Losing my driver's license... again
January 7, 2005 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm worried about loosing my license. Two years ago I had an insurance lapse, and an accident. Because of it I did get my license revoked, had to pay a fortune to get a conditional license (allowed to drive to work and back for a year, basically), and I just got my normal driving privileges back over the summer. However, yesterday a letter from the DMV arrived saying they were doing the same thing, for the same incident, citing the same law, all over again. The NY DMV told me the first time was for driving without insurance, and this is for an accident without insurance. Since it's all from the same incident on the same day (same ticket, even), can they really do that?
posted by Kellydamnit to Law & Government (26 answers total)
Can they really do that? Yes. Can you stop them from getting away with it? Maybe. You need a lawyer.
posted by headspace at 8:15 AM on January 7, 2005

Go see a lawyer who specializes in traffic law.
posted by greasy_skillet at 8:18 AM on January 7, 2005

The state typically reserves the right, as condition of licensing, that they are permitted to verify insurance at any time, for any reason.

For example, here in Ohio, they send out letters randomly, and you have 10 days to prove you have insurance. You don't within 10 days, goodbye license.

Can they do it? Yes. Can you avoid it? Probably not. Should you be driving without insurance? Under no circumstances.
posted by benjh at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2005

Can you provide the law they cite for AskMe's amateur non-lawyer legal eagles (and hey, there are some lawyers here too)?
posted by grouse at 8:34 AM on January 7, 2005

A very similar thing happened to me here in Minnesota. I received two tickets for the same incident on the same day and it dinged me twice.
posted by Coffeemate at 8:43 AM on January 7, 2005

They cite section 318 of NY V&T law.
I do have insurance now, I have had insurance ever since this happened. It was an accidental lapse two years ago (two years later this month, actually), I was revoked at the time, conditional for a year, and have been able to drive since the summer.
They want to revoke again because of the same incident back in Jan 2003.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:45 AM on January 7, 2005

I'm no lawyer, but if I were a lawyer on their side I would say that driving without insurance isn't so much an incident as an ongoing condition, so while having an accident without insurance might have happened only on Day X, you were also driving without insurance on Day X-1, which could easily be seen as a separate incident.

On the other hand, that was two years ago and it seems silly for them to make a stink about it now.
posted by duck at 8:57 AM on January 7, 2005

I think this is silly. Hopefully you can get the attention of someone sensible at the DMV without a lawyer. That's what I would do, personally.
posted by grouse at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2005

Damn, I've had insurance lapses (check was in the mail, I swear!), in NY, and the worst that happended was DMV suspended the car's registration. The first time there is a fine of $8/day that the car was uninsured. If you do that twice with the same car withing 36 months, you don't have that option but must surrender your plates and are not allowed to re-register until you wait out, again, the time you were uninsured.

Obviously the accident is another story, but I still don't understand the license suspension. Was it DMV or a judge that ordered this?
posted by LouReedsSon at 9:48 AM on January 7, 2005

someone sensible at the DMV

This is an oxymoron.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:01 AM on January 7, 2005

It sounds like this new suspension (at least) was generated by the DMV. I had a similar problem in NJ because of an unpaid parking ticket. Does the letter give you the option of appealing? In NJ, you need to set up an appointment with the DMV (and probably bring a lawyer) to appeal. You can't just go to your local DMV - they have their own special offices where their people negotiate big issues like this. I imagine there's a similar process in NY. Good luck!
posted by katie at 10:05 AM on January 7, 2005

Thanks! Unfortunately I can't even call the DMV to find out my options or set up an appointment... their 800 number has been busy since 10 this morning, and when I went in person to the office they referred me to the 800 number.

I'm wondering if calling my congressperson's office would do any good, at least to complain about their 800 number.
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:12 AM on January 7, 2005

In New Jersey, driving without insurance (first offense) carries a mandatory twelve month suspension. (Which, incidentally, is twice the penalty for DUI). Period. There is none of this wussy conditional license stuff.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:12 AM on January 7, 2005

They open at 8am, I believe, and you should start dialing then and redial until you get through. Trust me, I've had many dealings with Albany!

