I inadvertently overlooked my Maryland traffic violation, resulting in the suspension of my driver’s license in my home state. What steps should I take to address this situation?

By Lee J. Eidelberg, Esquire

Throughout my years of practice, I frequently receive inquiries from drivers outside of Maryland who, while passing through the state, have received citations that they either ignored or forgot about. These drivers erroneously believe that their lack of contact with the state minimizes the risk of future consequences. However, several months later, these drivers are notified by their home state’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) that their license has been suspended. This situation becomes even more serious when they are subsequently stopped and charged with driving on a suspended license, which can result in substantial fines and even incarceration, depending on the jurisdiction.

You may wonder how your home state found out about your ticket in Maryland. The answer lies in the fact that the majority of states (45 in total, plus the District of Columbia) are members of the Driver’s License Compact (DLC). The DLC is an agreement among states that mandates the exchange of information regarding individuals’ driving history. The primary goals of the DLC include promoting adherence to traffic laws in member jurisdictions, ensuring that drivers possess only one valid driver’s license, and providing each member state with a comprehensive record of a licensee’s past driving history.

To illustrate a common example, let’s consider Driver A, who resides in North Carolina and holds a driver’s license issued by that state. While returning from a business trip to New Jersey, Driver A receives a speeding ticket in Cecil County, Maryland. According to Maryland law, Driver A has thirty (30) days to take one of the following actions: (1) pay the fine indicated on the citation, (2) request a “waiver” hearing, or (3) request a trial. Believing that he is unlikely to drive through Maryland again, Driver A chooses to “forget” about the ticket. However, after the thirty-day period elapses, the District Court notes Driver A’s inaction and issues a “failure to comply” suspension. Consequently, Driver A’s driving privileges in Maryland are suspended. To compound the problem, because North Carolina is a member of the DLC, Maryland reports the suspension to the North Carolina MVA. As a result, Driver A’s driving privileges in North Carolina are also suspended. Upon receiving written notification of the suspension from the North Carolina MVA, Driver A discovers that he cannot lift the suspension in North Carolina until the Maryland suspension is resolved. If Driver A continues to operate a motor vehicle and is subsequently detained for an unrelated moving violation in any jurisdiction, he can be charged with driving on a suspended license.

To resolve this dilemma, I filed a motion with the Cecil County District Court to “recall” the failure to comply suspension and reset the citation for a trial. Courts are generally cooperative in granting this request when the motion is filed by an attorney who enters their appearance, guaranteeing that the offending driver will be represented on a new trial date. It is important to note that in cases involving “payable” offenses like Driver A’s, a personal appearance in court for the trial date is not required. Equally significant, once the District Court granted the motion to recall the failure to comply suspension, Driver A’s driving privileges in both Maryland and North Carolina were promptly reinstated. However, if Driver A had been charged with a “must appear” violation, typically punishable by both a fine and potential incarceration, and failed to appear,the court would likely have issued a bench warrant for his arrest. The process to recall a bench warrant for failing to appear in court for a “serious” traffic offense in Maryland, although somewhat similar to the scenario described, generally requires additional time and effort, including the driver’s personal appearance in court to resolve the case.