While traffic related offenses aren’t the primary part of our criminal defense practice, many of our clients have questions about drivers’ license suspensions, especially those related under the influence (DUI) or drunk driving in Pennsylvania.
Driving on a Suspended License – Section 1543 of Pennsylvania Vehicle Code (Title 75)
Similar to DUI, driving on a suspended license falls under the vehicle code (Title 75), specifically Section 1543. Under Section 1543(a), a person who drives a car or any vehicle while in suspended, revoked, or cancelled status is guilty of a summary offense and will pay a minimum fine of $200.00. Under 1543(b) however, a person who is serving a sentence as a result of an ARD DUI disposition (Section 3802) or a violation of Section 1547(b)(1) DUI-Refusal, is guilty of a summary offense which requires him or her to serve a minimum of 60 days but not more than 90 days of incarceration in county jail (the max for a summary offense) and a $500.00 fine. A repeat offender of Section 1543 commits a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree and must serve a mandatory minimum of 6 months in county jail with a mandatory minimum fine of $2,500.00; a 3rd offense is a misdemeanor of the 1st degree where the mandatory minimum sentence is 2 years (state prison) and a $5,000.00 fine.
You can’t drive until PENNDOT restores your license not when suspension period ends!
It’s important to keep in mind if you’re serving a license suspension for DUI or a DUI related refusal, you can’t drive until you receive notice from that your license has been restored. This is often misunderstood and many people believe that their license is automatically restored as an operation of law when the suspension period is over. There is a significant amount of Pennsylvania case law on this issue and the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled that a person is guilty of violating Section 1543 even after the expiration of the suspension period if their license wasn’t actually restored at the time of their arrest or stop for this traffic offense.
There is a Pennsylvania which the driver completed all of the paperwork to restored his license on September 24, 2002, and was stopped the following day. records indicated that his license was restored on October 11, 2002. In this situation, the driver (Williams) submitted the application and had done everything but didn’t receive notice of his restoration. The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the expiration of the suspension period does not automatically restore one’s driving privileges (See Commonwealth v. Williams).
It’s important to hire a lawyer who stays current with DUI and traffic laws in Pennsylvania
While there was previous case law in Pennsylvania which indicated that a driver’s privileges were restored by operation of law once the suspension period ended, subsequent cases like Williams and Commonwealth v. Byrne over ruled that decision. The previous case of Commonwealth v. Rossi was overruled by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2004 and so, it is no longer good law in Pennsylvania. In other words, don’t drive in Pennsylvania even if your suspension period is over until you receive notice from that your license is restored, otherwise you face all of the penalties under Section 1543. These are mandatory minimum sentences that if you are serving a DUI suspension, you will serve 60 days in county jail and there is nothing your defense attorney can do to avoid this sentence.
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