MOTOR VEHICLES; SENTENCING; TRAFFIC REGULATIONS;
September 30, 2003
PENALTY FOR DRIVING WITH SUSPENDED DRIVER’S LICENSE IN CONNECTICUT AND NEARBY STATES
By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst
You asked what the penalty is for driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license in Connecticut and in nearby states. You also wanted general information on the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) program for detecting uninsured drivers.
The penalty information is provided below. Attached you will find OLR Report 2000-R-0030 which provides information on the DMV uninsured motorist audit program.
In Connecticut, suspension for a first offense of driving while under suspension is for a minimum of one year. A subsequent similar offense results in a minimum five-year suspension. There are also possible criminal penalties that may be imposed by the court. By law, if someone fails to appear in court for his scheduled hearing, or he fails to send in the fine for an infraction or send in a not guilty plea, the court notifies the DMV and the commissioner may, and routinely does, suspend his license to aid in enforcing the court’s authority. In 2003, the legislature eliminated the additional license suspension penalty for someone who is found to be driving while under suspension for these reasons, but the criminal sanctions remain (PA 03-233 as amended by PA 03-278).
The other New England states and New York also treat driving while under suspension with possible criminal penalties and additional suspensions. Each state treats such violations differently in terms of (1) the size of the criminal penalties, (2) differentiating between the types of original suspensions that lead to the penalties, and (3) applying the additional suspension; so direct comparisons are somewhat difficult. Connecticut’s period of additional suspension appears to be the longest of all of these states for suspensions not resulting from certain serious offenses such as driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, and evading responsibility.
CONNECTICUT PENALTIES FOR DRIVING WHILE A LICENSE IS REFUSED, SUSPENDED, OR REVOKED
Connecticut law provides severe sanctions, including criminal penalties, for driving while a license is refused, suspended, or revoked. For a first offense of driving while suspended, the law provides for a penalty of a $ 150-200 fine, up to 90 days imprisonment, or both. For a subsequent offense (one occurring within three years of an arrest that led to a prior conviction), the criminal penalty is a fine of $ 200-600, up to one year imprisonment, or both.
The penalties are more severe if the reason the person’s license was suspended was for a conviction for one of the following alcohol-related offenses: (1) driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, (2) per se drunk driving (blood-alcohol content of 0. 08% or more), (3) manslaughter in the second degree with a motor vehicle (causing another’s death while under the influence), or (4) assault in the second degree with a motor vehicle (causing serious physical injury to another person while under the influence). In these instances, the penalties are a fine of $ 500-1,000, and up to one year imprisonment, 30 consecutive days of which may not be suspended or reduced (CGS § 14-215).
The law also requires the DMV commissioner to suspend a license, without a hearing, for at least one year for a first conviction for driving while a license has been refused, suspended or revoked. The penalty also applies if the person forfeits a bond for the violation or has received a suspended judgment or sentence. For any subsequent violation, the mandatory period of suspension is at least five years (CGS § 14-111(b)).
License suspensions usually result from fairly serious traffic offenses, such as drunk driving, driving without insurance, reckless driving, and evading responsibility. Most normal moving violations are treated as infractions and fines can be paid by mail, but they do not usually result in suspensions. But if someone fails to pay his fine or willfully fails to appear for his hearing, the court must notify the DMV and a license suspension must follow (CGS § 14-140). Until 2003, driving while under such a suspension for failing to pay a fine or willfully failing to appear for a hearing would result in an additional suspension under CGS § 14-215, but this was eliminated by PA 03-233, as amended by PA 03-278. The criminal penalties continue to apply however.
PENALTIES IN OTHER NEARBY STATES
Driving while under suspension carries a criminal penalty in Maine. Someone convicted of operating under suspension is subject to a mandatory 60-day additional suspension, a $ 25 license reinstatement fee, up to a $ 500 fine, and up to six months in jail, or both a fine and imprisonment. The penalties are more severe if the reason for the person’s original suspension was for operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In this case, the court must impose a minimum fine of $ 500, a mandatory seven-day term of imprisonment, and a license suspension of one to three years served consecutively to the original suspension. The court is prohibited from suspending any of these penalties (29-A M. R. S. A. § 2412-A).
If the person has previously been convicted of operating under suspension during the prior 10 years and the suspension that led to his most recent conviction for driving under suspension was for operating under the influence, the penalties escalate to (1) a minimum $ 1,000 fine, imprisonment for 30 consecutive days, and a one-to-three year additional license suspension, if there was one prior conviction; (2) a minimum $ 2,000 fine, 60 consecutive days imprisonment, and one-to-three years additional suspension for two prior convictions; and (3) a minimum $ 3,000 fine, six months imprisonment, and an additional one-to-three years suspension for three or more prior convictions. If the suspension that led to his most recent incident was for any other reason than driving under the influence, the minimum fine is $ 200. None of these penalties may be suspended by the court.
