Driving While License Suspended-The Lowdown On Florida Penalties And Defenses
DWLS Penalties and Defenses
Driving on a suspended license can subject you to significant criminal penalties. The first step in analyzing and mitigating the damage done by a DWLS charge is to understand exactly why your license was suspended in the first place and what you have to do to have your license reinstated. If you continue to ignore the suspension and continue to drive on a suspended license, the State of Florida will impose significant penalties on you that can include substantial time in jail.
DWLS Without Knowledge (Civil Citation)
There are cases where a driver is operating their motor vehicle under the belief that they have the privilege to do so. However, due to misinformation or confusion, they are, in fact, under a license suspension. When such an offense occurs, the driver can be subject to a moving violation on their driving record, which equates to a traffic ticket.
Knowing DWLS (Criminal Citation)
The more common Florida DWLS is the offense of knowingly ignoring a Florida license suspension. If arrested and charged under Florida statute 322.24(2), the suspect faces ever-increasing punishments for each offense. However, unlike the mistaken DWLS, prosecutors have a higher evidentiary burden if they are to secure a conviction.
To show that a driver was under notice of a suspended license, prosecutors must show either:
- The driver admits that they knew about their license being suspended, cancelled or revoked; or
- The driver has previously been issued a violation of DWLS and has not reinstated their license since; or
- Court records indicate that, due to the failure to satisfy a prior traffic offense, pay court fine/fees; the driver was under suspension at the time law enforcement charged them with the criminal DWLS.
*** Three (3) DWLS convictions within a 3 year period will result in a 5 year drivers license revocation, as a Habitual Traffic Offender, by the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles.
Penalties Imposed For Florida DWLS
If you are convicted of a DWLS in Florida, you are subject to the following penalties:
First Conviction: A second-degree misdemeanor conviction with up to 60 days in jail; 6 months probation, and a $500.00 fine.
Second Conviction: A first-degree misdemeanor conviction with up to 1 year in jail; 12 months probation, and a $1000.00 fine.
Third Conviction: the third conviction can be considered a third-degree felony with up to 5 years in prison; 5 years probation, and a $5000.00 fine, if the reason for the suspension, cancellation or revocation is for fleeing or eluding, a traffic offense causing death or serious bodily harm or is due to DUI, refusal to submit to a DUI alcohol test.
Defending Against A Florida DWLS
The first step in defending against a criminal DWLS is to figure out the legal basis behind the license suspension. Some of the common reasons for license suspension are:
- An order from the Court suspending your license due to unresolved traffic tickets or court fines or costs;
- A criminal conviction for offenses such as DUI, fleeing or eluding; possession of a controlled substance; or
- Unpaid child support; or
- A finding by the DMV that you are unable to drive due to a diagnosed medical condition;
Only a thorough search of DMV and Court records will be able to understand the complexity of your license suspension and whether the DMV sufficiently notified you to meet the criteria of a criminal DWLS. If there is a gap in the records or doubt as to proof of notification, you have an opportunity to argue that the “knowing” element is absent from the criminal charge.
Although Florida prosecutors may try to paint a Driving While License Suspended charges as open-and-shut cases, this assumption is far from reality. Only through an extensive review of the evidence by an experienced criminal defense attorney will the flaws in the case be revealed. If you are facing a DWLS charge in Florida, do not delay in seeking the counsel you need and deserve, as the path beyond this criminal charge may be closer than you think.