What's the Difference Between a Suspended and a Revoked License?

This illustration shows what the difference is between a suspended and revoked driver's license, including that a suspended license is temporarily out of service, while a revoked license has been fulled canceled and cannot be reinstated.

Image by Emilie Dunphy © The Balance 2020 

Understanding the difference between a suspended license and a revoked license is important if you find yourself in trouble for certain types of traffic violations. The more severe your violation, the more severe the penalties can be.

A suspended license is not the same as a revoked license. A suspended license is a temporary hardship, but a revoked license is permanent.

What Is a Suspended Driver's License?

A suspended driver's license means your license is temporarily out of service. You cannot legally drive with a suspended license.

There are two types of suspended licenses: definite and indefinite. A definite suspension of your license will end once the suspension period ends and you have paid the necessary suspension termination fees (which vary by state).

Licenses can be suspended for several different reasons, and offenses vary by state, but here are a few common reasons for definite suspensions:

  • Alcohol or drug-related moving violations
  • Driving without liability insurance
  • Receiving too many traffic tickets

An indefinite suspension means that your license will remain suspended until you take some action, such as paying for a traffic ticket (or your child support/taxes, in some states). Your license could also be indefinitely suspended under an administrative review citation in some states if you have a medical condition that makes you a danger on the road.

Getting caught driving with a suspended license will lead to more penalties, including fines and the possible revocation of your license. If you are in an accident, a simple misdemeanor charge can escalate to a felony.

What Is a Revoked Driver's License?

A revoked driver's license means your license has been fully canceled and cannot be reinstated. In order to get a license again, you will have to request approval from your state’s DMV, pay any driver civil penalties you owe, and go through your state's licensing process, which typically involves a written test and a road test. Of course, this won't be free.

If you pass the tests, a new driver's license will be issued—your old one will not be reinstated. Common reasons for revocations include the following:

  • Driving without insurance
  • Being convicted of a serious traffic offense
  • Failing a DMV road test
  • Making a false statement on a driver’s license or car registration application form

It is also possible to have your driver's license revoked or even permanently revoked due to multiple driving offenses, medical conditions, and age.

Your License Status and Insurance

Your driver's license status is important when it comes to your car insurance.

Warning

Having your driver's license suspended or revoked will probably get your insurance policy non-renewed.

It is possible to insure a vehicle without a driver's license, but it is not easy to find an insurance carrier willing to do it. Expect to be an excluded driver and pay a higher rate.

If you are caught driving while your license is either revoked or suspended, your insurer will almost certainly cancel your coverage, require special (expensive) coverage, or raise your rates dramatically.

If you're not sure about the status of your driver's license, many states have tools for you to check the status online. In some states, it may be free for you to enter your information and get a result—though in most states, you'll likely have to pay a fee to request your driving records.

Once you have this information, you can move forward with determining how to work toward reinstatement, if it's necessary.

Key Takeaways

  • A suspended driver's license means your license is temporarily out of service. Suspensions can be either definite or indefinite.
  • A revoked driver's license means your license has been fully canceled and cannot be reinstated. It is possible to have your driver's license revoked or even permanently revoked due to multiple driving offenses, medical conditions, and age.
  • If you are caught driving while your license is either revoked or suspended, your car insurance provider will almost certainly cancel your coverage, require expensive coverage, or raise your rates dramatically.