A Iowa-registered driver was on the highway in Indiana, US, going 26 mph over the speed limit. The driver was pulled over and was fined. The driver went and payed the fine in person and resolved the ticket.
A few months later, when the driver went to the Ohio BMV to attempt to transfer his license to his new home state, he was informed (for the first time), that his license was suspended for the next 3 months.
According to a phone call the driver had with the Iowa DOT, in Iowa, if a driver gets cited for going more than 20 mph over the speed limit, they must complete a defensive driving course within a number of days. If they don’t, they risk a 6 month suspension of their license. I wasn’t able to find this information in the Iowa’s Driver Manual.
The Iowa DOT had sent a letter to the driver, which was returned to the sender. The Iowa DOT had a record of the letter being returned. They had not attempted to contact the driver further. Thus, the driver had no way of knowing of the requirements needed to keep his license valid.

This seems like a problem in the Iowa DOT, and shouldn’t have afflicted the driver with the consequences it did. Is there any way to challenge this decision? What steps could be taken?

  • 3
    Seems like they sent a letter, which fulfilled their obligation to inform. If I move, I need to inform my (non-Iowa) DMV of my new addresss.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 24, 2021 at 22:37
  • 1
    Seems like a loophole would exist if the license couldnt be suspended if the driver could not be contacted with the details on file...
    – user28517
    Aug 24, 2021 at 22:45
  • @JonCuster unfortunately, the address on file was correct and this was likely a USPS problem Aug 25, 2021 at 2:05
  • 1
    your chance of proving a USPS problem is almost non-existent
    – Tiger Guy
    Aug 25, 2021 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


It seems that the Iowa authorities did attempt to notify the driver. If the letter of notification was returned because the driver changed his or her address, that is not the DOT's fault -- drivers are supposed to notify the authorities of changes of address -- indeed driving with a license with an out-of-date address is itself a violation in some US states.

If the error was made by the postal service, that is still not the DOT's fault but they might be more willing to accept an appeal from the driver.

In general, authorities must make a reasonable attempt to notify people of court or administrative actions, but if those notifications fail, the authorities can go ahead in many cases. Try explaining that one doesn't owe taxes because an IRS notice was misdelivered. It would be too easy to avoid unwanted governmental actions if nondelivery of mail were a valid excuse.

It may well be that there is a procedure to get the suspension waived or ended early, perhaps involving taking the class that should have been taken, and perhaps paying an additional fine. Details of such procedures vary. A local lawyer who deals with traffic issues frequently would probably know what steps might be taken.

It may well be that the original ticket mentioned a possible suspension, but it may not have. That also varies by state.

  • unfortunately, the address on file was correct and this was likely a USPS problem Aug 25, 2021 at 2:05
  • this is a well though out answer though, thanks @DavidSiegel Aug 25, 2021 at 2:06
  • Answer is defective; determining that one owes taxes can theoretically be done without the IRS ever contacting; however determining the license is suspended requires guessing. Also in this case it may be moot whether the Idaho license is suspended because he's now applying for one in Ohio based on residence in Ohio.
    – Joshua
    Feb 26 at 3:48

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