Driving with a Suspended or Revoked Driver’s License in Florida
Whether you drive on a suspended or a revoked driver’s license, doing so is unlawful and exposes you to fines, further loss of your driving privileges and possible jail time.
There is a difference between a suspended and a revoked license. If suspended, you’ve lost your privilege to drive for a temporary period of time. If it is revoked, your driving privileges have been removed. There are different offenses that lead to whether your license is suspended or revoked.
Elements of Driving with a License that has Been Suspended (or Revoked)–DWLSR
To be convicted of DWLSR, you must meet the following:
- You drove a motor vehicle;
- On a Florida highway (which is basically any kind of road or publicly accessible road-like area);
- While your license was suspended or revoked;
- With knowledge that your license was suspended or revoked.
The first element is relatively easy to meet since you must have driven a motor vehicle, which could include a tractor, motor scooter or lawn mower. However, you must also have had to be in actual physical control of the vehicle and while on a Florida highway.
While an officer who stopped you can easily determine if your license was suspended or revoked, you must have possessed actual knowledge of your suspension or revocation status or it can be inferred because court records indicated you were sent a notice or the order appears in the court record.
Conduct that Leads to a License Suspension
Criminal conduct that can lead to a suspended license include:
- Intoxicated driving or having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level or 0.08%–for drivers under 21, the level is 0.02% and for commercial drivers it is 0.04%
- You refused to submit to a test of your BAC
- Convictions for possession or sale of controlled substances
- Your failure to pay your child support obligations
- Failure to maintain auto liability insurance
- You neglected to pay certain fines imposed by the court
- The accumulation of at least 12 points on your driving record from driving violations such as speeding or other moving violations
- Petit theft conviction
- Conviction for racing on a highway
Your period of suspension is for a determined time, but you do have to apply for reinstatement which may mean providing proof that you met certain conditions as well as paying various fees.
Conduct that Leads to a License Revocation
A revocation is a more serious loss of driving privileges. This means that the state considers your offense that led to the revocation to be severe, and that you may or may not have your privileges reinstated. Criminal offenses that can cause your driver’s license to be revoked include:
- Multiple DUI convictions
- Conviction for vehicular manslaughter or homicide
- Commission of a felony in the operation of a motor vehicle
- Failing to stop and provide identification and assistance if involved in an accident with injuries or a fatality
- Committing an act of prostitution with the use of a motor vehicle
- 3 reckless driving convictions within 12 months
- Making false statements to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles regarding operation or ownership of a motor vehicle
- Bestowed the status of habitual traffic offender by the state
Should your license be revoked, you have to apply for a new one, which may mean waiting for a number of years before the DHS will consider it and having to repeat the process for a new license to be issued.
Penalties and Consequences
A first conviction for driving on a suspended or revoked license is a second degree misdemeanor. You face:
- A fine up to $500
- Possible jail time of up to 60 days
- Possible impoundment of your vehicle
A second conviction is a first degree misdemeanor. This carries the following:
- A fine up to $1000
- Possible jail time of up to one year
- Impoundment of your vehicle
A third conviction can be charged either as a first degree misdemeanor or a third degree felony. In the recent past the Florida Legislature passed 322.34(10), which greatly limits the circumstances in which the State can charge a motorist with a felony for a third or subsequent DWLSR. If a third degree felony, the penalties are:
- A fine up to $5000
- Possible state prison time of up to 5 years
Your attorney can argue for a sentence in lieu of jail such as paying a fine or performing community service or, if this is your first offense, negotiate for a “withhold of adjudication” disposition so that after you serve the period of probation, the charge will be dropped and your license will not be suspended. You can also have the records of your arrest expunged.
Anytime you are convicted of driving on a suspended license, the DHSMV can designate you as a habitual traffic offender and suspend your license for 5 years.
Not having a license can lead to loss of employment or severely restrict your ability to find and retain suitable employment especially if your prospective employer does a background check or otherwise discovers that you are not eligible for a driver’s license.
Defenses to DWLSR
Hiring an experienced criminal or traffic defense lawyer is critical if you want your case dismissed, to plead to a lesser charge or want your license reinstated. Some of the defenses that your lawyer can raise include:
Lack of Probable Cause to Stop Your Vehicle
Police cannot stop a car randomly, except at DUI checkpoints and only within certain guidelines, and must have observed you violating a traffic law or driving erratically.
Lack of Actual Physical Control
If you are detained or observed outside your motor vehicle with others, police may not be able to prove you were the driver unless you confess or someone else alleges that you were driving. Also, if you are in a positon to operate the car and have the capability, then you are in physical control. But if the keys are not within reach or in your pocket, it is more difficult for the state to prove you were in physical control.
Lack of Knowledge
If you had no knowledge your license was revoked or suspended, you may not be convicted. This means notice was not sent to you or it was sent to the wrong address. This defense is limited by the fact that if a person changes residence, that person has ten days to notify the DHSMV of that change of residence. Notice of a suspension of driving privileges is sent to the residence of the driver/motorist according to DHSMV records. If that person did not update their address, the fact that the notice was mailed to a previous address will still be considered proof of knowledge of suspension. In other words, the DHSMV mailing a notice to you is all that is required to prove knowledge.
License Revocation was Out-of-State
If your license revocation was out of state, you may not have received notice of this either.
Getting Your License Back
In many cases, getting your license reinstated will entail the following:
- Paying the underlying traffic ticket fine that led to your suspension
- Get current with your child support payments
- Obtain auto liability insurance or sell the vehicle that had no insurance
- Correct any administrative errors that led to your suspension or has prolonged it
- Complete the DUI education or other program the court ordered you to attend
- Pay the reinstatement fee—at least $200
You may also be eligible for a hardship license that will allow you to drive to work, school or for medical purposes.
An experienced traffic or criminal defense attorney can advise you on what steps you need to take to get your license back or to remove the habitual traffic offender designation in some cases.