Recent Changes to Driving on a Suspended License Laws
Maryland law changed significantly for many people charged with driving on a suspended license to make the penalties less onerous.
Driving on a Suspended License for Unpaid Tickets or Failure to Appear in CourtSection 16-303(h) of the Transportation Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland prohibits individuals from driving on a suspended license where the license was suspended due to an unpaid traffic ticket, court fine, or the failure to appear in court for a traffic violation. The charge used to carry up to 60 days in jail, a $500.00 fine, and 3 points.
Effective October 1, 2017, the legislature changed the law so that a first offense no longer carries possible jail time. This is great news for people that simply forgot about a ticket or court date. They no longer face jail time, but it remains a "must appear offense" and still carries 3 points and a fine.
Driving on a Suspended License for Unpaid Child SupportUnder the old law, driving on a suspended license for unpaid child support was a serious traffic offense. It was chargeable under Section 16-303(c) and carried a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail, 12 points, and a $1,000.00 fine.
Effective October 1, 2017, driving on a suspended license was moved from 16-303(c) to 16-303(h). This means that it no longer carries possible jail time for a first time offender and only carries up to a $500.00 fine and 3 points. It remains a "must appear" offense.
Other Driving on a Suspended License ChargesOther driving on a suspended license charges such as accumulation of points, suspensions due to driving under the influence or driving while impaired convictions, administrative suspensions immediately following a DUI charge, and other suspensions remain chargeable under Section 16-303(c). These are serious charges that carry up to a year in jail, 12 points, and a $1,000.00 fine.
Police Officers Often Charge Under the Wrong SectionAs you can see, there is a huge difference between 16-303(h) and (c). The former only carries 3 points, but no jail time. The latter carries 12 points and up to a year in jail.
Police officers often charge under both sections even where only the less serious charge would be appropriate. Review the citations carefully to see how you have been charged.
Get Your License Reinstated ImmediatelyIf you have been charged with driving on a suspended license, you should immediately get your license reinstated and you should not drive until you do so. Many times it is easy to get the suspension lifted. You may have to pay an old traffic ticket or take other steps to resolve the problem. The State's Attorney and judge will be more lenient if you have resolved the issue when you go to court. Under a new change to the law on October 1, 2020, certain suspensions have been automatically lifted and individuals can make a payment plan to pay outstanding fines. The new law gives you an opportunity to pay the fine or work out a payment plan. However, if you fail to act, we are seeing the suspensions reinstated.