Is Your License Suspended? Here's How You Find Out

You may be driving illegally and not realize it.

Image shows a suspended license, two letter, a driving record, and a cell phone. Text reads: "How to check if your driver's license is suspended: check mailbox for mailed notification of suspension; obtain a copy of driving record at dmv; call auto insurance carrier"

The Balance / Maddy Price

Is your driver's license currently suspended? It's not a question many of us ever ask ourselves, and that's because we assume that if our license were suspended, we'd know it.

It's possible, however, that if your license were suspended, you might not realize it. There are a lot of reasons that your license might be suspended and, in some cases, no reason that anyone would let you know.

This can be a real problem, especially if you find out about your suspended license after being stopped by the police or getting into an accident. So, let's take a quick look at the circumstances for which your license might be suspended, why you might not know about it, and how you can find out whether it is.

Reasons Driver's Licenses May Be Suspended

There are two basic categories of reasons for driver's license suspension or revocation in the United States: driving-related and non-driving related. Here's a list of some of the most common:

  • Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
  • Reckless and/or careless driving
  • A conviction for a drug offense other than DUI

You’d probably know about these three; after all, you would’ve received a ticket.

Other reasons for a license suspension include:

  • Leaving the scene of an accident where your license plate was picked up by a camera
  • Failure to appear in court on a summons for a moving violation or parking ticket
  • Failure to pay a motor vehicle fine, surcharge, or fee
  • Failure to maintain proper insurance
  • Accumulation of points or violations
  • Failure to comply with a child support order
  • An insurance lapse
  • Missing a notice about points accumulation
  • Missing a fine or court date
  • Truancy
  • Delinquent conduct by a minor

If you’re skipping school, the state probably knows about it–and you might find yourself stripped of your driving privileges as a result.

Whether some of these reasons might apply to you or not depends on the state where you live.

Two Related Problems: Processing Time and Human Error

As a diligent driver, you're probably thinking that none of the situations above will ever happen to you. There are a few instances, however, where an unintended mistake will result in your license status being affected.

For example, what if you send in your insurance premium check, and it's not processed in time? Or how about forgetting to inform the DMV when you move, and getting an automated intersection-monitor ticket sent to your old address resulting in an unpaid fine? It could happen.

Check Whether Your License Is Suspended

Fortunately, finding out whether your license is suspended is not that difficult. Here are three common ways to check.

  • Look in your mailbox. In most jurisdictions and in most cases, you will receive notification of your suspension by mail, sent to the address they have on record (so make sure they have your current one.) Be careful not to throw it out as junk mail.
  • Go to the DMV and get a copy of your driving record. You might want to call the DMV or check out their website first. Some states will let you order your record over the phone or online.
  • Call your auto insurance carrier. They're obviously going to know if your policy has lapsed, and they will likely know if your license has been suspended for that or another reason.

Where Driver License Information Is Kept

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration operates the National Driver Register (NDR), a computerized database of drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked, or who have been convicted of a serious traffic violation such as a DUI.

Information in the NDR is provided by state motor vehicle agencies, who in turn use the database to check on individuals who apply for a license in their jurisdictions. The information in the database is protected by federal privacy laws that restrict access to your state's DMV and a number of federal agencies.

You can request this information for yourself by sending a notarized letter, known as a "privacy act request," to the NDR. The service is free of charge.