Driving with a Suspended License – HTO
DWLS / DRIVING WHILE LICENSE SUSPENDED (WITH TWO PRIORS OR AS A HABITUAL TRAFFIC OFFENDER)
Believe it or not, you can go to jail after simply paying your traffic tickets, and then driving on your suspended license! But wait, the clerk of the traffic court probably told you that you must pay all your outstanding tickets in order to get your license back. So, you pay the clerk, thinking you have fixed the suspended drivers license, they hand you a shiny new plastic DL, but two months later you're pulled over and charged with the crime of driving while license suspended? How could this happen, especially when you're only following the advice of the traffic clerk by paying your fines off?? Read on....
Driving on a suspended license is a serious (and common) criminal charge in the State of Florida. There are plenty of defenses to this charge, so don't give up your rights and defenses without first calling us.
If you have been charged with Driving While License Suspended (citation, misdemeanor, or felony With Two Priors or As a Habitual Traffic Offender), our law firm first questions whether or not the officer had the right to pull you over. We examine your official DMV driving record and look at the underlying reasons for your license suspension and challenge said suspension when appropriate. If the original suspension was improper, we will work to have the current charges dropped or dismissed.
Here's where the problems can begin. You get pulled over and given a ticket for "Driving While License Suspended Without Knowledge". This is NOT a criminal offense, so often times Floridians simply pay this "ticket" without realizing that, later down the road, a few more of these "tickets" and the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driving privileges for five (5) years as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO). There's so many different ways to become a Habitual Traffic Offender, that once you receive any sort of Driving While License Suspended ticket or charge, you should seek legal advice immediately. Every now and then, the DMV makes available amnesty programs for those with suspended licenses for financial reasons.
DON'T PAY A TRAFFIC TICKET WITHOUT KNOWING THE CONSEQUENCES
Remember that paying a "ticket" for Driving While License Suspended, is actually entering a "guilty plea" to the court that can have lasting effects on your driving record should you be accused of other qualifying offenses within five (5) years of paying that "ticket". Know your rights. Don't pay this ticket without first seeking legal advice.
In rare cases, a 5 year habitual traffic suspension can be imposed when a driver racks up fifteen (15) convictions for moving traffic offenses for which points may be assessed. Yes, fifteen moving violations is a lot. Even so, this is why its so important to make sure every single moving violation is properly defended -- you don't want to end up with a long license suspension years down the road as these violations accumulate.
DEFENDING AN HTO ACCUSATION REQUIRES AN EXAMINATION OF THE UNDERLYING CAUSES OF THE SUSPENSION
When examining a DWLS as an HTO case, it's important to scrutinize each and every so-called "conviction" that created the habitual traffic offender suspension. Recent court opinions have held that certain out of state convictions cannot be used against a driver, nor can another state's habitual status support a Florida charge. For more details on these out-of-state issues, see my article "Out of State Habitual Offender Cannot Support Florida DWLS as an HTO" (I know, not the catchiest title, but informative at least...).
A felony charge of Driving While License Suspended as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) has a few interesting quirks to look out for when defending these allegations. For example, what happens to a person charged with this felony who has never actually had a drivers license? Florida's DMV will issue an HTO 5 year suspension to anyone caught driving without a license three times in a five year period. But, doesn't it seem weird to get a "suspended" license charge when there was never any license to suspend in the first place! Actually, having never had a license issued can be a defense to a felony DWLS as an HTO charge, though the misdemeanor DWLS crimes do not have such a defense (don't ask me why, ask the legislature that wrote these laws...). The reason for this is found within Florida Statute 322.34(5), which states that "any person whose driver's license has been revoked" as a habitual traffic offender commits the felony offense. The misdemeanor offense of DWLS includes language for persons without a license, but the felony only includes persons whose license has been "revoked". If you want more details on how this defense plays out, read my article entitled "Felony Driving While License Suspended Overturned".
So, say you are one of many drivers in the State of Florida that has had the misfortune of a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) designation. Not to worry, there are ways to fix an HTO suspension. This HTO designation means the DMV has suspended your driving privileges for five (5) years by receiving three qualifying offenses within a five year period (a combination of any three driving while license suspended's, or DUI, or Leaving the Scene of an Accident with injuries) Do not despair, we can help you. You may have the right to challenge some of the "plea's" entered that form the foundation of the HTO status. If you successfully challenge ANY one of the three underlying HTO offenses, you get your driving privileges back—no more five year suspension! We have helped many clients erase their HTO suspension; we may be able to help you too.
Of course, there are many forms of Driving While License Suspended, such as the simple traffic citation mentioned above, but also a criminal misdemeanor offense of Driving While License Suspended With Knowledge, and the felony offenses of Driving While License Suspended With Two Priors or Driving While License Suspended as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO). The laws now have changed regarding the felony DWLS as HTO, as it is no longer a felony to drive as an HTO if all of the underlying suspensions are due to financial reasons.
In Central Florida, people need a car and a valid driver's license to get to work every day. If you are charged as a habitual traffic offender (HTO) and your license is suspended, your ability to earn a living may be in danger. We urge you to contact our criminal defense office today for strong advocacy and defense both in court and before the DMV.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aggressive, quality representation since 1993