Suspended License in Tennessee
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Driver License Suspension in Tennessee
When your driver's license is suspended, revoked, or cancelled, you can't legally drive in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS) suspends driver licenses because of driving record point accumulation and serious traffic violations.
IMPORTANT NOTE: In addition to any penalties the DMV may enforce, you may also be subject to criminal fines and penalties.
The most common reason for license suspension in Tennessee is point accumulation on your driving record. For each speeding ticket or other traffic infraction you get, you receive points on your record.
Once those points start to add up, you face license suspension by the Driver Improvement Section of the TN DOS. The Driver Improvement Section of the DOS can evaluate your driver record/fitness to drive and suspend your license if they believe you are unsafe.*
The TN DOS also suspends your license for reasons such as:
- Frequent traffic violations.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) or implied consent.
- Physical and mental disabilities that impair your driving ability.
- Failure to pay a citation.
- Failure to establish financial responsibility.
- Drag racing.
- Driving away without paying for fuel.
As for points, you'll receive a notice of proposed license suspension once you accumulate:
- 12 points within 12 months, if you're an adult.
- 6 points within 12 months, if you're a teen.
Once you receive this notice, you can schedule an administrative hearing. At this hearing, you'll discuss whether taking a driver improvement course is an option. Many drivers are given the option to enroll in a state-approved defensive driving course to either avoid suspension or decrease their license suspension periods.
If you don't schedule the hearing, or do schedule it but find out you're not eligible for a driver improvement course, your license will be suspended. (See “How Long is My License Suspended?" below.)
* NOTE: In addition to any suspensions handed down by the TN DOS, you may also face criminal penalties.
How Long is My License Suspended?
For points-related suspensions, your license will be suspended for a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 12 months*, depending on your situation.
* Your judge might allow you to take a driver improvement course in lieu of license suspension, or to shorten the amount of time your license is suspended.
For points-related suspensions, your suspension period depends on the number of points:
- 6 points to 9 points: 3 months to 6 months.
- 10 points or more: 6 months.
- Subsequent offenses: 6 months or 12 months, depending on your record.
Your license suspension period might vary for other offenses. Contact your nearest DOS Reinstatement Office for details.
Check Your Driver License Status
Your Tennessee driving record (or motor vehicle record) is a history of all your traffic violations, but it also shows:
- Your driver license status, i.e. whether you currently have a suspended or revoked driver's license.
- Past penalties, i.e. whether you've had a driver license suspension or revocation.
The TN DOS keeps this information on your record for 3 years; however, it's important to periodically check your driving record to make sure it's accurate and up to date. This is especially important when it comes to your car insurance (see below).
License Suspension and Your Car Insurance
License suspension can wreak havoc on your car insurance.
You'll need to file an SR-22, which is documentation stating you're carrying the required amount of coverage. You may be required to have an SR-22 for as many as 5 years. For more information on SR-22s, please visit our TN Car Insurance page.
Second, having a suspended driver's license will affect any new auto insurance quotes you receive. Providers like drivers with clean records, meaning a poor record can result in higher rates or even denial of coverage.
Adults facing license suspension are given the option to request an administrative hearing, which is a hearing performed under the DOS Driver Improvement Program*. If an adult driver is notified of a proposed suspension and does not request a hearing, he will face suspension of his license.
In contrast, minor drivers (under 18 years old) must attend a hearing with a parent or legal guardian.
* Note that criminal hearings or penalties may also apply.
If your license has been suspended under the DOS's Driver Improvement Program at your hearing, you may be able appeal your suspension. Contact the TN DOS at (615) 251-5166.
Reinstating your suspended or revoked license in Tennessee depends on your specific situation.
For example, sometimes you can take a driver improvement course to avoid or reduce suspension time; sometimes you're not eligible. Reinstatement fees vary (see “Fees for Reinstating Your TN License" below) and sometimes your reason for suspension requires longer suspension periods.
Generally, the TN DOS provides you with reinstatement information specific to your own license suspension; however, there are 5 ways you can contact the DOS for information specific to you:
- Visit the state's Paying Reinstatement Fees page. If you aren't sure about your fees (or any other details), follow the instructions on the page or choose one of the remaining options below.
- Send an email to My.DL@tn.gov. Allow 2 business days for a response and include the following:
- Full name.
