State Debt-Based Driver’s License Suspension Laws

9 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2023 Last revised: 1 May 2023

See all articles by Michael Leyendecker

Michael Leyendecker

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Law

Kate Elengold

UNC School of Law

Date Written: May 1, 2023


In the United States, every state and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing or mandating the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license where the driver fails to pay a debt to the state or arising from a state-controlled system. Depending on the state statute(s), one can lose their driver’s license for any unpaid amount arising from criminal fines or fees, civil fines or fees, child support, taxes, tolls, or a variety of other unpaid debts. According to the limited empirical research on the issue, at least eleven million people across the United States are under a debt-based license restriction. That estimate is necessarily low because it does not account for suspensions arising from any debt other than fines and fees.

This compilation of state statutes is original research and represents what we believe to be the most comprehensive compilation publicly available. It builds on important work in this area that has come before, and we acknowledge and thank those publications that have greatly benefited this project. Our hope for this document is that it will provide a comprehensive and wide-reaching catalog of debt-based driver’s license suspension laws, useful to scholars, policymakers, and advocates. This research can be read in tandem with our related research, titled State Debt-Based Car Registration Suspension Laws.

Keywords: debt, driver's licenses

Suggested Citation

Leyendecker, Michael and Elengold, Kate, State Debt-Based Driver’s License Suspension Laws (May 1, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Leyendecker

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Law ( email )

Kate Elengold (Contact Author)

UNC School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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