“I looked up my driving record and sure enough I was listed as suspended from 2009 to comically December 31, 9999”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

“Dear PoPville,

I wanted to share a frustrating DC DMV incident and see if the good people of PoPville have any suggestions or faced similar situations.

I just moved into the District from Maryland and took a day off work to go to the DC DMV and switch over my drivers license and vehicle registrations as many new DC residents reluctantly do. To my surprise, I was informed that my DC driving privilege was “pending suspension.” This was due to a 2009 DUI incident in SE DC, for which I was ordered not to drive for 10 months, in addition to serving one week in DC jail (not fun), 18 months of supervised probation, 120 hours of community service, substance abuse treatment program, mothers against drunk driving sessions, fines, and 6 months of ignition interlock system in my vehicle. I looked up my driving record and sure enough I was listed as suspended from 2009 to comically December 31, 9999. I fully acknowledge that I did a bad, stupid thing as a 21 year old idiot, but I was shocked that my driving privilege was still suspended seven years after the fact.

The DMV told me to schedule a DC license reinstatement hearing to clear up the matter, so I went prepared with documentation to show that my drivers license had been reinstated after fulfilling the necessary requirements in Maryland. The hearing examiner was extremely rude and condescending and flat out refused to even look at the documents. She had already made up her mind that I would be required to serve a 6 month driving revocation within the DC limits starting that day. I work in a metro inaccessible area of PG County and I need to drive to get to work, so not being able to drive to and from my home for 6 months is a problem. The hearing examiner told me that “I can drive around Maryland all I want” but I could not drive in the district.

Her reasoning was that I had never formally served the DC suspension, despite the fact that I did not drive anywhere for nearly a year after the incident. After serving my Maryland driving sanctions I assumed the responsibility of my driving punishment had been transferred to them. I was not informed by DC that I had to serve an additional suspension in the District and that my driving privilege there would be pending suspension indefinitely and would never have known if I hadn’t have moved into DC.

I still have to get to work every day, so now I ride my bicycle 5 miles each way to the Maryland border to my car and drive the rest of the way to work through Maryland, avoiding roads that go through DC, every morning and every evening, effectively doubling my commute time.

I know I did a dumb thing at age 21, but I’ve done my best to change my life and move on. My lawyer who originally represented me in 2009 wants almost $5,000 to put together a petition for review, which I cannot afford. I’m trying to put together an appeal myself, but it seems hopeless. This situation seems ridiculous and I’m wondering if anyone has faced something similar, or might know who I can talk to about getting it resolved or at least getting permission to drive to and from work. Any help or advice is much appreciated.”

64 Comment

  • I have a good friend who had similar issues, though her DUI was in VA. She had an MD license and could not get a VA license even after all of her issues were resolved because she needed something from the court which would also require more work from her lawyer. She decided just to keep her MD license.
    The truth is, as a parent, a driver, and a person who cares about others in the community, my sympathy for your situation is limited. I for one and grateful that the district is taking this so seriously, especially since Maryland in general does not.

    • It sounds like Maryland took it quite seriously:

      “I was ordered not to drive for 10 months, in addition to serving one week in DC jail (not fun), 18 months of supervised probation, 120 hours of community service, substance abuse treatment program, mothers against drunk driving sessions, fines, and 6 months of ignition interlock system in my vehicle.”

      • The DUI and resulting penalties occurred in DC not MD, MD is in fact the most lenient of the three states/districts in terms of DUI punishments.

        • Maryland is the most lenient. This is why there are multiple cases of drivers with multiple DUIs who go on to kill people, and the whole point behind the new Noah’s Law. Also, I have a hard time believing that someone would get such a harsh penalty in MD for a single DUI offense unless there was more to it (for example, involved in an accident, caused personal injury, caused property damage, was significantly over the legal limit, etc).

    • -1

      The OP has “served their time” and “repaid their debt to society”, this is purely punative behavior from a minor official on a power trip and has nothing to do with keeping our roads safe.

    • I see where you’re coming from (re: limited sympathy) but OP did his/her time, paid fines etc. If DC wants to require additional suspension time they should tell offenders at the time of their sentencing. People shouldn’t be surprised by this kind of stuff 5 years later at the DMV after they believe they’ve fulfilled all the requirements of their punishment/restitution.

      • I agree. If we’re going to make rehabilitation and reintegration pretty much impossible, then we might as well scrap the whole mess of a judicial system and move to summary executions.
        What’s the point of a one-year (or 10 year, or 40 year) sentence if you can’t rejoin society afterwards?

        • I get your general point, but IMO there’s a difference between license suspension/revocation and prison. Someone with a suspended or revoked license is allowed to be part of society — just not to drive in it.
          Of course, given how difficult it is in much of America to get by without a car, one could argue that it is sort of a suspension from society…

          • Agreed. Driving is not a right, it is a privilege.

          • Except that the OP has already completed everything that was asked as a result of this DUI. To me, it sounds like OP got screwed by their lawyer who didn’t know that you had to initiate the DC probationary period as a separate thread from all the MD-related stipulations. I don’t understand why folks here think the OP deserves to undergo more suffering for something that has already been resolved.

    • Maryland actually required far more of him than dc, so I’m not sure why you’re in favor of dc extending this situation in such a shady manner. Yes, I think it’s shady to effectively suspend someone’s license forever and never notify them of the situation.

      • There’s two jurisdictions involved; given what is known about MD and their treatment of DUIs, I would be surprised if the situation is as simple as described. Aside from that, he or she did not complete their punishment in DC, and now they are being compelled to. I don’t see a problem with having the sentence completed.

    • This is borderline unconstitutional, and smacks of jurisdictional overreach and stupidity on behalf of the DC Government.

      Let me guess – you also think that all the evil black mens in jail deserve to be there because reasons, and come hell or high water, they deserve to never get a real job again?

    • My roommate (in DC) got a DUI in VA, but DC never suspended her license. She kept checking and calling them and they kept saying her record was clean. After 4 months of not driving, she said “eff it” and just was careful not to drive into VA for the remainder of her suspension.

  • Welcome to DC. You might find that it’s just easier to serve the 6-month suspension.

  • UGGGHH the bureaucracy is this city is insane. City government seriously needs a shake up.

  • Andie302

    A quick google search revealed that Lucinda M. Babers has served as the head of DMV since 2007. Try to contact her?

  • That’s crazy. I had a suspension for underage drinking in a vehicle, or something like that, in PA (I wasn’t driving and the driver wasn’t anywhere close to the regular legal limit, but we were 20). I didn’t have a license at the time, so I just assumed that when I completed all of the other requirements, I was done. Well, when I went to get a license in FL two years later, I had to serve the suspension there again. I thought that sucked, but now I’m glad DC didn’t make me serve it here too when I got my license.

  • And this, ladies and gentlemen is why you should vote for Trump.

  • It sucks, but if you get a DUI in a jurisdiction separate from the jurisdiction in which you are licensed, you are required to comply with both jurisdictions requirements for reinstating your license. It sounds like you served penalties in DC but did not complete the requirements for driving privilege reinstatement but did complete the requirements for reinstatement in MD, which was not the jurisdiction the offense occurred in. My suggestion is to shop around for new lawyers to see what prices they have.

  • This cross-jurisdictional suspension stuff sounds awfully confusing.
    MD, DC, and VA must deal with this a lot — I’m surprised that they don’t have a better system in place to prevent a mixup like this. (Or at least to do a better job of informing the suspended party, if they perceive it as not a mixup.)

    • Exactly, if DC was willing to notify Maryland so that they could place sanctions on my license why are they not willing to reciprocate the ensuing punishment on their end? Especially after 7 years.

  • This is ridiculous! What is the point of going to jail, serving your time if the rehabilitation and reintegration is going to be impossible. That is how people get into the pattern of never leaving the criminal system. You go jail and serve time but when you come back you can’t get a job, a driver license, a house etc, what is expected of you? you can’t even vote?? what does voting has to do with committing a crime?
    Anyway, OP you have my sympathy, maybe you can reach out to your congress person?
    Good luck and don’t give up!

    • “maybe you can reach out to your congress person”
      “I just moved into the District from Maryland” I’m sure Eleanor Holmes Norton will be all over this, even given the crushing weight of all of her responsibilities – look at all the good she’s done for DC and its citizens over the years. #sarcasm

  • Sadly, nobody here can help you get your license back, and it’s surprising that you have insurance if this is the case. GW has a legal aid department that can help you with paperwork, getting things notarized, etc. for FREE. (https://www.law.gwu.edu/pro-bono-program)

    You really, really shouldn’t be forking out a lot of money, if any, for this. It’s routine paperwork and hardly anyone in DC wins when they challenge the court / sanctions. I believe the DMV you go to to get the forms is near Chinatown.

    Maybe you should try Uberpool instead of biking when the days get cold. Seriously. It’s only like $5 a day, about the same as metro.

    • DUIs dont cause your insurance to be canceled, in fact after a DUI conviction, most jurisdictions require you to get a special type of insurance which is more costly.