In Vermont, driving while under license suspension can be treated as either a criminal or a civil violation, depending on the reason for the original license suspension. It is considered a criminal violation to drive while a license is under suspension or revocation for (1) previously driving while under suspension, (2) negligent vehicle operation (which can include reckless driving), (3) driving a vehicle without the owner’s permission, (4) evading responsibility following an accident, (5) attempting to elude a police officer, or (6) driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Any person who drives while under suspension for one of these offenses is subject to a fine of up to $ 5,000, imprisonment for up to two years, or both. Also, if the original suspension was for driving under the influence, the person must serve at least two, four, eight, or sixteen consecutive days of the jail sentence, depending on whether it was a first, second, third, or subsequent occurrence (Vt. Rev. Stat. T. 23 § 674).
Driving while having been suspended for any other but these enumerated violations is considered a civil not a criminal violation unless it has happened twice previously, in which case the criminal penalties apply. Violations are handled by the Traffic and Municipal Ordinance Bureau instead of the criminal court. A conviction for a civil violation for driving while under suspension results in five points being assessed against the driver’s record. The law requires license suspensions once the accumulated points reach 10 within a two-year period. Ten accumulated points requires a 10-day suspension, 15 points a 30-day suspension, 20 points a 90- day suspension, and each five additional points increases the suspension period by 30 days. Thus a single civil violation for driving under suspension might trigger an additional suspension if the driver’s record contained other points and a second such civil violation would definitely result in a suspension even if there were no other points assessed against his record (Vt. Rev. Stat. T. 23 §§ 676, 2502).
Any conviction for a criminal violation of driving under suspension results in a mandatory suspension. The suspension is 30 days for a first offense, 90 days for a second offense, and six months for a third or subsequent offense, or the suspension for the accumulated point values, whichever is greater. Each conviction for a criminal driving-while-
suspended violation results in a 10-point assessment. If a fatality results while the person was driving while suspended for one of the designated criminal offenses, the suspension must be for one year in addition to the suspensions resulting from any accumulated points (Vt. Rev. Stat. T. 23 § 2506).
Driving while under suspension is a misdemeanor in New Hampshire if it was for (1) reckless driving, (2) driving under the influence of alcohol or a related offense, (3) negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, or (4) if there has been a prior conviction for driving under suspension within the preceding seven years. Otherwise it is considered a misdemeanor. For the alcohol-related and negligent homicide suspensions, the violator must serve at least seven consecutive 24-hour periods in prison within six months of conviction, be fined up to $ 1,000, and have his license revoked for an additional year. For regular misdemeanor driving under suspension, the judge can determine whether it will be classified as a Class A or a Class B misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor can result in a fine of up to $ 2,000, up to one year imprisonment, or both. The penalty for a Class B misdemeanor is a fine of up to $ 1,200. No period of incarceration or probation may be assessed, but the court may sentence the person to a conditional or unconditional discharge, which can include monitoring by the Department of Corrections.
For a driving while suspended offense that is classified as a violation, the person can be fined up to $ 1,000 and sentenced to a conditional or unconditional discharge (R. S. A. §§ 263. 64, 651. 2).
Periods of additional license suspensions are not specified for most violations. Instead, the law generally prohibits suspensions exceeding one year except for some of the more severe offenses, such as those related to alcohol or drug use, in which case suspensions must be for specific required periods.
The criminal penalties for driving while a license has been suspended or revoked in Massachusetts are a fine of $ 50 to $ 100 or imprisonment for up to 10 days, or both for a first offense and imprisonment for 10 days to one year for any subsequent offense. If the suspension was an offense related to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the penalties are $ 1,000 to $ 10,000 and imprisonment for a mandatory non-suspendable minimum of 60 days and possibly as much as two and one-half years. Following a conviction for driving while a license has been suspended or revoked, the registrar of motor vehicles must extend the original suspension period for an additional 60 days, or if the suspension was for operating under the influence or one of the related offenses, for an additional year (M. G. L. A. , C. 90 § 23).
Massachusetts also has a habitual traffic offender law and convictions for operating while suspended qualify under this law for determining habitual offender status. Three or more convictions for qualifying offenses within a five-year period, even if they are different offenses, can result in the driver being found a habitual traffic offender. Classification as a habitual offender results in an immediate four-year revocation of license. The registrar can also require the person to successfully complete a driver improvement course and retake the license examination before restoring license privileges. The person may apply for a hearing for a limited-use hardship license after one year. A person classified as a habitual offender who is found to be driving while his license is revoked must pay a fine of $ 500 to $ 5,000, be imprisoned for up to two years, or both (M. G. L. A. , C. 90 §§ 22F, 23).
