Florida Suspended Drivers Licenses: Questions and Answers
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1. Why is my drivers license suspended?
In Florida, a person's drivers license can be suspended for many reasons. I've listed several reasons (not all, but the most common) below. This is a brief overview - if your drivers license suspension does not fit any of these explanations please call us.
- UNPAID TICKETS: Easily the biggest culprit is the forgotten ticket. A civil citation (such as a speeding ticket) must either be paid or you must notify the Clerk of Court of an election to either take a driving school or request a hearing within 30 days of the issuance of the ticket. On day 31, if none have occurred, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles [DMV] will suspend your license. Oops.
- AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COVERAGE: The DMV suspends licenses on anyone that is not covered by automobile insurance. This commonly happens in two ways (although there are more). First, when a person changes insurance carriers - the old insurer notifies the DMV that they no longer cover that driver but the new insurer fails to notify the DMV of the new coverage for the driver. This mix up happens quite often and can cause a huge headache for someone charged with the criminal offense of driving with a suspended license (see below for more info on the difference between criminal and civil citations for suspended licenses). The second way this happens is when a person no longer has a car to drive so they cancel their insurance without realizing that the DMV will then suspend their license.
- MULTIPLE TICKETS FOR DRIVING WITH A SUSPENDED LICENSE:This is very serious. This is also the reason
why a driver should always consult with an attorney whenever they receive a traffic ticket for
driving on a suspended license. There are two types of "driving on a suspended drivers license"
tickets. The first is when the allegation is that you were driving "without" any knowledge that your license had been
suspended. The second is with the allegation that you were "with" knowledge of the suspension.
- WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE: First let me point out that the "without" or the "with" knowledge aspect is a complete legal fiction - it has nothing to do with whether you had actual knowledge. It is confusing but that is why there are lawyers to help people. "Without" knowledge tickets are civil citations similar to your common speeding tickets. There is a fine to pay and life goes on. We advise everyone to NEVER just pay these tickets - this is a DMV trap to take your license away for 5-years (see below regarding Habitual Traffic Offenders). If you just pay this ticket you may have your license suspended for 5 years by the DMV - call us, we can help - and because it is just a civil citation the legal fee is relatively inexpensive.
- WITH KNOWLEDGE: An allegation that you were driving while your license was suspended "with" knowledge is a criminal traffic offense. Anytime a person is charged with a criminal offense their liberty (their freedom) is at stake. More people are arrested for this offense each day than any other. Again, the "with" knowledge aspect of this charge has nothing to do with you having actual knowledge. Another thing to consider. A "driving on a suspended license" ticket alleging knowledge has a cumulative effect. This means that each one you receive has a higher punishment potential. After two convictions future allegations are charged as felony offenses punishable by up to five years in prison.
- CRIMINAL OFFENSE SANCTION: For many offenses, regardless of whether they involved driving or a motor vehicle, the law requires that a person's driving privilege be suspended. The classic example is when someone is charged with DUI. The less common example is when someone is charged with theft or possession of pot. These are also serious because it may also become a violation of probation or of a court order.
2. What should I do if I receive a Driving on a Suspended Drivers License ticket?
This may sound self-serving but I strongly suggest that you consult with a private criminal attorney or traffic lawyer, like me, immediately. I will take your questions over the phone. Talk, listen, and ask questions. I will do my best to answer you. Why? Because driving with a suspended drivers license tickets are ticking time-bombs that have the potential to suspend your driving privilege for 5-years. Just imagine not being able to drive a motor vehicle at all. How would you get to work? to the grocery store? to the bank? Suspended license tickets have the potential to take away your privilege to drive for a very long time. Every ounce of prevention (or in this case, corrective action) is worth well over a pound of cure (because the suspension law gives you very little wiggle room to cure these missteps).
3. Are there any defenses to a Driving on a Suspended Drivers License ticket?
Yes! Each depends on your particular situation however the goal is the same. The law regarding driving on a suspended license is complex. For example, did you know there is a way to bypass the criminal court completely in some cases? In other suspended license cases it is impossible for the State Attorney's Office to prove their case. Each case is different but the strategies remain the same. Call me for more details.
Remember that you should never admit (confess) to allegations of illegal conduct. We all have the right to remain silent when we are accused of a crime. This is the same if the police ask if you knew your driver's license was suspended. Keep that right in mind and the defenses to driving on a suspended license remain numerous.
4. I received a letter from the DMV saying my drivers license has been revoked for five-years. Why are they doing this?
This is what the law refers to as a Habitual Traffic Offender designation. It carries a five year suspension and for the first year you are ineligible for a restricted (Business Purposes) license. This means for 365 days you will have to find alternative means of getting around other than driving a motor vehicle. If you are caught driving during that first year the DMV will start the 365 days over from the point when you were last caught driving. It gets worse - if you are caught driving on this suspension you could be charged with a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison (and yes, there are people in Florida prisons for this offense).
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is suspending your license for 5-years because they believe you have committed three qualifying offenses within a five year period. The qualifying offenses include felony offenses using a motor vehicle, DUIs, and Driving on a Suspended License tickets ("with" or "without" knowledge) among others. Note that even the "without" knowledge tickets count here (unless dealt with by a qualified attorney). This is why it is so important to consult with an attorney whenever you receive this type of traffic ticket.
I have successfully gotten people's driving privilege reinstated after they have been suspended for 5-years so there is hope. Contact me for more information.
5. Is there anything I can do to stop the DMV from suspending my drivers license for five-years after I have received this letter?
Yes. There may be an opportunity to go back and correct one or more of the problems that are causing the 5-year suspension to happen to you (if you had contacted an attorney early on you may have avoided this situation). The Florida statutes and the Florida Rules of Traffic Court do provide some hope. Please contact us to discuss this with you. If you received a 5 year driving suspension letter from DMV, please call us immediately - early intervention gives us the best chance to get your license back.
6. What am I looking at as far as a sentence if I plea?
Depends on many things. Some counties are more lenient than others. I have successfully defended people with multiple drivers license suspensions and I have seen courts suggesting 30 or more days in jail for multiple suspensions. The best thing to do is set up a consultation to discuss your situation.
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