It is easy to forget that driving is a privilege, not a right. Your ability to drive can be taken away for a variety of reasons. One day you may have the freedom to drive wherever you want, and the next you could receive notice that in a few weeks, your license will be suspended. Once a suspension goes into effect, you cannot drive. Florida’s Motor Vehicle Code makes driving while your license is suspended, revoked, canceled, or disqualified. Depending on the circumstances and your criminal history, you could face a misdemeanor or felony charge for the transgression.
In either situation, your best course of action is to contact a Sarasota suspended license attorney. Having a strong lawyer on your side increases the chance of you avoiding or minimizing criminal conviction.
Common Reasons for a Driver’s License Suspension
- DUI – If you are arrested for a DUI with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit or after refusing a chemical test, your license may be suspended as part of a civil penalty. If you are convicted for a DUI based on alcohol or drug-related impairment, then your license may be criminally suspended.
- Accruing Driver’s License Points – Florida utilizes a driver’s license point system. Each time you plead or are found guilty of a moving traffic violation, points are added to your license. If you reach 12 points in 12 months, your license is suspended for 30 days. If you reach 18 points in 18 months, you lose your license for three months. If you accumulate 24 points in 36 months, then you face a 12-month license suspension.
- Failing to Pay a Traffic Fine or Appear in Court – If you are summoned to court for a traffic violation and you fail to show, the court may revoke your license. Also, if you fail to pay a traffic fine or complete court-ordered traffic school, your license may be suspended.
- Inadequate Vision – You must have a certain level of vision, either naturally or with the aid of glasses or contacts, in order to drive. If you cannot pass the vision test, then your license is suspended until you fix the issue.
- Driving Without Auto Insurance – Florida requires you to maintain a minimum amount of auto insurance. If you are caught driving without insurance, particularly if it is not your first ticket for this offense, your license may be suspended.
- Failure to Pay Child Support – If you fall significantly behind in paying your child support, your license can be suspended until you catch up.
Whatever the reason for the loss of your license, you are not allowed to drive at all during the period of the suspension. A police officer or judge will not be concerned with whether your license suspension is a civil or criminal penalty. They are unlikely to consider whether it arose because of previous traffic offenses or a personal issue. The fact that you did not have a valid license at the time you were driving will be enough for a police officer to ticket you for driving on a suspended license, and this can be enough for a judge to find you guilty of the offense.
If you’re facing a driver’s license suspension as the result of any of the above offenses, call a driving under suspension attorney from Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. today.
Penalties for Driving on a Suspended License
If you are caught driving while your license is suspended, you face serious consequences, including fines and incarceration.
The level of the offense and potential penalty depends on whether you have previous convictions for driving under suspension on your record. Under Florida Statute §322.34, you may be charged with the following for driving while your license is suspended:
- First Offense – A second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and fines reaching $500
- Second Offense – A first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and fines up to $500
- Third or Subsequent Offense – A third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and fines reaching $5,000
You also face harsher charges and consequences if you drive while on a suspended license and cause an accident. If the accident results in serious bodily injury or death, then you will automatically face a third-degree felony charge, even if this is your first offense of driving on a suspended license.
To avoid these harsh statutory penalties, contact a Sarasota suspended license attorney as soon as you are charged with this offense.
Being Labeled a Habitual Traffic Offender
If you are convicted for a third offense of driving on a suspended license, and your first two convictions are within five years of the current offense, then the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will label you a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO).
While one conviction for this offense is considered minor, a third within a five-year period is serious. The HTO designation automatically leads to a five-year driver’s license revocation.
You must go through one full year without a license before you have the right to request an Administrative Review and ask for a hardship license. If the Administrative Review is favorable, you will still need to complete Advanced Driver Improvement School and pay a fee to obtain a license that will allow you to drive for work or school.
For help with requesting an Administrative Review and other issues related to an HTO designation, contact Sarasota Suspended License Attorney Erika Valcarcel immediately.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction
If you are convicted for driving on a suspended license, you should anticipate dealing with numerous secondary consequences beyond the statutory penalties. After you deal with incarceration, fines, and driving school, you may also encounter:
- Difficulty continuing your education
- Challenges in obtaining financial aid
- Difficulty finding and keeping a job
- Changes to your child custody or visitation arrangement
Defending Against a Charge of Driving Under Suspension
To be found guilty of driving on a suspended license, you must have knowledge that your license was suspended. If you were not aware of a suspension, then you have a strong defense to the court.
Other potential defenses include:
- Challenge the validity of the traffic stop that led to the current charge.
- Prove you were not driving.
- Prove someone else was driving your vehicle.
- Prove you were not driving on a public road.
- Prove you were not driving a motor vehicle as defined by Florida’s Motor Vehicle Code.
- Establish your license had been reinstated or you reasonably believed it had been reinstated.
A driving under suspension lawyer can help you understand the above defenses and which ones may be applicable to your case, so if you are facing charges for driving under a suspended or revoked license, contact an attorney right away.
Get Help from a Sarasota Suspended License Attorney Today
When you are dealing with any type of traffic offense charges, you need an experienced and aggressive attorney on your side. A charge of driving on a suspended license is serious, even as a misdemeanor. Dealing with it is not as simple as paying a speeding ticket. This is a conviction that can drastically alter your day-to-day life, and you do not want on your record.
By working with Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A., you can put up a strong defense and that will help avoid your chance of conviction. If a conviction is unavoidable, then Sarasota suspended license attorney Erika Valcarcel will work hard to negotiate a favorable outcome for your case, such as avoiding incarceration through the use of alternative penalties.