Eric J. Dirga, P.A.

A Florida Trial Attorney

Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Cases

733 West Colonial Drive, Orlando 32801 - 407.434.1858

Habitual Traffic Offender [HTO]

What It Is; Defenses; How To Avoid it

Information provided by Eric J. