Licensing and Financial Responsibility

by | Feb 5, 2020 | Licensing

Licensing and Financial Responsibility

Driving in Florida is a privilege, not a right. Therefore, any person who wishes to operate a motor vehicle in Florida must abide by limitations governed by traffic laws and must meet certain criteria before you may obtain a driver license.

Any of the following conditions will make a person ineligible for a driver license:

  • Being under the legal age for licensing (you must be at least 15 years of age to be eligible for a learner’s license, 16 for a Class E license if you held a learner’s license for at least one year).
  • Addiction to alcohol or drugs.
  • Medical or physical conditions that may make you unable to drive safely. Deafness alone is not a condition that will make you an unsafe driver.
  • Having your license suspended or revoked in another state.
  • Being an unsafe driver in general, if the State has good cause to believe this of you.

Exceptions for the Florida Driver License

You do not have to get a Florida driver license to drive in Florida if you are a non-resident who is at least 16 years old and have:

  • a valid non-commercial driver license from another state or territory of the United States; or
  • an International Driving Permit from your country of residence accompanied by a valid license from that country.

These people are also exempt (if they hold a valid license from their state/ country):

  • United States government employee driving a non-commercial United States government motor vehicle on official business.
  • Any non-resident working for a firm on a contract for the United States government and driving a non-commercial vehicle. (This exemption is only for 60 days.)
  • Members of the Armed Forces stationed in Florida, their spouses, and dependents. • A licensed driver that lives in another state and travels regularly between home and work in Florida. • Any non-resident attending college in Florida.
  • Non-resident migrant farm workers—even though they are employed or place children in public schools—providing they have a valid license from their home state.
  • Those who drive only vehicles like farm tractors or road machines temporarily on the highway.

Who needs a Florida license to drive?

If you are a Florida resident, you must get a Florida license to drive a motor vehicle on public streets and highways.

 A non-resident (except a migrant or seasonal farm worker) who accepts employment or enrolls their child in a Florida public school must get a Florida license within 30 days in order to operate a motor vehicle.

Driver License Eligibility – Class E

Class E is for drivers of non-commercial vehicles. Requirements for Class E Driver License are as follow:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Completion of Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education Course.
  • Provide required identification
  • Pass Vision, Class E Knowledge, and Driving Skill exams.

If you are under age 18, you:

  • Must hold the learner’s license for 12 months or until the 18th birthday, whichever comes first.
  • Must have NO moving traffic violation convictions for 12 months from learner’s license date of issue. Or may have ONE moving traffic violation (within 12 months of learner’s license issue) if adjudication is withheld.
  • Must have a parent, legal guardian, or responsible adult 21 years old or older to certify that the driver has had at least 50 hours of driving experience, of which 10 hours must be at night.
  • Must have parent or guardian sign a parental consent form.
  • Must be in compliance with school attendance.

Licensing Requirements for Teens & Graduated Driver Licensing Laws

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws ­are laws for drivers who are minors. These laws allow young drivers to safely gain driving experience under lower-risk conditions before obtaining full driving privileges.  These laws also outline limits and restrictions for new drivers ages 15, 16 and 17.

Requirements for Minors Getting Learner’s License

Requirements for Minors Getting Operator’s License

  • Must be at least 16 years old
  • Hold Learner’s license for 12 months or age 18 (whichever comes first)
  • Have driven at least 50 hours with Learner’s license (10 of which were at night)
  • Provide signed Certification of Minor Driving Experience Form
  • NO moving violation convictions for one year since learner’s date of issuance (OR may have one moving violation as long as adjudication was withheld)
  • Passed Driving Skills Test
    • The vehicle used for the driving test must have current registration and be insured.