- Date of birth.
- Social Security number.
- TN driver's license number.
- Reason for license suspension, revocation, or cancellation (if you know it).
- Current mailing address.
- Current telephone number.
- Call (866) 903-7357 or for TDD (615) 532-2281, or fax (615) 253-2093.
- You can reach an examiner Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST.
- You can receive information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you know your driver's license number.
- Visit one of the DOS Reinstatement Offices.
- Days and hours of operation vary by location. Call ahead.
- Write the DOS. Allow 2 weeks for a response and include all the personal information listed above:
Tennessee Department of Safety
Financial Responsibility Division
1150 Foster Ave.
Nashville, TN 37243
Like other license suspensions not related to points accumulation, suspensions for driving under the influence (DUI) carry their own set of additional penalties and reinstatement processes.
For now, know that if you're convicted of DUI, you face anywhere from 1 year to 10 years of license suspension, but you may also face other penalties, depending on your offense and situation, including:
- Jail time.
- Requirement to pay restitution to those with injuries or personal loss.
- Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (at your expense).
- Treatment program for drug and alcohol addiction.
The TN DOS provides a full list of possible penalties for each DUI/DWI offense on their website.
Drug & Alcohol-Related Offenses by Minors
Minors who commit alcohol or drug-related offenses face:
- License suspension of up to 2 years, or until the driver turns 18 years old (whichever is longer).
- Fines of up to $250.
- License revocation for 1 year (in the case of impaired driving).
For a full list of penalties, visit the TN DOS website.
NOTE: Additional penalties and fines may be imposed by the court.
Similar to license reinstatement, obtaining a restricted driver's license depends on your situation. Some drivers are eligible to obtain one if they have a suspended or revoked license; others can't get one (or drive at all) until after their suspension periods are up.
Generally, you can apply for a restricted license UNLESS:
- You're not enrolled in a driver improvement course.
- Your court order states you're ineligible.
- You have other outstanding suspensions, revocations, or cancellations in Tennessee OR any other state.
- Your license was suspended or revoked for DUI after July 1, 2000 and you already have a prior DUI, vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, or other serious conviction on your record.
- Your proposed route doesn't include the approved designated locations:
- Substance abuse programs.
- Ignition interlock appointments.
- Your judge didn't sign your order.
- You don't have Driver Improvement approval (or the section isn't signed).
- Your order doesn't include the:
- Date of violation.
- Date of conviction.
- Your SR-22 isn't through the state of Tennessee OR it's through a state not licensed to do business in Tennessee.
Apply for a Restricted Driver's License
Your restricted driver's license application process—including paperwork, fees, and other requirements—depends entirely on why your license is suspended.
Visit the state's Restricted License Information page for instructions on how to apply based on your specific situation.
Apply for a Duplicate Restricted Driver's License
Visit your local driver license station with the appropriate duplicate fee ($8 or $12 depending on your situation; call ahead) and the reason for the duplicate:
- Residence changes.
- Employment changes such as hours, location, or other requirements.
Your reinstatement fee depends on the reason for your license suspension, revocation, or cancellation. However, you may be subject to additional fees; for example, a fee for not surrendering your suspended driver's license may apply.
Note that the online system accepts VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover credit cards and check cards. Payments at Reinstatement Offices might vary by location, so call ahead.
Reinstatement Fee Payment Plans
The TN DOS offers reinstatement fee payment plans IF your reinstatement fees total more than $200 and you meet all other requirements for reinstatement.
DOS Reinstatement Offices process payment plans. You must:
- Make a $200 down payment.
- Pay an administrative fee of $25.
- Pay $300 every 3 months until fee is paid in full.
You have 2 years to pay off your reinstatement fee. Failure to do so could lead to additional license suspensions.
TN has strict penalties for CDL drivers.
If you commit an alcohol-related violation, leave an accident scene, or commit a felony, you'll face:
- First offense: Suspension of your CDL (1 year minimum).
- Second offense: Suspension of your CDL for life.
For serious traffic violations like reckless driving or excessive speeding, you'll face commercial driver's license suspension for up to 120 days, depending on how many offenses you've committed.
There are also federal regulations concerning CDL suspensions, meaning you may face additional penalties aside from those imposed by the TN Department of Safety.
For more information, please visit our TN Commercial Drivers section.
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