Was the original suspension/revocation court ordered or a DMV thing? That could make the difference as a judge could have ordered something that wouldn't run concurrent with DMV's suspension, in which case you probably won't have a leg to stand on with them.
posted by LouReedsSon at 10:29 AM on January 7, 2005

Both were DMV things.
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:39 AM on January 7, 2005

I think you should get a lawyer.

There's no way this *should* happen, but without one it *will*. You, as a citizen, won't know the necessary case law to prove that giving you two separate trials for the same incident is unjust, and furthermore that not giving you a trial within a certain amount of time is unjust. A lawyer will.

If you were in Canada, I *might* be able to find you the case law that proves you must receive a trial within 8 months of an incident like this, but you're not.

I don't think you'd need a particularly high-end lawyer, even a paralegal would know something as basic as this.
posted by shepd at 10:43 AM on January 7, 2005

Well that brings me back to my situation... I never lost my license for an insurance lapse (only registration issues), and I had maybe 3 or 4, the last about two years ago, all in NY. I could maybe understand the accident, but you said they're suspending for both driving w/o ins and the accident. Something's not right here.
posted by LouReedsSon at 11:19 AM on January 7, 2005

OK, says on their web site that license is suspened if lapse is 90 days. Was yours that long?

What are some of the conditions that can create a lapse in insurance coverage?

Any amount of time that your vehicle is registered but not insured can cause a lapse in your insurance coverage and the suspension of your registration. A lapse in insurance coverage can occur:

* between the date your insurance is cancelled and the effective date that you begin new insurance, and you do not have other acceptable proof;
* between the date your insurance is cancelled and the date you surrender your license plates or the date your registration expires;
* between the date your insurance is cancelled and the effective date of "other proof" (for example, a vehicle registered in another state, or a vehicle repossessed or impounded);
* between the date you register your vehicle and the effective date of your new insurance coverage;
* between the date the insurance is cancelled on a registered vehicle and the date a dealer or the DMV issues a registration on the replacement vehicle (transfer of vehicle plates or vehicle registration);
* between the date the insurance is cancelled and the date the same insurance company reinstates your insurance coverage.

If the lapse in the insurance coverage exceeds 90 days, your driver license is also suspended.

What action does the DMV take if I do not have insurance and I do not surrender my vehicle plates immediately?

If you do not have insurance coverage and you do not surrender your vehicle plates to the DMV, your registration and driver license are suspended indefinitely.

If you had a lapse in your insurance coverage and did not surrender your vehicle plates immediately, your registration is suspended for the same number of days that you did not have insurance coverage, but did hold the vehicle plates. If the time is more than 90 days, your driver license is also suspended for the same number of days as the registration. To reinstate your driver license, you must pay a termination fee of $25 when the suspension ends.

How do I prevent a suspension if my liability insurance lapses?

You can prevent the suspension of your registration and driver license if you surrender your vehicle plates to the DMV before your liability insurance lapses.

You are not required to surrender your vehicle plates for a suspension of 90 days or shorter if you pay a civil penalty. The civil penalty is $8 per day for the number of days you did not have insurance. For example, you are not required to surrender your vehicle plates if you pay $200 for a 25-day lapse (25 x $8 = $200). You cannot use the civil penalty option if the lapse is longer than 90 days or you used this

posted by LouReedsSon at 11:32 AM on January 7, 2005

Kelly, I've [um, hypothetically :-) ] been all through this in Ohio. I said the hell with it and drove with no license and fake [um, hypothetically stolen] tags on old plates for seven years. For a year of that time I drove coffee deliveries full-time. It's fun being a scofflaw, but no fun paranoically watching your back everytime you drive.

When I finally got busted [hypothetically quickly removing the tags to avoid a felony charge], I went to court in a REAL town with a judge who was busy with tons of other, nastier cases. I was dressed presentably and acted very polite.

In short, I provided newly-gained proof of insurance and the judge gave me a minimal fine and sent me on my way quickly with license intact. No problem. I couldn't believe it was that easy.

It sounds like they're doing something redundant, "doubling up" on you, and the DMV is GREAT at doing that. If you can make a court appearance you might straighten it all out on the spot. Good luck!
posted by Shane at 11:36 AM on January 7, 2005

By the way, I [hypothetically] NEVER surrendered my plates. I needed to use them. I still have them somewhere, along with that tag. Trophies of a sort.