Driving Curfews for Minors

License TypeHoursNote:
Learner’s LicenseDaylight hours first three months license issued–10 pm after three monthsALWAYS accompanied by a licensed driver 21+
16-year-old with Operator’s LicenseNOT between 11 pm to 6 amUnless driving to or from work OR accompanied by a licensed driver 21+
17-year-old with Operator’s LicenseNOT between 1 am to 5 amUnless driving to or from work OR accompanied by a licensed driver 21+

Getting Your Class E License if you already have a learner’s license

To move from a Learner’s License to a regular Class E driver’s license a person must either have a Learner’s License for 12 months or be 18 years or older.  The individual must have no moving traffic violation convictions 12 months from when his or her Learner’s License was issued.  A legal guardian, parent, or responsible adult who is 21 years of age or older must then certify that the driver has had at least 50 hours of driving experience, 10 of which must have been at night.  As a final requirement, the individual must pass a driving test.

  •  

Driving is a Privilege 

  • Parents can rescind driver license
    • The parent or guardian who signs the Parental Consent Form can rescind responsibility for the minor’s driving and cancel their license.
  • 6+ points within 12 months — “Business Purposes Only” for one year
    • If the minor receives six points on their driving record within a 12-month period, their driving privileges are automatically restricted to Business Purposes Only for 12 months or until they are 18, whichever happens first. If they receive additional points during this restricted period, the restriction is extended 90 days for each additional point.
  • Zero Tolerance
    • Drivers under the age of 21 with a blood-alcohol level of .02% or more will have their license immediately suspended for six months. A second offense will result in a one-year suspension. Refusal to submit to testing (first offense) results in a suspension of 12 months; 18 months on a second offense.
  • NO moving violation convictions for one year from Learner’s License date of issuance
    • If the minor receives a moving traffic conviction while they have a Learner’s License, the one-year period they are required to hold their Learner’s License will be extended for one year from the date of the conviction or until they are 18 years old, whichever happens first.
  • Must be in compliance with school attendance, or ineligible to obtain or maintain a license
    • If the minor is not in compliance with school attendance, their driving privilege can be suspended until proof is provided that they have attended school for 30 consecutive days.
    • If the minor is convicted of possession of tobacco or nicotine products, their Learner’s License will be revoked for a minimum of 30 days. Convicted of tobacco possession

Licensing Actions

As a holder of a Florida driver license, you have a responsibility to drive safely. If you violate traffic laws or have proven to be an unsafe driver, your license may be suspended, revoked or canceled, or you may be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle. You must surrender your license if any of these actions are taken against you by DHSMV

License Suspension

There are a variety of reasons why your driver license can be suspended. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) can suspend your license for a certain amount of time, based on the severity of your violation. If your license is suspended, your privilege to drive a motor vehicle is temporarily withheld until certain conditions are met. Many Florida drivers are surprised to find out that their license is no longer valid and has been suspended. This is because your license can be suspended for things other than a ticket or criminal infraction such as drunk driving. Here’s a list of common reasons that can get your license suspended:

  • Excessive Moving Violations: The state of Florida operates on a point system, in which drivers accumulate points on their license for every moving violation they commit. If you accumulate 12 or more points on your current driver record, your license will be suspended. 12 points in 1 year will result in suspension for 30 days; 18 points in 18 months will suspend your license for 3 months and 24 points in 3 years will result in a 1-year suspension.
  • Driving Under the Influence: Your Florida driver’s license will be suspended if you are found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The length of the suspension is 6 months for your 1st offense, and 1 year for your 2nd offense (or subsequent offenses). If you refuse to take a breath/urine/blood test you will face a 1-year suspension, or 18 months for a 2nd refusal (or subsequent refusals). If eligible, you will be given a 10-day temporary driving permit to use, starting on the date of your arrest.
  • Driving with a Suspended License or No License: Driving with a suspended license will lead to an increase in the length of the suspension, and you may also be imprisoned for up to 5 years. The duration of the additional suspension varies depending on the reason for the underlying suspension. Your driver’s license may also be suspended if you do not have your license with you while you are driving.
  • Driving without Insurance: All motor vehicles driven in Florida must be properly insured. Failure to provide proof of valid auto insurance can result in your license being suspended.
  • Other Driving-Related Violations: Your Florida driver’s license may also be suspended for 1 year if you engage in reckless driving, are found to be at fault in a fatal accident, or if you abandon your vehicle on a public highway. If a violation results in death or serious injury (not DUI), the suspension period is 3 months to 1 year.
  • Physical or Psychological Disqualification: The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Chief Administrator can order a re-examination of any person who may not be fit to drive. An individual’s driving privileges may be suspended if the re-examination finds they are physically or psychologically unable to drive safely.
  • Providing False Information: If you provide false information on your driver’s license application, your license can be suspended.
  • Non-Driving Reasons for License Suspension: A variety of non-driving violations or issues can result in your license being suspended. These include: not responding to a Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles notice or not appearing in court; failing to pay traffic tickets, fines or surcharges; not paying child support, not stopping for a school bus or for using tobacco if you’re younger than 18 years old.
  • Fail to stop for the school bus at least twice within 5 years
  • Truancy or Education Non-Compliance – minors who drop out of public, private, or home school programs or accumulate 15 or more unexcused absences from school in 90 calendar days

