Foreign mission members enjoying diplomatic or consular privileges and immunities have a duty under international law to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state. The operation of a motor vehicle in the United States by such persons is not a right, but a privilege that may be withdrawn in cases of abuse.
OFM manages a robust Enforcement Program whose purpose is to handle motor vehicle incidents (both “pre-payable” as well as “must appear”, i.e. those requiring a court appearance) nationwide as more fully described below. This Program includes outreach to law enforcement nationwide in the appropriate handling of such incidents. OFM issues driver’s licenses to foreign mission members and their eligible family members to support its Enforcement Program. Foreign mission members must resolve by either paying or contesting of fines or by adjudication by local judicial authorities of all violations of U.S. traffic regulations. Failure to do so may at a minimum result in the suspension of driving privileges.
OFM maintains official driving records on members of the foreign missions community who are issued Department of State driver's licenses, and utilizes a demerit point system to record motor vehicle law violations.
PRE-PAYABLE MOVING VIOLATIONS AND PARKING TICKETS
All mission members receiving a minor traffic ticket that carries a fine are expected to either pay the fine or contest the ticket in the appropriate court. If the ticket is contested, a court appearance is required. If appropriate, the Department of State will request that applicable immunities be waived by the sending government so that the foreign mission member may appear in court to contest the ticket. An express waiver of immunity must be granted before this can happen. In many jurisdictions, failure to pay or contest in a timely manner may result in fines being doubled.
“MUST APPEAR” MOVING VIOLATIONS
When a mission member is cited for a more serious traffic violation that requires a court appearance, the Department requests an express waiver of immunity by the sending government to allow adjudication by the local court. If immunity is waived, the Department will abide by the court's disposition of the case and annotate the member's driving record accordingly. If the waiver of immunity is denied, the Department will certify the individual's immunity status to the court, and assess the appropriate demerit points on the mission member's driving record (see “Point System” section below).
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
OFM views every allegation of a mission member operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired seriously. If a mission member is stopped by a police officer on the suspicion that he or she is “driving under the influence” of alcohol or drugs (DUI) or “driving while intoxicated” (DWI), OFM recommends full cooperation with local law enforcement and always requests that law enforcement contact the Department of State for verification of the mission member’s status. By heeding the directions of the officer, the member’s personal safety as well as the safety of the general public will be ensured.
If a mission member is issued a citation for DUI/DWI, the Department of State will formally request a waiver of immunity from the relevant Chief of Mission so the case may be adjudicated in accordance with local law. If the waiver is granted, the reported violator will be required to appear in court on the appointed day and time. The Department of State will abide by the court’s decision in these cases and expects that any fines or conditions imposed will be satisfied. The court’s determination will be recorded on the individual’s OFM –maintained driving record. If the request for waiver of immunity is denied, OFM will immediately suspend the driving privileges of the offender for a period of up to one (1) year. Consistent with the Department’s deep concern regarding the potentially tragic consequences presented by alcohol-related driving incidents, should a mission member be involved in a second DWI or DUI offense, it is Department policy to require that individual to depart the United States.
THE POINT SYSTEM
Demerit points are assigned when foreign mission members are determined to have committed a traffic violation. Different violations carry different point assignments, depending on the seriousness of the offense.
An accumulation of eight points on a driving record in a two-year period will cause a review and possible administrative action. A twelve-point accumulation within a two-year period will cause all license and driving privileges to be suspended by OFM. Habitual violation of traffic laws also will result in the suspension or revocation of driving privileges. The Department of State will request the departure of any person who demonstrates a serious disregard for U.S. law or public safety.
Please click here for a listing of the types of moving violations and the points assigned to them in accordance with the OFM Point System.
The Department requests that mission members and law enforcement officials send copies of all moving violation citations issued to foreign mission members received to OFM at 202-895-3646 (fax), or to OFMDMVENFORCEMENT@state.gov.
For questions regarding the applicability and enforcement of motor vehicle laws to the foreign mission community, please forward requests to the contact information listed below:
Office of Foreign Missions
Diplomatic Motor Vehicles
OFM/DMV Enforcement Program
3507 International Place, NW
Washington, DC 20008-3025
PHONE: (202) 895-3500
FAX: (202) 895-3646