How to Get a Different State License While a Suspension Is Pending in Another State

How to Get a Different State License While a Suspension Is Pending in Another State
••• Catherine Falls Commercial/Moment/GettyImages

While the right to unhindered movement may be argued favorably in a court of law, few judges recognize a right to operate a motor vehicle. From a legal standpoint, this would more likely be viewed as a privilege, granted only when the prospective driver demonstrates competence with the automobile and knowledge of state laws pertaining to traffic and roadways.

Yet knowledge of the rules and willingness to abide by them are two separate things. This is why licensed drivers sometimes get their credential suspended. Rather than wait out the suspension period, some motorists seek to procure a new license in another state. However, it may prove to be an uphill battle to get a driver's license in a different state.

Reasons for License Suspension

Of course, each state has its own legal code pertaining to driving and automobile, or truck, operations. States with dense populations might see fit to regulate driving and traffic more than rural states where people, and their vehicles, are more dispersed. That said, there are some very common violations recognized almost nationwide. These might include driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol.

Another violation that often carries penalties even harsher than a DWI is driving without automobile insurance coverage. Many states impose, in addition to hefty fines and surcharges, a minimum of ​one-year​ license suspension. Not paying traffic fines can also lead to interruption in license validity.

Can Suspensions Be Appealed?

Again, geographic location is a big determinant as to whether a court-imposed suspension can be appealed with the state's division of motor vehicles (DMV). New Jersey, for example, allows for appeals as long as they are initiated prior to the effective suspension date. Even in such cases, the violator is still subject to accompanying financial penalties. Visiting the state DMV website will usually reveal whether or not the state allows for appeals and how they are processed.

What About Applying in Another State?

If, as asserted, states maintain their own regulations and rules relative to driving, should it not be possible simply to obtain a license in a neighboring state, or even one far away? The answer is two-fold. From a practical perspective, it was easier to do in bygone years because communications among the various DMVs were slow and casual. Advances in communication technology have changed that.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) is the organization that manages two inter-state covenants: the Driver License Compact (DLC) and the Non-Resident Violator Compact (NRVC). The former is a formal understanding among participating states to honor each other's licenses, alert traffic convictions to a violator's home state and even confiscate licenses that reflect unresolved violations. The NRVC is an agreement whereby an offender will be penalized by the home state DMV for infractions committed in any other member state.

A Small List of States

Given these commitments, not to mention the immediacy of notifications thanks to computer technology, it is hard to imagine anyone under suspension getting a license in a new state. Only a handful of states are party to the NRVC yet every state except a handful are DLC states. Rather than list DMV reciprocity by state, the short roster denotes non-participants: Georgia, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Michigan.

So, if it makes sense to relocate to one of those places, a suspended driver can take her chances and apply for a license. Otherwise, toughing out the suspension and addressing the violations makes even better sense in the long run.