Licensing Revocation

here is a difference between having your Florida driver’s license suspended and having it revoked.

  • suspension means you cannot drive for a certain period of time but can get your license back later.
  • Revocation of your license means your driver’s license is canceled, and you will need to submit to an investigation before you can obtain another license. 

Your license will be revoked if you are found guilty of:

  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other controlled substances
  • A felony in which a motor vehicle is used
  • Not stopping to give help when the vehicle you are driving is involved in a crash causing death or personal injury
  • Lying about the ownership or operation of motor vehicles
  • Three cases of reckless driving within one year. Forfeiting bail and not going to court to avoid being convicted of reckless driving counts the same as a conviction
  • An immoral act in which a motor vehicle was used
  • Three major offenses or 15 offenses for which you receive points within a 5-year period
  • A felony for drug possession
  • Vision worse than the standard minimum requirements
  • Theft of motor vehicle parts or components
  • Using or possessing tobacco if you are underage

A court may also order that your license is revoked for certain other traffic offenses.

Your license will be revoked for at least three years if you kill someone because of reckless driving, and will be permanently revoked if you are found guilty of DUI manslaughter or a fourth DUI violation. If you have a medical or physical condition that affects your ability in driving or a vision that is worse than the standard minimum requirements, your license may also be revoked. If your medical condition is temporary, your license may be revoked until the condition has been remedied.

License Cancellation

If your license was issued because of a mistake or fraud (giving false information or identification), it would be canceled. If your license is cancelled, it is invalid and terminated, and cannot be used.

Commercial License Disqualification

If you have a commercial driver’s license and you get disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), your commercial driver’s license is withdrawn and you may not drive a CMV during the disqualification period. Disqualification occurs if you commit certain offenses while driving either a CMV or your own non-commercial vehicle. Examples of these offenses include:

  • Committing 2 serious traffic violations within a 3-year period
  • Driving a CMV with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .04 or more
  • Driving your personal vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
  • Refusing a breath or blood alcohol testing
  • Leaving the scene of an accident

The Point System

To maintain all of your driving privileges in the state of Florida, it’s important that you understand how the point system works so you can maintain a clean driving record.

The FL Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is responsible for keeping track of point violations on your Florida driving record. Accumulating a set number of points will lead to the suspension of your license. Following are some traffic offenses and the points they add to your record upon conviction.

Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in property damage of more than $50

6

Unlawful speed resulting in an accident

6

Reckless driving

4

Any moving violation resulting in an accident

4

Passing a stopped school bus

4

Driving During Restricted Hours

3

Unlawful speed — 16 MPH or more over lawful or posted speed

4

Unlawful speed — 15 MPH or less over lawful or posted speed

3

(Fines are doubled when infractions occur within a school zone or construction zone, with possible civil penalties up to $1,000 and can be required to complete driving school course.)

All other moving violations (including parking on a highway outside the limits of municipalities)

3

Improper equipment or vehicle in an unsafe condition

0

(Operator corrects defects within 10 days from the date the traffic citation was issued)

0

Violation of curfew

3

Open Container as an operator

3

Child Restraint Violation

3

*The driver receives the same number of points listed if the conviction occurs out-of-state or in a federal court.