      • If you have a high blood alcohol level (like .12-.25) you can indeed get your insurance revoked. An alcoholic family member I knew lost their insurance because of this. They’re allowed to reject you. Especially if there were drugs involved or other offenses like reckless driving.

    • Thank you for the GW suggestion. I did have special “high risk” insurance for a year or 2 after the incident but have had a generally clean driving record and regular old Allstate insurance since.

  • Talk to your councilmember’s constituent services person any time you encounter any resistance whatsoever in dealing with the DC government bureaucracy. They will put you in touch with someone who isn’t inept and is held accountable.

    • “They will put you in touch with someone who isn’t inept and is held accountable.” That person must be awfully busy. And what do you think s/he gets paid?

    • Unless you live in Ward 1, in which case you are better off contacting one of the MOCR (Mayor’s Office of Community Relations) reps for the ward, rather than your councilmember’s constituent services people.

      • No matter what ward you live in, you also have the at-large council members. Vincent Orange’s office was great in helping me deal with DCRA. Of course, he was corrupt af, but he was able to get things done.

  • I’m a little unclear on what happened. Did you live in MD, got the DUI in DC, served all your punishments in DC but had your Maryland license suspended? If that’s the case, it sounds like, at the time, you should have “served” a DC driving revocation simultaneously with your MD suspension. I have no idea whether that was possible and just a matter of paperwork, or whether it had to be served at a different time, but it sure seems like something your lawyer at the time should have known/told you.
    Side note – it is unsurprising that a DC Administrative Law Judge is incompetent/rude/condescending/[insert pejorative here]. Remember the pants lawsuit? Brought by a DC ALJ.

    • You’ve got it right. All criminal court stuff happened in DC, though I lived in Maryland. When I was released from DC jail I had a revocation letter from the Maryland MVA waiting for me. Assuming DC wanted Maryland to deal with the drivers license punishment, as it is the state I was licensed in, I did not think DC DMV had anything left for me to deal with. I went into the hearing thinking a reasonable administrative law judge would review my MVA paperwork and accept it in lieu of a separate DC suspension… that did not happen. Also just looked up the pants lawsuit, ridiculous and not surprising.

  • See if your lawyer will cut you a break on the $5k. Is that a retainer, and the total cost should be less, or that is that a flat fee for the work? It sounds kind of expensive to me, but I don’t do that kind of work. If not the lawyer won’t help, shop around for a new lawyer. This must be a fairly common predicament around the DMV.

    And it’s absurd to vilify OP. He or she complied with the punishment and should not be further penalized. This is how people get into a cycle of problems in the justice system. Get a DUI, do your time, but your license is still suspended because you can’t pay the attorney’s fees to get it reinstated (or don’t know you need to), then get caught driving on a suspended license, back into the system, wash, rinse, repeat.

    • Exactly, I see how easy of a trap it would be to fall into. I am determined not to fall in. I have worked very hard to correct the mistakes of the past and I wont let them ruin that for me. Can really see now how the system is set up to create repeat offenders. Thank you

      • Again, this really seems like something your lawyer should have known about, and informed you of, at the time. It may be helpful to point that out when you are “negotiating” a fee to get this resolved now.

  • Funny to see this posting. I have a DC license and was rejected from using Enterprise CarShare today (similar to zipcar). I have never had a DUI.. the worst is two speeding tickets over the past 10 years: 1 in Virginia and 1 in DC (neither was reckless driving). I use rental cars often and I have no idea how this came up. Thoughts??? See a clip from my rejection email below:

    Thank you for your interest in Enterprise CarShare. We regret to inform you that Enterprise CarShare is unable to accept your request and application to become an Enterprise CarShare Member.

    This decision was made in whole or in part from the information we received from American Driving Records, Inc., a consumer reporting agency used by Enterprise CarShare. American Driving Records does not and did not make the decisions to take the above adverse action and is unable to provide you with the specific reasons why such action was taken.

    • I found Enterprise CarShare to use sub par business practices, have terrible customer service, and be more expensive than Zipcar. I had major issues with them over-billing me upon closing my account. Zipcar significantly better.

  • Reading through the thread and looking back at OP’s remarks, this is confusing. It’s unclear where the required activities took place and what (if any) reporting requirements existed (did DC need to be notified at the time that the treatment MADD, etc. were fulfilled—doesn’t sound like it) . The date Dec 31, 9999 probably meant that the suspension was indefinite, pending evidence that the various conditions had been met.