Rhode Island has criminal penalties and mandatory additional suspensions for driving while under suspension or revocation of license. If the reason for the suspension was (1) driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, (2) refusing to submit to a chemical test for blood-alcohol content, (3) reckless driving, (4) manslaughter from operation of a motor vehicle or operating to endanger resulting in a death, or (5) three moving violations within one year, the person is considered to have committed a misdemeanor the first two times he is convicted for driving while suspended and a felony for a third conviction.
There is a mandatory $ 500 fine for a first offense, but if the suspension was for any of the above acts except for the three moving violations in a year, there is also a minimum 10-day prison term. A second conviction for driving while suspended for one of the five specified reasons results in another mandatory $ 500 fine and, except for the three moving violations, a prison term of six months to one year. The penalty for any subsequent conviction within five years is a fine of $ 1,000 and imprisonment for a minimum of one year. But if the suspension was for three moving violations, the person may receive up to one year imprisonment or be sentenced to community service as an alternative.
Once it receives a report of a conviction for driving while suspended for one of these offenses, the motor vehicle registry must suspend the person's license for any additional term it deems appropriate, but in no case for less than three months. For a second conviction, the additional suspension must be for at least six additional months and for any subsequent conviction the license is revoked. Also, the law prohibits the registry from issuing a new license to any person who has had his license suspended or revoked under this law for one additional year from the date he would have otherwise been entitled to apply for a new license (G. L. of R. I, § 31-11-18. 1).
Anyone convicted for driving while suspended for any reason other than the ones specified above commits a misdemeanor. For a first conviction the fine is $ 250 to $ 500, possible imprisonment for up to 30 days, and a mandatory additional suspension of three months. For any subsequent conviction, the fine is $ 350 to $ 1,000 and possible imprisonment for up to one year. There is an additional mandatory suspension of six months for a second conviction and revocation of license for a subsequent conviction. The additional one year disqualification from applying for a new license also applies for any conviction (G. L. of R. I. , § 31-11-18).
All suspended or revoked driver’s licenses are subject to a $ 75 reinstatement fee.
Driving while under suspension in New York is classified as aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and can be considered in the third, second, or first degree, depending on the circumstances (Vehicle and Traffic Law, § 511). These violations were elevated from traffic infractions to misdemeanors or felonies in 1993 following several highly publicized incidents of people killing or injuring others while driving under suspension. Apparently, these incidents also led to discontinuation of the practice of prosecutors allowing violators to plead to a lesser traffic infraction charge of facilitating unlicensed vehicle operation.
Third degree aggravated unlicensed operation is when someone knowingly drives while under suspension. The most frequent reason for being suspended is for failing to answer a court appearance ticket or failing to pay the fine, but license suspensions are also mandated for
certain law violations as well. Licenses may be suspended by municipal magistrates and judges, supreme court justices, county judges, district court judges, the superintendent of state police, and the commissioner of motor vehicles.
Conviction of third degree unlicensed operation is a misdemeanor carrying a fine of $ 200 to $ 500, up to 30 days imprisonment, or both. The fine becomes $ 500 to $ 1,500 if the violation involved driving a vehicle with a registered weight of more than 18,000 pounds.
Second degree unlicensed operation occurs when a person (1) has previously been convicted of third degree unlicensed operation within the preceding 18 months; (2) has a suspension in effect for failure to appear for hearing or pay fines; (3) was suspended for a blood-alcohol test refusal, driving under the influence of alcohol or after having consumed alcohol, or any other alcohol related violation; or (4) was suspended by a court pending prosecution for certain alcohol-related and other specific offenses. Second degree unlicensed operation is a misdemeanor. If the charge resulted from a prior conviction for unlicensed operation, the penalty is a minimum fine of $ 500; imprisonment for up to 180 days; if appropriate, a sentence of probation; or a term of imprisonment as a condition of probation. If the charge was for any of the other reasons, the penalties must be a fine of $ 500 to $ 1,000; imprisonment for a minimum of seven and a maximum of 180 days; where appropriate, probation; or imprisonment as a condition of probation.
First degree unlicensed operation occurs when someone (1) previously has committed the second degree offense for the specified reasons, except for a prior offense in the third degree, and is operating while under the influence of alcohol or (2) has in effect at least 10 separate suspensions for failing to appear in court or pay fines. First degree unlicensed operation is a felony. The penalties are a fine of $ 500 to $ 5,000 and a term of imprisonment appropriate for Class E felonies (a maximum of four years), or if appropriate, probation or a term of imprisonment as a condition of probation. Also, the vehicle the person was driving is subject to confiscation and forfeiture.