Length of Suspension

You must serve a point suspension if you accumulate a certain number of points, as shown below:

Number of Points / Period

Maximum Length of Suspension

12 points within a 12-month period

30 days

18 points within an 18-month period

3 months

24 points within a 36-month period

1 year

In computing points and suspensions, the offense dates of all convictions are used. Three points will be deducted from the driver record of any person whose driving privilege has been suspended only once under the point system and has been reinstated if such person has complied with all other requirements. It is important to note that serving a point suspension does not prohibit these convictions from being used to accumulate additional suspensions or revocations.

Mandatory Restriction for Minors

Any driver under the age of 18 who accumulates six or more points within a 12-month period is automatically restricted for one year to driving for business purposes ONLY. If additional points are accumulated the restriction will be extended for 90 days for every additional point received.

Reinstatement of License

If your driving privilege is suspended or revoked, you may be eligible to apply for a hardship license or reinstatement. You can contact the local Bureau of Administrative Reviews Offices, Driver License Office or the Customer Service Center in Tallahassee for eligibility information. In general, to get your license back after a suspension or re-apply for another license, you will need to meet your reinstatement conditions, take the required examination, pay all reinstatement fees, and provide proof of liability insurance coverage.

Under some circumstances, you may be able to apply for a temporary driver’s permit during your suspension period. This allows you to drive for business or employment purposes only. However, if this is your 2nd or more DUI, you will not be eligible to apply for such a temporary driver’s permit.

The Financial Responsibility Law

Each driver must be financially responsible for any injuries or damages that he/she causes regardless of what type of vehicle he/she drives. Under the Financial Responsibility Law, owners and operators of motor vehicles are required to be financially responsible for damages and/or injuries they may cause to others when a motor vehicle crash happens.

This law requires any person to have bodily injury, liability insurance at the time of the following:

  1. A crash where you are at fault
  2. A suspension for too many points against your driver license
  3. A citation for DUI, which results in a revocation
  4. A revocation for Habitual Traffic Offender
  5. A revocation for any serious offense where this department is required to revoke your license

You must have the following minimum insurance coverage:

  • $10,000 Bodily Injury Liability (BIL)
  • $20,000 Bodily Injury Liability to two or more persons.
  • $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PDL), or
  • $30,000 Combined single limits.

If involved in any of the above violations and you do not have insurance to comply with the Financial Responsibility Law, your driver license and/or a license plate(s) will be suspended for up to three years. You will have to pay a $15 reinstatement fee and show the department certified proof of full liability insurance on Form SR-22 for three years to get your driving privilege back.

In addition, if you are the driver or the owner of a vehicle which is in a crash that is your fault, this department can require you to pay for the damages before your driving privilege is reinstated.

Under this law, to protect yourself and others, you should have liability insurance on any motor vehicle you own or drive, including motorcycles.

The No-Fault Law

The Florida No-Fault Law requires owners of motor vehicles with four or more wheels (excluding taxis and limousines), that has been in the state for at least 90 days or non-consecutive days during the past 365 days to purchase a policy delivered or issued for delivery in this state. The minimum coverages are:

  • $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
  • $10,000 of Property Damage Liability (PDL)

You cannot buy a license plate and registration for a car or other four-wheel vehicle without having coverage issued in Florida. Once you have this insurance, anytime you renew it, fail to renew it or cancel it, or the insurance company cancels, the insurance company must notify DHSMV. DHSMV will then notify you to provide proof of new coverage. If you then fail to provide proof of insurance, your driver license and license plate(s) will be suspended for up to three years.

You must maintain insurance coverage throughout the vehicle registration period. If your driver license and license plate(s) are suspended for not having insurance under the No-Fault Law, you will have to pay $150 and show proof of insurance to get them back. If it happens a second time within three years, you will pay $250. If it happens three times within three years, you will have to pay $500.

Also, if your driver license and license plate(s) have been under suspension for 30 days or more for a no-fault insurance violation, a police officer can seize your license plate immediately.

