Your driver's license may be one of your most valued possessions. Without it, you're hampered in your ability to drive to work, run errands, board an airplane or perform any number of everyday activities.
Under a variety of circumstances, your license may be suspended or canceled, according to Ann Howard, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. To make matters worse, depending on the reason it was taken away, your car insurance premium may increase once your license is reinstated.
Be aware of these five common license-losing situations.
1. Failure to pay a traffic fine.
Failure to pay a traffic fine accounts for 40 percent of the driver's license losses in Florida, according to Howard. If you fail to contest or fail to pay the ticket within the time established by law, your license will be suspended. And you very well may not get the letter telling you about that suspension.
Shane Fischer, a criminal defense attorney in Winter Park, Fla., says: "People usually fail to update their address, so the notices informing them of a pending suspension get sent to an old address."
As a result, you may not find out your license is suspended until you're pulled over, you're involved in a crash or you've got to renew your license.
2. A DUI conviction.
In every state, a driver is considered drunk if he has a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.08 percent.
Deane Silke, vice president of Fiesta Auto Insurance, an insurance and tax preparation services franchise, says that in California, a conviction for a first-time DUI results in the loss of a driver's license for four months. "You will be required to complete a DUI driver program to have your driving privileges reinstated," Silke says.
Not all states take away your license after a first-time DUI conviction, however, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those states include Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee. On the other end of the scale, Georgia suspends a driver's license for a year after your first DUI conviction.
Not surprisingly, a second DUI conviction can prompt a longer suspension of your driving privileges.
Count on a significant jump in your car insurance premiums once your license is reinstated after a DUI, according to Jerry Farcone, a Farmers Insurance agent in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
3. Accumulation of too many points.
A state typically assigns points to your license based on convictions for traffic violations. The point system varies from state to state. For example:
California assigns one point for minor moving violations such a speeding or running a stop sign, and two points for violations such as reckless driving or an at-fault accident with bodily injury. According to Silke, a California driver is considered a "negligent operator" and may lose his driver’s license if he racks up four points in 12 months, six points in 24 months and eight points in 36 months.
In Texas, one moving violation penalizes you two points. A moving violation resulting in an accident costs you three points. Your license will be suspended if you commit four moving violations within 12 months or seven moving violations within 24 months.
In New York, points for speeding, reckless driving and other violations adding up to 11 within an 18-month period will trigger a license suspension, usually for 31 days.
4. Failure to carry the minimum amount of insurance.
Driving without proof of car insurance can cause suspension of your driver’s license if you're pulled over, Silke says. Forty-eight states require drivers to purchase a minimum amount of liability insurance; only in Iowa and New Hampshire is that kind of coverage optional.
5. A criminal conviction.
Conviction for certain crimes other than DUI may result in having your driver's license taken away, according to Fischer.
In Florida, for instance, if you're convicted of a drug-related offense, your license will be suspended for two years -- even if the drug crime wasn't connected to your car, Fischer says. And if you're nabbed for shoplifting in Florida, you can lose your driver's license for six months.