Driving While Suspended or Revoked
In Florida there are countless ways that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) will suspend your license. From failing to pay a ticket on time, to DUI, to being convicted of drug possession, to missing certain court dates, Florida finds new ways to suspend people's license. Oftentimes, the driver may not know their license is even suspended. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney help you that knows the best way to deal with these charges and provide the appropriate defense.
There are two types of DWLSR, with knowledge and without knowledge. "With knowledge" is a criminal traffic charge. Even though you may not know that your license was suspended or revoked, many police officers will issue the criminal traffic charge and just assume that you knew of the license suspension because a notice was sent to your last known address. Under Florida Statute 322.34(2), it is the state's burden to prove that you had knowledge of the license suspension. In addition to the notice issues, there are other defenses, such as whether or not the state can prove you were actually driving or in actual physical control. As your attorney, I will be provided the same information the officer had and if it can't be proven, then the criminal charge should not stand. There are many times we can have the charge amended to a lesser charge without the drastic consequences to your driving record.
It is important to distinguish the criminal charge from the non-criminal traffic infraction because a court appearance on the criminal charge is required, even if you were never initially arrested. Furthermore, the more times you get arrested for this charge, the more serious the penalties. A first time conviction is a second degree misdemeanor and you face a 60 day jail sentence. A second time conviction is a first degree misdemeanor and you face a one year jail sentence. A third or subsequent conviction is a felony and you can face up to five years in prison. (Yes, they do put people in prison for these sometimes). Additionally, your DHSMV driving record will be affected. With three convictions within 5 years, you will be considered a "Habitual Traffic Offender" and your license will be suspended for 5 years.
Driving While License Suspended Without Knowledge is a civil infraction. Florida statute 322.34 (1) states that someone driving their vehicle without knowing that their license is suspended is guilty of a moving violation. It is important to deal with these infractions in the correct manner because by just paying the ticket that will cause you to be adjudicated, and the DHSMV will use that for purposes of Habitualization. Even though you may not be facing jail, the status of your license will still be affected and there can be stiff fines.
Contact our office immediately if you are charged with this offense to discuss your options.