The Motorcycle License

Florida is a great place to ride motorcycles year-round; hence, motorcycles are very popular in Florida. In fact, California and Florida have the largest number of registered motorcycles in the states by large margins. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the number of on-road motorcycles registered in the U.S. has been steadily increasing throughout these years, doubling from 4.2 million in 2002 to 8.4 million in 2017. However, riding a motorcycle is not without risks. The most recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that motorcycle deaths in Florida increased 30 percent from 2014 to 2015. In 2015, 606 deaths were attributed to motorcycle crashes. A recent survey conducted by AAA showed 83 percent of motorcyclists questioned claimed to wear helmets, but only 47 percent of riders in Florida was observed wearing a helmet. Wearing a helmet could mean the difference between life and death.

Motorcycle Training

Driving a car and riding a motorcycle requires different skills and knowledge. That’s why Florida requires first-time motorcycle applicants to complete a basic motorcycle safety education course before they can get a motorcycle license or endorsement on their license.

There are two types of motorcycle licenses:

  • A motorcycle endorsement printed on a Class E drivers license.
  • A motorcycle-only license.

The cost of getting a motorcycle license or endorsement is $7.

To be eligible to drive a motorbike in Florida, you must also meet the following requirements:

  • You are at least 16 years of age.
  • If you are younger than 18, you have not received a traffic conviction in one year.
  • You have a regular Class E driver’s license.
  • You have enrolled in the Basic Rider Course (applicable for all ages).

“Motorcycle Only” Licensing Requirements

If you are applying for a motorcycle-only license, you must still take the Class E licensing, road rules, road signs, and vision test. Depending on if you are under or over 18 years of age, there are different requirements:

Under 18

All individuals who are under 18 must hold a Learner’s License for at least 12 months, or until their 18th birthday before they can be issued a Class E Motorcycle Only license.  They cannot have any moving traffic violation convictions within 12 months of when they were issued their Learner’s License and must also complete an approved motorcycle safety course. If a person completes the course before turning 16, he or she is required to wait until reaching the age of 16 before getting a motorcycle license or endorsement.

Over 18

If you’re over 18, you must pass the vision, road sign, and road rule examinations, or hold a current Learner’s License and provide proof of completion of an approved motorcycle safety course.

If you are 21 or older, completing this course will waive the tests normally required, as the test upon completion is equivalent to that offered by the State. You still must take the written test, which is required for all applicants.

“Motorcycle Endorsement” Licensing Requirements

  • You must hold at least a valid Class E operator’s driver license.
  • Complete the Basic RiderCourse (BRC) or Basic RiderCourse updated (BRCu) motorcycle safety course with an authorized Sponsor.
  • After successfully passing the RiderCourse, you must obtain your endorsement within one (1) year. If the endorsement has not be obtained during the one (1) year grace period, the course completion card, as well as the “PASS” waiver status, is considered invalid and a Rider Skills Test (RST) will need to be completed with an FRTP Regional Coordinator before you may obtain the endorsement.
  • After you complete the Basic RiderCourse (BRC) or Basic RiderCourse updated (BRCu), visit a driver license office or tax collector office that issues driver licenses and inform them that you completed the course. Upon providing proper ID and paying the required endorsement fees, your Class E license will be issued with a motorcycle endorsement.

Motorcycle Licensing

As a motorcycle operator, you are required to follow the laws that apply to motor vehicles, as well as those for motorcycles. For example, you are not permitted to straddle lanes, and you may not share lanes except with one other motorcycle. When passing a vehicle, you must get in front when re-entering the lane, not to its side.

You may ride without protective headgear provided both of the following apply to you: (1) you are over 21 years of age; and (2) you carry proof of medical coverage that provides a minimum of $10,000 in medical benefits (personal injury protection) that will pay for injuries you may incur in a motorcycle crash. Otherwise, you are required to use a department-approved helmet that is appropriate for use on the highway. Helmets provide your head with protection. This is especially important because on a motorcycle you are vulnerable to hazards. Even if you choose to go with insurance coverage of just $10,000, that will probably not be enough to cover your medical costs.