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Driver's licenses suspended for unpaid traffic fines may be recovered under new court order

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

Find out about a new court decision that requires the Department of Licensing to reinstate driver's licenses suspended for failure to pay fines (LFO) and/or appear at a related hearing. #9355EN

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Please note:

  • Read this only if you live in Washington State.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The Department of Licensing (DOL) can no longer suspend driver's licenses because a driver did not pay non-criminal traffic tickets or did not go to court in response to the traffic ticket. A court has declared this unconstitutional.

The court ordered DOL to reinstate these suspended licenses, meaning they will no longer be suspended. The court also prohibited DOL from automatically suspending a driver's license for unpaid traffic tickets until a new law goes into effect in January 2023.

  • This court order relates only to suspensions for non-criminal moving violations like speeding. It does not cover suspensions for criminal traffic violations like driving with a suspended or revoked license (DWLS3), driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), or reckless driving.

If your license was suspended only because you failed to pay traffic tickets or didn't appear at a related hearing:

  • Your driver's license is no longer suspended, as of June 16, 2021.
  • You will not have to pay the $75 reissuance fee.
  • DOL will reinstate your license if you are eligible for reinstatement.

Register at DOL's License eXpress to determine the status of your driver's license at no cost. Follow the step-by-step instructions.

You still have to pay general license and renewal fees. Learn about the fees on their website.

Some drivers will need to take the driving test. Learn about testing requirements, costs, and locations on their website.

Maybe.

Check to confirm that the suspension has been lifted by either:

  1. Calling DOL's automated line: (360) 902-3900; OR
  2. Checking the status of your license.

You can likely start driving again if all of these are true:

  • Your license was suspended within the last 6 years for failure to pay or appear
  • Your driver's license has not expired within that time
  • Your license is in your possession

* Driving with a suspended license is illegal. Don't risk getting fines and possible jail time. Drive only with a valid license.

Yes. Those don't go away.

You can request a payment plan or, instead of paying, request to do community service towards that debt.

Read My Driver License Was Suspended. Can I Get It Back?

  • CAUTION: Your wages and/or bank account could be garnished if you do not pay the fines or do community service.

Your license is valid and you can drive with it. You still owe the traffic fines. Again, you can request a payment plan or community service, if you cannot afford to pay the fines in full.

Read My Driver License Was Suspended. Can I Get It Back? for more information.

If your license is expired, you must renew it. That may include taking the written and driving tests. Visit their website to learn about testing requirements, costs, and locations.

Carry another form of identification until you get your license back.

Your license may still be suspended for several other reasons.

For example, if you are required to have financial responsibility insurance, called SR-22 insurance, for high-risk drivers, or if you failed to pay child support. To understand license suspensions for failure to pay child support, read Child Support and License Suspension.

DOL can also suspend your license if you get too many traffic tickets in a short period of time (six or more within one year or seven or more within two years).

Carry another form of identification until you get your license back.

If you have never been a licensed driver in Washington or any other state and you got a traffic ticket, DOL suspended your driving privileges. Check your status on their website because you may now be eligible to get your license.

If you are now eligible, you can take the written and driving tests to get your license. To learn about testing requirements, costs, and locations, visit their website.

Carry another form of identification until you get your license.

If you were charged with driving while your license was suspended in the third degree (DWLS3) and the charge was reduced, dismissed or you were found not guilty of DWLS3, you may be eligible for a waiver of the $75 reissuance fee.

Email DOL at FTAQuestions@dol.wa.gov before going to DOL or renewing online to notify DOL staff of your circumstances. DOL will review your driving record to determine if you are eligible for a waiver.

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Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Last Review and Update: May 26, 2022
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