And the person who finally busted me? An overzealous PARK RANGER who didn't like the fact that my plate was duct-taped in my back window instead of properly affixed to the bumper. Damn, how humiliating.
posted by Shane at 11:39 AM on January 7, 2005

I'm wondering if calling my congressperson's office would do any good, at least to complain about their 800 number.

You probably already know this, but just in case: the DMV is a state agency, not a federal one.

After you've exhausted administrative options (talking to the DMV directly), and if legal advice seems to be that you have no legal remedy, then definitely talk to your NY Assemblymember and NY state senator.

Keep in mind that you'll probably get a better response if you ask them to help with your problem ("I've already been punished for this; can you help me avoid being punished again?") rather than just complain that the 800-number is busy (or that DMV is unresponsive). Which isn't to say that you shouldn't mention these things - your letter (better than a phone call, probably, if you can afford the delay) should include (separate attachment) a detailed list of what you've tried to do, who you've talked to, and what they've told you. (So keep good notes, and if you're not already doing this, try to write down, at least approximately, what you've already done, and what has happened, so far. ) And all the other rules apply - be polite, be direct, be reasonable, when asking for help.

Your state legislator is looking for your vote in the next election (for providing constituent service), so don't be hesitant to ask whenever you think that the state bureaucracy is not doing the right thing.

And good luck.
posted by WestCoaster at 12:20 PM on January 7, 2005

Thanks so much for all the help everyone!

I finally got through to someone at the DMV, who then switched me to Insurance services, and flat out said I wanted to go before a judge with this, and have an attorney plead my case, since I felt this was double jeopardy.
One mention of the L word and she put me on hold for a long time, came back and suddenly became the most helpful person I've ever encountered at the DMV (today I've been sent to an office that closed in the mid 90s, waited for someone to finish telling a coworker about their kid's latest exploits before handing me an 800 number and walking off, and had two people on the phone call me sir). In short: "My goodness, you've already paid for this years ago! It must be a computer error, I'm so sorry!!" And then she made sure to give me her name and phone number in case I had any more questions.

LouReedsSon: yes, it was a long time. My mother said she would pay it (I was a student at the time, and broke), but she thought I was still paying it, and in the meantime I had moved without changing the address (thinking she was getting the bills, and not wanting some creepy types I was dodging to use a change of address card to find out where I was currently living). I found out at the scene of the accident and nearly passed out.

On preview, WestCoaster, I realized I was thinking state level as soon as I hit post. That was my plan exactly, and adding in a "I'm so very sorry to take up your time, but I couldn't reach anyone at the DMV 800 number and didn't know what to do!"

Hopefully everything will be OK now, I'm going to call back in a day or two to make sure the changes were made in the computer. If not I'll go on to contacting a lawyer and my rep in Albany.
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:40 PM on January 7, 2005

Cool. It's always good to beat the DMV!
posted by LouReedsSon at 1:31 PM on January 7, 2005

One mention of the L word and she put me on hold for a long time, came back and suddenly became the most helpful person I've ever encountered

Ah, yes, our version of the Jedi mind trick. Works every time.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 1:57 PM on January 7, 2005

I was having a billing problem with the electric utility once and they refused to talk to me, saying that they would only talk to my apartment manager. A quick visit to my university's student's attorney who called and said the magic words "I am an attorney" and managed to get it cleared up real fast.
posted by grouse at 4:09 PM on January 7, 2005

If you are able to work it out w/o a lawyer, request a letter from DMV that states you satisfied the requirements from the revocation order, lists the original date of the revocation and the date you received your new unrestricted license (Keep the original in a folder in whatever car you drive).

Take the letter to your local police department and ask the desk sgt. if he/she could verify that your license is valid.

Say that you want to do this b/c someone along the way (you don't remember who!) told you that even though DMV restored your license and you have a letter that says that, there is still the possibility that you could be listed as revoked in NYSPIN (pronounced "nigh-spin")

I would not relax until you have verified your license status in NYSPIN with a local police agency. DO NOT think that everything is ok just b/c DMV told you so on the phone and sent you a letter.
posted by mlis at 5:24 PM on January 7, 2005

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