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.

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, which may happen when:

  • DMV issues a new license to operate vehicles of a higher class (commercial license). The new license replaces the canceled 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 are not limited to:

  • Having a collision not covered by your insurance or driving without insurance at the time of the collision. Your license can 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 drugs.
  • Refusing to submit to a required blood 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, the California DMV no longer suspends your license if you failed to pay a ticket fine or court fees (you must still pay your fines or fees to the court.)

If required to appear in court after 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 you may not drive during the suspension. If caught driving while your license is suspended, you may face jail time and fines.

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

  • On the first conviction of DUI, your license will be suspended for six months. The suspension period is one year if anyone is injured due to your DUI.
  • Your license may be suspended for 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 six months.

How to Reinstate a Suspended Driver’s License

The steps to take depend on the reason for the license suspension. In general, you must:

  • Wait until the suspension period is over.
  • Complete the prison sentence, if applicable, and pay all fines and court fees.
  • 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 the DMV reinstates your license.

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 the DMV has terminated your driving privilege. To be able to drive again, you must re-apply for a new license.

It means you must pay all fees, show all necessary documentation, and retake all tests – including the knowledge and behind-the-wheel tests.

Photo by Simon

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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 agencies.

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2 thoughts on “Understand the Difference Between a Revoked and Suspended License”

  1. If had a case s fronbother county to which I went to state ….and once becoming state property all the other counties and there requirements were all dismissed ….and its been over 5 yes without any police contact …and my license is revoked why do I have to complete 18 DUI class ,when I’ve paid my debt to society and and fulfilled my state requirements….why is DMV still holding t over my head

  2. The DMV has no to check into or report too and I’m not on probation nor do I have a parole officer ,they’re requirements r well over 5 yes . old


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