There are two types of Suspended License charge: 1) Criminal, and 2) Civil.
Driving While License Suspended is often referred to as "DWLS"
If you drove while your license was cancelled, suspended, or revoked, and you knew it was cancelled, suspended, or revoked, then you will be charged with a crime, not just a mere civil traffic ticket. Driving While License Suspended with Knowledge is a criminal charge (Florida Statute 322.34). Many people are surprised when they are arrested for this charge. They are even more surprised when their vehicle was impounded and searched, and that they are prosecuted in criminal court. There are many different types of suspensions: failure to pay traffic tickets, not timely paying court costs and/or fines, insurance lapses or cancellations, points suspensions, DUI suspensions, drug suspensions, etc. The State Attorney's Office and the Court often treat some suspensions more harshly than others. For example, if one is suspended for DUI, his or her case will be dealt with more harshly than someone whose license was suspended for mere failure to pay traffic tickets. Both can be criminal offenses if the accused had knowledge of the suspension when he or she drove, but the penalties will likely be different. Also, the more times one gets arrested and convicted of driving on a suspended license with knowledge, the more serious the penalties become.
•First Conviction = 2nd Degree Misdemeanor punishable up to 60 days in jail
•2nd Conviction = 1st Degree Misdemeanor punishable up to 1 year in jail
•3rd Conviction = can be a 3rd Degree Felony punishable up to 5 years in prison
If you are charged with DWLS, do not take the charge lightly. Talk to a Brevard County driver's license attorney. Sometimes being convicted of this charge results in unknown and serious unexpected consequences. One can easily become a "habitual traffic offender" (HTO) if one is convicted of 3 DWLS charges within a 5 year period. If one is labeled a habitual traffic offender, his or her driver's license will be suspended 5 years. There may be ways to avoid this result even if you believe the evidence of your guilt for DWLS is overwhelming.
Although driving while your license was suspended, cancelled, or revoked WITHOUT knowledge is just a civil traffic ticket, do not take it lightly. Three convictions of this within a 5 year period (or any combination of driving while license suspended with or without knowledge, or DUI, or some other crimes) will result in a 5 year driver's license suspension as you will be declared a Habitual Traffic Offender.
Most people do not know that if they get convicted of three DWLS charges (or any combination of three civil DWLS, criminal DWLS, or DUI charges) within a five year period, they will most certainly be declared a "habitual traffic offender" have their license revoked by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for a period of 5 years. A civil DWLS conviction (when you just paid the ticket) will count as a strike toward habitualization just the same as if it were a criminal DWLS. Most people just pay these tickets thinking that it is the right thing to do. After all, one's license will be suspended if they fail to pay their tickets anyway. What often happens is that well-intentioned people pay their civil DWLS tickets and wind up with their license suspended for a period of 5 years.
If you are in this category, you are probably wondering if there is anything you can do to get your license back. A knowledgeable attorney may file the appropriate motion to have your prior DWLS conviction withdrawn by a judge. This is routinely achieved in Brevard County where Jason Hicks practices law. By having the "third strike" removed from your driving record, the client can then go get his or her license reinstated.
Keep in mind, it is wise to hire an attorney quickly if you have paid tickets that led to your license being suspended. It is very difficult to reverse these convictions after too much time has passed since the day you paid the ticket or tickets causing the suspension.
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Former State Prosecutor
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