are being temporarily withheld. A revoked license means that the suspension is permanent.

If your driver’s license is suspended for life, that generally means your license has been revoked. (You may hear both terms used interchangeably in court, depending on where you live.)

Driving laws vary from state to state, but generally your driver’s license can be suspended or revoked for certain violations, including:

  • Multiple Traffic Violations: A speeding ticket or two usually won’t be enough to trigger a suspension unless you have a habit of repeatedly collecting speeding tickets or running stop signs;
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI):  Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is usually considered a serious traffic offense;
  • Failing to Pay Child Support: Some states can suspend a non-custodial parent’s driver’s license for not paying child support; and
  • Lack of Car Insurance: Most states require some minimum form of car insurance that can be used in the case of a motor vehicle accident.  You may want to check that yours is still in date.

When can a Driver’s License be Suspended for Life?

You won’t lose your driver’s license for life over a parking ticket. However, many states have laws that allow for a lifetime suspension or revocation of a driver’s license for irresponsible behavior. Generally the behavior must rise to such a high degree that it puts other people at risk. Crimes like habitual drunk driving or vehicular homicide can result in you losing your license forever. When exactly can a driver’s license be suspended for life?

  1. Habitual Drunk Driving
  2. One DUI may not be enough to permanently lose your license. However, repeat offenders run the risk of losing their driving privileges permanently. If you are a repeat offender, a lifetime suspension of your driver’s license can happen after your third or fourth DUI conviction.

    While this may seem like a life-ending tragedy, you may be able to apply for a “hardship” permit. This type of permit won’t allow you to go about your business in quite the same way as before, but you will be able to get to and from work, buy groceries, and run other necessary errands.

    There is a catch: in many states, this hardship permit for habitual drunk driving offenders requires the driver to purchase and install a special ignition interlock device. This device is a computerized breath analyzer, which requires you to submit a breath sample in order to start the vehicle. If your breath sample give a reading of having an alcohol level above a pre-programmed amount, the vehicle will not start.

  3. Dangerous/Reckless Driving
  4. It may seem like common sense, but dangerous and reckless driving can result in a lifetime suspension of your driver’s license. In addition to DUIs, other behavior involving vehicles that result in death or serious bodily injury could potentially carry a lifetime suspension of your driving privileges.  For example, offenses including (but not limited to) the following could result in a lifetime ban:


  5. Combinations of Drugs and Dangerous Crimes
  6. Of course, the above criminal offenses are serious enough on their own.  However, if you combine them with other offenses, this raises the level of severity of the incident. Remember, the more severe the incident, the more likely that it may result in a lifetime ban on driving privileges.

    Some offenses that may result in a permanent suspension of your driver’s license (especially if you combine them with the dangerous and reckless driving offenses listed above) include:

    • Driving under the influence of drugs
    • Driving while discharging a firearm
    • Driving while license suspended or revoked
    • Evading a law enforcement officer
    • Reckless driving with a prior criminal record

What are some other Considerations Regarding Driver’s License Rights?

Driving in many instances has become a necessary component of the nation’s economic and social life. We drive ourselves to work every day, we drive our children (or even ourselves) to school, we drive to the grocery store, to meet friends, to run errands necessary to our lives and well-being. Due to the importance of driving privileges in the United States, in many cases, driver’s licenses are not suspended for life.

More commonly, licenses are suspended for extended periods of time (perhaps up to ten years) rather than the duration of a driver’s life. However, the final determination of the driver’s privileges is left to the court.

Each state has specific sentencing guidelines that judges must follow in criminal cases. However, these sentencing guidelines also allow the judge to take into account the specific circumstances of the case. This is especially true when determining whether a lifetime suspension of a driver’s license is the appropriate course of action.

If your license has already been suspended or revoked, continuing to drive can only aggravate the situation further and get you into more trouble. If you are pulled over while driving with a suspended license, you may be ordered to pay hefty fines or even sentenced to jail time, depending on the laws of your state.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Lifetime Driver’s License Suspension?

If you are facing legal issues that may result in a permanent suspension of your driver’s license, it is in your best interests to consult a qualified criminal defense attorney. If you have a DUI, and are facing the possibility of another DUI conviction, you may want to talk to a lawyer who specializes in DUI/DWI cases.

DUI cases can carry heavy penalties, especially if you have faced a DUI charge before. Having an experienced attorney on your side can give you peace of mind. Your attorney will help talk you through the facts of your case and decide on the best way to proceed in order to protect your rights and privileges.

Your attorney can also clearly explain the specific laws of your state when it comes to your situation, represent you in court if needed, and work towards achieving the best possible outcome in your case.