Criminal Law

Traffic Convictions Catch Up to Minnesota Drivers

Thousands of Minnesota drivers may be surprised to learn that their state driver's license is not valid. Due to a computer glitch, over18,000 traffic convictions were not recorded in the state court information system between 2003 and 2008. Now that the error is being corrected, drivers are being notified about long overdue license suspensions and revocations.

In 2003, counties started transferring court information to the centralized Minnesota Court Information System. A problem with coding some violations caused them to slip through cracks in the process. The error was apparently discovered after a county sheriff's deputy was arrested for drunk driving. His driver's license should have been suspended for a prior offense, and it wasn't.

What License Suspensions and Revocations Mean

Driver's license suspension and revocation mean slightly different things under Minnesota law. "Suspension" generally means that your driving privilege is temporarily withdrawn. Your license is reinstated after a certain period of time has passed and you pay the reinstatement fee. "Revocation" is more serious because that refers to completely losing your license, and its restoration is not automatic. You must generally apply for a new license after the mandatory revocation period has passed and show that you meet the conditions for reinstatement.

Losing your driver's license is a serious penalty, especially if you live in rural Minnesota where there is little public transportation. The Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety can revoke or suspend a driver's license for various reasons, including:

  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Vehicular manslaughter or homicide
  • Failing to show proof of required auto insurance
  • Accumulating a number of traffic violations in a certain period of time
  • Failing to pay traffic fines
  • Failing to pay child support

Seeking Driver's License Reinstatement

How to go about having your driver's license reinstated depends upon the reason that you lost your license. For example, if you lost your license due to unpaid tickets, contact the court administrator in the county in which you were ticketed to arrange to pay the tickets or make a court appearance. If your license was suspended for failing to pay child support, contact the social service agency that administers your child support obligation to make payment arrangements.

In every case, you must contact the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to have your Minnesota driver's license reinstated. You will likely have to pay a reinstatement fee and ask that the Commissioner issue a notice of reinstatement. You can check to see if a Minnesota driver's license is valid at the DL Status link on the DPS Web site. A Driver's License Reinstatement Packet containing court forms and instructions is available at the Minnesota state courts Web site.

State laws vary widely with regard to driver's license suspension, revocation and reinstatement. To find out about the laws and requirements that apply in your state, you may want to contact your state courts or a Traffic Violations attorney.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How are administrative proceedings affected by the records errors in Minnesota? Are the recording errors being taken into account when dealing with suspension and revocation issues?
  • Are drivers receiving notices for long past due fines or fees related to the recording errors?
  • Should I check my driver's license record periodically, for accuracy, much like credit report?
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