As a general rule, civil judgments have no impact on consumer driver's licenses. There is, however, one notable exception. If a victim sues you after an automobile accident and wins, the resulting civil judgment could result in your state suspending your driver's license, leaving you unable to legally drive until you meet your state's requirements for license reinstatement.
Driver's License Suspension
When a civil judgment is the result of a money dispute, such as a credit-card company suing an individual for his unpaid card balance, the resulting judgment does not affect a consumer's driver's license. Driver's license suspension only takes place if the judgment is the result of a lawsuit directly connected to the individual's conduct behind the wheel.
For example, an individual facing a civil judgment after driving drunk and injuring a pedestrian may temporarily lose her license while an individual with a civil judgment against her for an unpaid personal loan would not. State laws vary. Your state may suspend your license immediately or give you a preset amount of time to pay the judgment before revoking your driving privileges.
Consumers often confuse a judgment suspension with a points suspension. In the points system, a driver receives points against his license for reckless or illegal behavior such as speeding. Points disappear over time, but if the driver's points surpass the legal limit, the state will suspend his driver's license.
You do not have to incur points on your license to have it suspended as the result of a judgment. When the victim wins her case or you neglect to pay the judgment, suspension occurs regardless of how many points you carry on your driver's license.
Your state laws determine when and how you can reinstate your driver's license after a judgment suspension. In general, however, you must either pay the judgment in full or demonstrate a history of timely payments before the state will reinstate your driver's license.
The court can discharge a civil judgment through bankruptcy. Should this occur, you are no longer legally liable for the judgment and can apply to have your driver's license reinstated.
Unless a bankruptcy court discharges the judgment, it isn't going to simply disappear. Judgment holders can do more than merely have your driver's license revoked when attempting to collect. A zealous creditor can apply for a writ of execution allowing it to seize your bank accounts and garnish your wages. A judgment creditor can even attach a lien to your home. Thus, paying your judgment doesn't only ensure that you retain the ability to drive, doing so protects your personal assets as well.
- Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs: Suspending a Driver’s License to Force Payment
- DMV.org: DMV Points System
- Forte Law Firm; Civil Judgment and Driver’s License Suspension; Eric J. Forte; February 2011
- Lawyers.com; Creditors’ Legal Rights; William Fischer; 2010
- DMV.org: Suspended License
- University of California; Safe Driving Practices; December 2007