    States really vary in their reciprocity around driver’s licenses, absent any complications like OPs—sometimes you take a written test, sometimes you just show up and get a new license. If the treatment, MADD classes, etc. were in Maryland, with no reporting by OP to DC and Maryland is the most lenient state, then DC may take a hard line if OP never did the required reporting to them. It may be that states do not share this information routinely.

    People like dumping on DC and I have my own experiences to share, but my worst local govt experiences in the area have been in that “Tiffany” jurisdiction with Montgomery in its name. Stuff happens everywhere. As for contacting Norton’s office, i doubt that she or any other Congress person is going to insert themselves into something that is the direct jurisdiction of a local government—this isn’t a social security check; it’s not something paid by the federal govt but administered locally like Medicaid, it the DMV.

  • I would be glad to have a workaround and a chance to definitively clear my name and just tough it out for six months. I don’t think you deserve this unexpected disruption, but I’m sure you aren’t going to fix this without throwing a decent amount of money at lawyer fees (maybe you could do better than $5k, but you wouldn’t be guaranteed a different outcome anyway) or just toughing it out (which, again, you may have to anyway).
    Sorry. I just don’t see much point in fighting it based on how you’ve laid it out.

  • The issue in DC is that a DUI sets two separate processes in motion – one is the criminal charge, that it sounds like you resolved. The second is a completely separate administrative charge against your license, for which you have to go through their (often duplicative) paperwork and punishment system. It sounds as if that is the one you did not resolve. Unfortunately, once you finished all of the other elements, you did need to go to the DMV and submit a request for your license to be reinstated. Without it, you never triggered the review to start a suspension here.
    My advice is three-fold: First, appeal the hearing you just had, and ask for it to be expedited. Also go to your councilmember’s constituent services rep, as others have posted, and to your Ward rep in the Mayor’s Office, and through the Office of Returning Citizens Affairs (ORCA) and ask for their help. See if one of them can get this resolved for you. Ask about double jeopardy attaching here – if you already served a punishment in DC, you shouldn’t be subject to a second punishment for the same crime.
    Second, just move back to Maryland (even if you just sublet a room in an apartment for a month) and get your old Maryland license back and let your six months play out here.
    Or, option three: Not a popular choice, and not one I can recommend, but one that people do every single day – ignore the suspension and drive anyway. Your insurance won’t cover you if you have a wreck, and you’ll be arrested if you get pulled over, but like I said, people do it every single day. That’s the byproduct of unreasonable administrative punishments like this that should have run concurrently with the previous punishment.

  • You might also check this this organization. They provide a variety of services and may be able to help. http://www.legalaiddc.org/

  • Try Neighborhood Legal Services – they have a Barriers to Employment program where they provide pro bono legal help for people facing, well, barriers to employment.

  • Get a scooter for the DC part.

  • There’s been lots of good answers. The practical one is six months suspension may be the easiest and cheapest option albeit a crummy one.

    D.C. has no obligation to give you a drivers license, it’s not a right of yours to get one, however you can take out some ads and badmouth DmV all you want, right on. They are required to give you a government issued ID. So, in short you can fight it but the end result will be D.C. can do what it wants here and a lawyer will either tell you this and save you the money (what they should do) or they will say you have a case, charge a small fortune, and you will learn the same lesson, just more pricey.

    Someone wrote about fulfilling requirements in each jurisdiction, that’s what did you in. Maybe you have a statute of limitations argument, but I doubt it.

    Join a carpool

    • I think you are right and hiring a lawyer is an expensive option with no guarantees. For now the plan is to just deal with it and at least try to bring attention to the issue. I will def be looking into carpool options for the coming cold months. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • As If

    man, that is so frustrating and i hope you get it resolved soon. i think there is a real problem in DC when it comes to properly notifying residents about such things…. i had my license suspended a few years ago (because of an outstanding speeding ticket, the check i mailed was supposedly never received by the DMV… anywho) and i was never notified about the suspension. i found out by chance when trying to renew my registration online. i had absolutely no idea the whole time (6 months or so) and drove around as usual, which could have resulted in jail time…

  • I experienced something similar with a suspension “not officially starting,” or something to that effect, and was forced to do 18 months suspension, after not driving (and not caring about it) for 10+ years. Though, technically, I did the suspension 5 times, there was a required step I missed to start it, so when I actually wanted to get my license back I had 18 months suspension to do. I was able to get a restricted license, by petitioning the court, but they did not care that I had “done my time,” so to speak, or that I could have done whatever step it was to start the suspension timer 10 years prior and have been fully reinstated 8 years prior. It’s seems like it was just a computer thing. Glad all that horse shit is behind me. Good luck.