Understand the Difference Between a Revoked and Suspended License

What is the Difference between a Revoked and Suspended License?

  • A revocation is an indefinite termination of your California driving privilege.
  • A suspension is a temporary withdrawal of your California driving privilege.

After a suspension, DMV may reinstate your driver’s license, but after a revocation you must apply for a new California license.

Canceled California Driver's License

What is a Cancelled Driver’s License?

DMV may also cancel your driving privilege under certain conditions. This happens when:

  • DMV issues a new license to operate vehicles of a higher class (commercial license). The new license replaces the cancelled license.
  • You voluntarily surrender your license.
  • The license was issued because of an error.

When DMV or the Court Suspend Your California Driver’s License

Suspension of your driving privilege is the most common consequence of a more serious offense involving a motor vehicle. Such suspensions include, but is not limited to:

  • Having a collision not covered by your insurance, or driving without insurance at the time of the collision. Your license will be suspended regardless of who was at fault during the collision.
  • Not reporting an accident, when required.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Refusing to submit to a required blood and/or urine test.
  • Having too many negligent driver points on your driving record.

Steering Wheel - Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Since a few years back, California DMV doesn’t suspend your license if you fail to pay a ticket fine or court fees – you are,however, still obligated to pay your fines or fees to the court.

If required to appear in court after a receiving a ticket, you must still do so or the DMV may suspend your license for that reason.

In 2020, a new law also removed the possibility for courts and California DMV to suspend your license for some offenses that are not related to driving a vehicle..

For How Long Will Your Driver’s License be Suspended?

A suspended license means that you may not drive during the suspension period. If you are caught driving while your license is suspended, you may face both jail time and fines.

They suspension period depends on the reason for the suspension. Some examples:

  • On the first conviction of DUI your license will be suspended for 6 months. If anyone is injured as a result of your DUI, the suspension period is 1 year.
  • Your license may be suspended up to 4 years, if you were involved in a collision and did not have proper insurance coverage.
  • If you get too many negligent driver points, your license will be suspended for 6 months.

How to Reinstate a Suspended Driver’s License

The steps to take depend on why your license was suspended. In general, you must:

  • Wait until the suspension period is over.
  • Complete the prison sentence, if applicable, and pay all fines and court fees.
  • Successfully complete any courses required, like a DUI Treatment Program.
  • Pay the DMV reissue or reinstatement fee.

If you were involved in an accident and didn’t have insurance, you must also file a Proof of Financial Responsibility (SR-22) before your license is reinstated.

Read more: California DMV FAQ.

Taking notes

When is a California Driver’s License Revoked?

Some criminal offenses may result in a revocation of your license. These offenses include – but are not limited to:

  • Reckless driving that resulted in injury
  • Hit-and-run
  • Manslaughter or a felony that involves the use of a motor vehicle
  • Road rage

DMV may also revoke your driving license because of physical or mental disorders, lack of skill, habitual use or addiction to alcohol, medication or drugs.

How to Reinstate a Revoked Driver’s License

A revocation means that your driving privilege is terminated. To be able to drive again, you must re-apply for a new license.

This means that you must pay all fees, show all necessary documentation, and take all tests again – including the knowledge test and the behind-the-wheel test.

Photo (taking notes) by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash.
Photo (steering wheel) by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Please note that this article serves as general information only. This website is privately owned – it is not owned or operated by California DMV or other state agency.


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