The term “revocation” refers to the recall, cancellation, or annulment of something that has been granted, such as a privilege, an offer, or a contract. There are many forms of revocation, and the term applies to issues in civil as well as criminal law. For example, an offer may be revoked, privileges in military service may be revoked, and the right to hold a driver’s license may be revoked. Although there may be many situations in which individuals would desire to revoke something previously granted, whether or not it is allowed by law depends very much on the circumstances. To explore this concept, consider the following revocation definition.

Definition of Revocation


  1. Nullification, withdrawal, or annulment
  2. The act of revoking something


1375-1425        Late Middle English revocacion

Revocation in Contract Law

In contract law, the term revocation may refer to the termination or withdrawal of an offer. The party making an offer may legally revoke it before it has been accepted by the other party. This sometimes occurs when the party receiving the offer requests time to think about it, or makes a counteroffer with different terms. Once an offer has been accepted, however, it cannot be withdrawn, as it then becomes a legally binding agreement.

Additionally, revocation is a type of legal remedy for a buyer in receipt of goods that do not conform to those specified in the contract. In such a situation, the buyer may choose to accept the nonconforming goods as is, reject them, or revoke acceptance under the contract. For the buyer to legally revoke, however, he must show that the goods failed to meet specifications, and that the failure decreased the value of the goods. While it is best if the buyer in such a situation refuses delivery of nonconforming goods, if he was initially unable to tell the goods were not what he contracted for, he must notify the seller immediately after he realizes the problem.

Revocation of a Driver’s License

Possessing a license to drive is a privilege in the United States, not a right. As such, there are a number of acts and offenses that may lead to suspension or even revocation of a driver’s license. While certain illegal acts may be the basis for suspension and revocation, the process of restricting a driver’s license is separate from criminal court proceedings. Each state’s department of motor vehicles (“DMV”) has its own guidelines on license suspension and revocation, and most states allow the DMV a certain amount of leeway in dealing with driving offenses.

All 50 states revoke the licenses of drivers with multiple DUI convictions, and those who accumulate a certain number of traffic ticket points or violations. Almost all states also revoke the driver’s license of anyone caught driving on a suspended license. Other offenses for which many states revoke driver’s licenses include:

  • Reckless driving
  • Drag racing or contests of speed
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Failing to appear at court for a traffic summons

Non-driving offenses that may result in license revocation in many states include:

  • Failure to comply with a child support order
  • Conviction of a non-DUI drug-related offense
  • Use of altered or fictitious license plates or registration stickers

Revocation of Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a document through which an individual (the “grantor”) may allow another person to take care of certain responsibilities, or make certain decisions for him. The Power of Attorney may be as broad or as specific as the grantor desires, and is made in writing, the signatures witnessed. The grantor may revoke a Power of Attorney at any time, as long as he is competent. Revocation of Power of Attorney must be made in writing, the signature witnessed.

A Power of Attorney terminates automatically when the grantor dies. It also terminates if the grantor becomes incapacitated, unless the document specifically states it is to remain in effect on incapacitation. In this situation, once the grantor becomes incapacitated, however, he cannot terminate the power.

Probation Revocation

Many people who have been convicted of a relatively minor crime are put on probation, allowing them to remain at home and at work in the community, under the supervision of a probation officer. In some situations, the offender may serve a shortened jail term, then be released on probation to finish his sentence. Violating the provisions of probation, which may vary from offender to offender, and depending on the conviction, usually results in probation revocation.

Violations that may lead to probation revocation include:

  • Failing to report to the probation officer as scheduled
  • Failing to show up to scheduled court appearances
  • Failure to pay court-ordered fines or restitution
  • Possession, using, or selling drugs
  • Committing other crimes or offenses

Revocation of Parole

Many criminal offenders who have been sentenced to incarceration in prison are released early on parole. Similar to probation, parolees are required to follow specific rules and restrictions, and must report regularly to a parole officer. Violating the terms and conditions of parole almost always results in revocation, and a return to prison.

Parole revocation actually refers to the administrative act of returning a parolee back to prison for failure to comply with the terms of his parole. Because revocation of parole is not a criminal proceeding, as the individual has already been convicted of the crime and sentenced, parole violators have very few rights in the process.

Because the granting of parole is a discretionary process, a violator’s parole may be revoked for a short period, or he may be required to finish out his original sentence in prison. It is also possible that the act for which the individual is violated will be charged as an additional criminal offense, which may be tried and sentenced separately.

Parole Revocation Hearing

Once a parolee has been re-arrested for a violation, he will be held without bail in the county jail pending a hearing. The only people attending the parole revocation hearing are usually the parolee, the parole officer, and the hearing officer, though the parolee may have an attorney present if he desires. In some cases, witnesses may be asked to attend a parole revocation hearing.

Each alleged violation will be read, which the parolee has an opportunity to admit or deny. The parolee will be allowed to testify, and to question any witnesses that are presented. While this is not a trial, the parole officer must prove by a preponderance of evidence that the parolee violated a term or condition of his parole. If he fails to do this, the hearing officer is likely to recommend to the parole board that parole not be revoked.

Revocation of Professional Licenses

In most states, certain types of criminal convictions may result in suspension or revocation of a professional license. Individuals convicted of a crime considered by their profession’s regulatory board to be “substantially related” to their fitness to do their job, may find themselves in danger of losing their professional licenses.

Professionals whose license may be at risk include:

  • Doctors/dentists
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Social Workers
  • Attorneys
  • Contractors
  • Teachers

In some states, individuals convicted of certain less serious offenses may be able to fulfill specific terms of probation, make restitution, or otherwise make recompense for the crime, after which “all is forgiven.” In other states, however, even the smallest of crimes and accusations continue to haunt professionals for many years, or even a lifetime.

Process of Professional License Revocation

The disciplinary process for individuals in possession of a professional license begins with an investigation into a complaint or allegation. The individual tasked with investigating the complaint will review the evidence and speak to witnesses. The information will then be reviewed by the professional licensing board to determine whether the professional is in violation of some law or regulation, or whether there was a substantial ethics violation. The board must then decide whether the individual’s professional license should be suspended or revoked, and whether the issue should be referred to law enforcement for potential criminal charges.

The issue of professional disciplinary action, and license revocation, are serious actions that may result in loss of livelihood, loss of professional reputation, and even criminal charges. For this reason, many individuals facing professional licensing disciplinary action seek the help of a qualified attorney.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Allegation – An assertion or claim that someone has done something wrong or illegal, typically made without actual proof.
  • Criminal Proceeding – A legal process to prosecute an individual charged with the commission of a crime.
  • Incapacitation – The state of being disabled, or unable to move or to function normally.
  • Hearing Officer – An official appointed by a governmental agency to conduct administrative hearings.
  • Preponderance of Evidence – The belief by a jury or judge that evidence presented by one party in a civil lawsuit is more convincing, or believed to be more truthful, than that presented by the opposing party. In other words, it is more likely than not that such evidence is true.
  • Professional License – A document provided to an individual who has completed a series of examinations and/or practices in a certain subject, proving that he has the knowledge, skills, and experience to perform a specific job.
  • Restitution – The restoration of rights or property previously taken away or surrendered; reparation made by giving compensation for loss or injury caused by wrongdoing.