Imagine this scenario: You’re on your way to work, picking up your kids, on your way to the grocery store, or off to a date when you’re suddenly pulled over by a police officer. The officer asks for your license and registration, and you give them as requested. You drum your fingers on the steering wheel, thinking you cannot be late.
In the meantime, the officer runs a check on your driver’s license. The officer then asks you if you were aware you were driving with a suspended license. Of course not. That’s the first time you’re hearing of a license suspension. As far as you know, you have a valid driver’s license.
As the officer writes out the ticket, he explains that the Florida driver’s license statute makes it a traffic offense for any person to drive with their license suspended. The ticket the officer gives you shows your name, driver’s license number, vehicle make and model, license plate number, AND the date of your mandatory court appearance. The officer states he will impound your driver’s license and your car, and you will not be allowed to drive away.
How did this happen? How was your license suspended? Why didn’t you know about it? Why didn’t anyone tell you of your license suspension?
Driving While License is Suspended, Canceled, or Revoked
A suspended license is more than a nuisance. A suspension means you cannot drive motor vehicles because the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has temporarily withdrawn your driving privileges and driver’s license. A revoked driver’s license means the DHSMV has terminated your license to drive. If your driver’s license has been suspended in Florida, call 850-Call-Joe for help getting your driver’s license reinstated.
A driver license may be suspended or revoked as a consequence of a court conviction for a crime (a DUI, for instance). Your license may also be suspended if you failed to purchase insurance for your vehicle, or failed to purchase sufficient insurance.
But even when your driver’s license is not suspended or revoked, the DHSMV may have flagged your driver license as under a suspended or revoked equivalent status. This happens when you:
- fail to pay child support
- fail to pay any other financial obligation
- fail to comply with a civil penalty
- fail to comply with your kids’ attendance requirement at school
- have been placed on a habitual traffic offender status
It’s difficult not knowing your license suspension if it was suspended at a court proceeding where you were the accused and were the person convicted. In this situation, the suspension will be included in the court’s order.
But you can be unaware of having a valid Florida driver’s license status if the DHSMV suspended it and you didn’t receive a notice informing you of the suspension. In this situation, your driving record with the DHSMV shows that your license is suspended or revoked but they failed to send you a notice, or they sent you the notice but you never received it.
What Happens If You Get Caught Driving With a Suspended License in Florida?
When you get pulled over and issued a ticket for a driving while license suspended (DWLS) charge, the arresting officer will then access a copy of your driving record from the DHSMV and attach it to the Offense Report and submit it to the traffic court.
A driving while license suspended (DWLS) charge is a serious criminal offense. Feeling shocked, embarrassed, and foolish, standing on the side of the road is the least of your worries. Driving a motor vehicle on Florida highways with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor traffic violation. Don’t think you can just pay the fine.
In fact, please wait. Don’t pay the fine. If you pay the fine, you are admitting that you committed a criminal offense. Florida law puts a heavy burden on the police to prove that you were knowingly driving while your license was suspended or revoked. The law puts it on the police and the DHSMV the obligation to prove:
- Your driver license has been suspended or revoked, or your license has been placed on suspended or revoked status;
- You are a “habitual traffic offender;” and
- You know your driving privilege has been suspended or revoked; and yet,
- You still drive a vehicle on Florida highways of this state while your license has been placed on suspended or revoked status or your driving privilege is suspended or revoked.
A CWLS charge is a “knowing violation.” You have to be careful at that traffic stop. When the police ask you if know your license is suspended or revoked and you answer yes, you are admitting to knowing that your license has been suspended or revoked.
If you do not admit having known in court, the police will have to prove that you received notice through a judgment or order of a court. Or, the police will have to prove that the suspension or revocation was done by the DHSMV for a past failure to pay a traffic fine or for a violation of your financial responsibility.
Don’t plead guilty. Don’t pay the fine. Call Attorney Joseph Knape at The 850-Call-Joe Law Firm first and he can explain to you the criminal consequences of admitting or being convicted of a DWLS charge. The 850-Call-Joe Law Firm will tell you not to do the police’s job for them. Instead, the attorneys at 850-Call-Joe can help you bring legal defenses to defeat the DWLS charge.
Florida Driving While License Suspended Penalties
Convictions go on your criminal record. Driving while license suspended is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable with a penalty of imprisonment of not more than 60 days and payment of a $500 fine. And this is only for a first conviction.
If that DWLS conviction is your second conviction for driving with a revoked or suspended license, the charge becomes a first-degree misdemeanor punishable with a penalty of imprisonment of not more than 1 year and payment of a $1000 fine.
It gets worse. If this DWLS conviction is your third or subsequent conviction of a traffic violation within a five-year period, that DWLS conviction might earn you the designation of a “habitual traffic offender.” A DWLS charge against a person designated as a habitual traffic offender will be a third-degree felony punishable by imprisonment not to exceed 5 years and a payment of a $5000 fine.
The 850-Call-Joe Law Firm will advise you to let the police prove the elements of the crime and fight the DWLS charge. It’s their job, not yours. Our attorneys might even advise you to elect to pay the fine as a civil infraction instead of a criminal charge. Contact The 850-Call-Joe Law Firm today to resolve your suspended license charge and regain your license or driving privilege so you can return to your normal life.