Question: If a motorist is never notified that his license is suspended, can he or she be guilty of driving with a suspended license?
Answer: No. A person must be on notice of a license suspension to be guilty of driving with a suspended license.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court reinforced this concept in the recent case Commonwealth v. Scotty Joe Sales. In this case, the motorist was stopped for speeding. He had a Kentucky commercial driver’s license (“CDL”) that had been suspended. At trial, Sales was convicted of driving with a suspended license.
On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the prosecution had failed to prove that Sales had been notified that his CDL had been suspended.
The Superior Court noted that in Pennsylvania, the prosecution must prove that a motorist received actual notice that his license is suspended to support a conviction. Prosecutors usually try to prove such notice by showing that PennDOT mailed the motorist a notice to a last known address.
This notice requirement is very important because the penalty for driving under suspension is severe. This is especially true with DUI-related license suspensions.
A person convicted of DUI will usually face a license suspension which can be as much as one year or more. This is true even if the person receives ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition) for the DUI.
A person convicted of driving with a license suspended because of a DUI conviction (or admission into the ARD Program) faces a minimum of 60 days in prison and a one year additional loss of license.
Our parents taught us (appropriately) that “honesty is the best policy”. However if a person is caught driving with a suspended license, an even better policy may be to be silent about any knowledge of the suspension and wait to see if the police can prove “actual notice” of the suspension.