Having a driver’s license is a privilege, not a right. That means that the government can take it away from you and it happens more than you might realize. In Florida there are 2.2 million people with a suspended or revoked driver’s license, and many of those people drive anyway. Some never had a license and others license was suspended for one reason or another.
So what can happen if you are caught driving while your license is suspended? Well, some of that depends upon whether or not you knew or should have known that it was in fact suspended. A person who is driving and their license was suspended without their knowledge would only be guilty of a civil infraction (think speeding ticket). The penalty associated with this type of infraction is monetary. However, it can result in a dismissal if a valid driver’s license is obtained and presented to the clerk. Remember if you do receive this type of civil citation, it may still be a good idea to retain an attorney to ensure that either the case is dismissed OR a withhold of adjudication is entered. If the court or the clerk’s office enters an adjudication of guilt it could potentially subject you to habitual traffic offender status.
If you are caught driving on a suspended license and you knew or should have know that that your license was suspended (driving while license suspended with knowledge) you are looking at a criminal offense. The potential penalties for a driving on a suspended license (dwls) will vary depending on if this is a first time offense or if it has occurred more often. A first DWLS is a second degree misdemeanor and it is punishable by up to 60 days in jail, up to six months of probation, and up to a $500 fine. A second DWLS is classified as a first degree misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in jail, up to one year of probation, and up to a $1000.00 fine. A third DWLS is a third degree felony. A third degree felony is punishable by up to 5 years in the department of corrections, up to five years of probation and a $5000.00.
|CHARGE||CIVIL or CRIMINAL||FINE||JAIL/ PRISON||PROBATION|
|DRIVING ON A SUSPEND LICENSE WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE Florida Statute 322.34(1)||CIVIL||$153.00||N/A||N/A|
|DRIVING ON A SUSPEND LICENSE WITH KNOWLEDGE 1ST OFFENSE Florida Statute 322.34(2)(a)||CRIMINAL||MAXIMUM $500.00||UP TO 60 DAYS||UP TO 6 MONTHS|
|DRIVING ON A SUSPENDED LICENSE WITH KNOWLEDGE 2ND OFFENSE|
Florida Statute 322.34(2)(b)
|CRIMINAL||MAXIMUM $1000.00||UP TO 1 YEAR||UP TO ONE YEAR|
|DRIVING ON A SUSPENDED LICENSE WITH KNOWLEDGE 3RD OR SUBSEQUENT OFFENSE|
Florida Statute 322.34(2)(c)
|CRIMINAL||MAXIMUM $5000.00||UP TO 5 YEARS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS||UP TO 5 YEARS|
Obviously, avoiding a suspended license charge is beneficial. Even a civil infraction will cost you money and potentially causing you to be classified as a habitual traffic offender, which suspends your license for 5 years. So besides buying a bus pass or relying on Uber, how can you avoid driving on a suspended license? Well in Florida the dmv loves to suspend your license. Here is a very small list of actions that can result in your license being suspended:
- Driving under the Influence Conviction
- Drug Conviction
- Refusing to take a breath test
- Failing to Pay Child Support
- Failing to have Insurance
- Failure to Pay Court Fines
- Failing to Appear for Court
- Failing to Pay for a Traffic Ticket
Many of the reasons for a person’s license getting suspended is due to failing to pay financial obligations. I have seen many clients or potential clients owing thousands of dollars in court fees, fines, and late fees who have an incredibly difficult time trying to get their license back. Some Judges and prosecutors are sympathetic, while others don’t seem to care why you are driving or why your license is suspended. It is also important to note that the reason your license is suspended will greatly impact how the Judge and prosecutor will treat you. A person whose license is suspended for failing to pay a speeding ticket is treated differently than a person whose license is suspended for having a DUI.
My best advice is not put yourself in that position and make sure that all of your costs, fines, and other financial obligations are taken paid. Obviously, don’t break any laws that result in a suspension of your driving privilege. However, if you do find yourself either receiving a citation or being arrested for DWLS make sure you contact an attorney who has the experience to review your driving record and assist you not only in your criminal/ civil traffic matter, but also can assist you in getting your license back in order.