Driver’s License Suspension for Failure to Pay Ticket

Driver’s License Suspension for Failure to Pay Ticket

A Pennsylvania man unexpectedly lost his driver’s license when he failed to respond promptly to a traffic ticket. Burgess v. PennDOT, 991 A.2d 1014 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010).

The man’s problems started when he was cited for speeding and driving an unregistered car. The law enforcement agency didn’t arrest the man, but mailed him a citation after the incident. When he failed to respond to the citation, PennDOT sent the man a letter advising that he would lose his driver’s license in 20 days if he did not respond to the citation immediately. The man did not respond to the citation within the 20 days. Instead, two months after receiving the notice about losing his license, he pled guilty to the citation and paid the fine.

PennDOT then suspended his license for an additional 15 days, because he was convicted of a moving violation while his license was under suspension. The moving violation was the original speeding and driving an unregistered vehicle citation. His guilty plea amounted to a conviction.

The man appealed the additional 15 day suspension of his license, claiming that by pleading guilty to the citation for speeding and driving an unregistered vehicle he was effectively responding to the citation and his doing so should have ended the first suspension. He argued that PennDOT should not be permitted to treat his “conviction” as having occurred during a period of license suspension.

The man lost his appeal. License suspensions do not end in automatic restoration of drivers’ privileges. When Pennsylvania drivers lose their driving privileges due to traffic tickets, DUI charges, failure to pay past fines or for any other reason, they must complete a “restoration” process before their privileges are restored. Drivers who simply assume that they can drive legally at the end of their suspension period are mistaken. To start the restoration process, a driver can request a free restoration letter from PennDOT by calling (800) 932-4600. The letter is also available at no charge through an online request to PennDOT at www.dot.state.pa.us. Follow the menu on the first page headed “On-line Driver and Vehicle Services.” A restoration letter advises the suspended driver of everything he or she must do to become a legal driver again. Those conditions may include resolving previous open citations, paying fines and going through driver education and testing again.