The most commonly committed crime in the State of Florida is Driving While License Suspended, Cancelled, Revoked, or Disqualified. There are over 4.5 million Florida drivers whose licenses are suspended for one reason or another. Referred to by most lawyers as DWLS, there are two types: with or without knowledge.
Driving on a Suspended License with knowledge is a criminal infraction and your appearance in court IS REQUIRED. Florida Statute 322.34 (2) provides, a person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree when they are convicted of driving while license suspended on the first offense. Even if adjudication is withheld, meaning no formal conviction, a DWLS with Knowledge will still counts as a major moving violation for purposes of Habitualization with the DHSMV.
Driving While License Suspended Without Knowledge is a civil infraction. Florida statute 322.34 (1) states that someone driving their vehicle without knowing that their license is suspended is guilty of a moving violation. Aside from being adjudicated guilty and having three points assessed on your license, a DWLS without knowledge citation can have devastating consequences if you have at least two other major violations on your driving.
In many situations, drivers are issued a DWLS w/out Knowledge citation from an officer after he or she runs the driving record during the traffic stop. An unpaid ticket or insurance suspension may appear on the office’s computer and the driver had no knowledge that their license was suspended. Recently, driver’s licenses are being suspended for numerous unpaid toll violations. In most cases, our clients never received a notice of suspension from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). We can assure you that the DHSMV does not send suspension letters First Class or Certified to confirm you received the notification. Instead, they send the suspension letters to the last known address on file.
A Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) charge is a third degree felony under Florida law and is punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison. A person is typically classified by the DHSMV as a Habitual Traffic Offender without his or her knowledge and usually because they simply paid prior Driving While License Suspended tickets. Unfortunately, knowledge of the driver that they were HTO is not required which means, if a driver is stopped thinking their license was valid because they paid all their remaining citations, the State Attorney can still move forward on the felony charge. If you are HTO, contact us immediately to provide us the opportunity to evaluate your driving record, potentially get your license back and fight the felony charge.
DEFENSES FOR DRIVING ON A SUSPENDED LICENSE
It is important to know that in order for a person to be charged with driving on a suspended license the driver must KNOW that their license is suspended and the charging officer must be able to prove that the driver was aware that their license was suspended. If an officer cannot prove that the accused individual knew that their license was suspended, then there was no crime committed.
In cases such as, driving under the influence, refusal to take a breathalyzer test, and fraudulent information on an application, a driver, is no doubt, aware that their license is suspended. However, in other cases, such as, not paying a ticket, not paying insurance or accumulating too many points on their license, the accused driver may not be aware that their license is suspended.
A common mistake that happens is when people move they forget to notify the DMV of their new address. In Florida, red light camera violation or toll violations are mailed to the address the DMV has on file for the driver. If a person never receives the ticket and does not pay the fine their license will be suspended, but the problem is that the person never knew they had a ticket in the first place.
Another common mistake is when people forget to pay their car insurance the insurance company notifies the DMV and the DMV will put in a request for a license suspension. The DMV then mails the person a notification of their license being suspended. If the DMV does not have the correct address on file the individual will not receive the letter and not be aware of their license being suspended.
An accused individual should not suffer the consequences of committing a crime that they had no knowledge about.
Having a suspended license can drastically affect a person’s life and can cause problems to occur such as the loss of a job or hardship of finding a job. Being charged with driving on a suspended license is a criminal offense that many people are unjustly charged with.
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