Ask A Cop: Why are driver's licenses suspended?
Editors note: Every week a Lake Oswego police officer answers your questions in this space. Please send your questions to Reporter Cliff Newell at email@example.com or call 503-636-1281, ext. 105.
When must the DMV give notice when a drivers license has been suspended?
At a recent municipal court session that I attended, a number of people who were cited for driving while suspended, told the court that they were not aware their drivers license had been suspended at the time they were stopped by police in Lake Oswego.
Isnt the DMV or other public entity required to notify people that their licenses have been suspended? What are the main reasons that licenses are suspended and what happens if police catch someone driving while suspended, who didnt know they were suspended?
When the DMV intends to suspend someones privilege to drive, they send a certified letter to the persons address on their drivers license informing them that their privilege to drive will be suspended in 30 days, the reason for the suspension, and what steps (if any) the person can do to prevent the suspension from taking effect. DMV is only required to make a reasonable effort to notify the driver that their license is going to be suspended, not to ensure that they are notified.
Quite often though, people dont inform DMV of a change of address within 30 days (as is required), so those people dont get the letter.
Probably the most common reason for a license suspension is failing to pay fines from previous citations. This happens because the person misses a payment, makes a late payment or just doesnt pay at all.
When someone is stopped whose driving privileges are suspended, the officer will typically issue a citation for driving while suspended, which carries a base fine of $435. The officer also has the option of impounding the vehicle. Both of these can happen even if the driver didnt know their license was suspended.
There are ways to avoid this from ever happening though. Notify DMV as soon as possible after you change addresses; if you have fines to pay, pay them on time; if you are involved in a reportable traffic crash, then file the crash report within 72 hours.
If you are unfortunate enough to get your driving privileges suspended, you can apply for a hardship permit from DMV that would allow you to drive to and from work legally until the suspension is lifted.
Sgt. Tom Hamann, Lake Oswego Police Department
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