Suspended Driver’s License – How to Clear Up Unpaid Traffic Tickets

Is your driver’s license suspended or revoked due to old traffic tickets?  Driving on a suspended driver’s license is sure to lead to more tickets, more fines, and lengthier suspension periods.  It can quickly feel insurmountable and overwhelming.  Since most of us need to drive in order to work, many people have no choice but to continue driving to keep their job.  Tickets pile up and the hole only gets deeper.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Sooner or later, most people decide it’s time to address the issue and finally rid themselves of the stress and stigma of their situation.  Luckily, there are options.  This post explores a few of the ways to address old tickets and finally get back on the road in Minnesota.

1. Pay off your old tickets.  One way to address this situation is simply to pay off your old tickets.  This is probably the simplest method, and for people fortunate enough to be dealing with only a small number of tickets, it may be a good option.  However, there are two major disadvantages to simply paying your old tickets.

First, it can be very expensive.  The exact price varies by county, but each driving after suspension ticket is going to be somewhere around $280.  If there are other violations on your ticket (speeding, no insurance, etc), that amount can go up quickly.  There are often late fees as well.  It’s not uncommon to owe thousands of dollars in old tickets.  And because each unpaid ticket is typically causing your license to be suspended, you won’t get your driver’s license back until you pay all of your outstanding tickets.

Second, paying a ticket means pleading guilty.  But some convictions trigger an additional license suspension.  This means that in many instances, paying off old tickets can actually extend the length of your suspension!  And those suspensions stack, meaning the suspension period gets longer and longer with each new conviction.  For this reason, although paying off old tickets might be well-intentioned, it can trigger very nasty consequences.

Even if your old tickets don’t result in additional suspensions, paying them will definitely make for a very unflattering driving record.  Old tickets often will not go on your driving record until you pay them.  Paying them now means your driving record will suddenly become littered with numerous convictions, some of them from years ago.  It’s not a good look, especially to insurance companies.

2. Enroll in the driver diversion program.  The Minnesota Driver Diversion Program (DDP) dates back to 2009 and is now available statewide.  People who enroll in the program are given a valid license and set up on a payment plan to begin paying off their old tickets.  The program requires participants to attend a driving education class as well.  DDP sounds like a good option, but there are downsides as well.  First, you’ll be paying the entire amount of your unpaid fines AND a fee to the diversion program.  Second, participants can be terminated if they fail to make their required monthly payment.  Payments are used to satisfy fines only after the program fee is paid, meaning individuals who miss a payment can find themselves kicked out of the program without having made much progress towards paying their fines, since their first payments were to the diversion program and not the fines themselves.  And whatever tickets were paid are going to go on your driving record, potentially leaving you with a very messy driving record.  Finally, DDP is a for-profit business, so its focus is not on customer service.  Both the Star Tribune and the Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality [PDF] have raised serious questions about how the company operates.

3. Hire a lawyer to negotiate your tickets.  Spending more money to address a money issue may sound odd, but hiring a lawyer can often result in the best outcome for you.  People with a suspended driver’s license often have tickets from more than one county or city.  A skilled criminal defense attorney can work with the prosecutors for each ticket to negotiate a deal.  Prosecutors are often happy to clear up old cases (and to finally collect unpaid fine money) and might be willing to compromise.  A knowledgeable attorney can also identify which charges would trigger additional suspensions and try to get those charges dismissed. This means you won’t have to deal with additional driver’s license suspensions as a consequence of cleaning your up old tickets.  Finally, for those tickets that do have to be paid, a payment plan can be arranged.  This can allow you to get your license back more quickly while still having time to make payments towards your fines.  This can often be accomplished without having to make court appearances as well.

We recently helped a client with this exact scenario and were able to save him approximately $2,000 in fines while getting more than half of his tickets dismissed.  In the end, this client got his license back sooner than he otherwise would have, kept numerous tickets from hitting his driving record, saved a ton of time and a little bit of money, too.  Every person’s situation is different, but an experienced criminal defense lawyer can often make a huge difference.  If you feel like you’re drowning in an ocean of old tickets, contact us here to see how we can help you.

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