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:
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:
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:
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 second conviction is a first degree misdemeanor. This carries the following:
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:
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 position 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:
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.