Before becoming an attorney, I never understood points on your Missouri Driver’s License. Hopefully this article will help explain a few things, because license points have far reaching effects -- points dramatically impact how much you pay for your car insurance, and they can cause your license to be suspended due to a relatively inconsequential ticket. (like failing to stop at a stop sign)
Essentially, the points system is the Missouri Department of Revenue's way of taking power away from local county courts because they did not like that some judges were less strict than others in ordering driver’s license suspensions. So the Missouri Department of Revenue created an administrative punishment, which is separate from the criminal punishment, that would trigger suspensions and revocations of licenses of drivers who continue to break Missouri’s traffic laws.
A local judge does not have the authority to either order or not order points assessed against your license, it happens because you are either found guilty or plead guilty to a specific offense.
Unlike sports, you do NOT want points on your license. Think of the license point system more like a "foul count" because you want your driver's license points to remain at zero. Points are added to your license based upon your criminal convictions of traffic offenses. A "points suspension" (less than 1 year) or a "points revocation" (1 year or more) is triggered by the accumulation of points within a designated timeframe.
Some common violations are:
If you accumulate 8 points within an 18 month period, your license will be suspended for 30 days. The second time this happens will result in a license suspension for 60 days. The third and subsequent suspensions will last 90 days each.
If you accumulate 12 points in 12 months, 18 points in 24 months, or 24 points in 36 months, your license will be revoked for a year.
When a previously suspended or revoked license is reinstated, your point total is reduced to four. This means that if you then accumulate another four points in the next 18 months your license will be suspended again.
For the first full year without a moving violation conviction, any points on your driver's license will be reduced by one-third. If you go a second consecutive full year without a moving violation conviction, the remaining point total is then reduced by one-half. After the third full year, all remaining points are removed. There is no credit towards reduction of points during any period of suspension, revocation, or during "hardship" limited driving privilege.
If you are curious about how many points you currently have on your driver's license, the best way to check is to go to your local license bureau and ask for a copy of your driving record. It will cost a few bucks, but it is "today accurate" and cheaper than paying for one of the online records searches.
So what does all this mean?
To me, it means that any traffic ticket needs to be taken seriously. The points from a ticket that you "just pay to go away" today, could come back to bite you tomorrow. If you are at zero, all it takes is three speeding tickets within a year and a half to get your license suspended. And unfortunately, people will often receive multiple tickets for multiple law violations arising out of the same incident. Each violation carries its own point penalty and those points start adding up quickly. If you already have points on your license, something insignificant could unknowingly push you into a license suspension that you didn’t even know was coming until you get the friendly notice letter from the Missouri Department of Revenue in the mail.
And remember -- ANY points on your driving record causes you to pay more every month for your car insurance.
There are lots of ways that an attorney can help minimize the negative consequences of points on your license. When you get a ticket, I look forward to talking to you about your options so you can make the best choice for your situation.
[last updated 11.1.15 - originally posted 5.3.12]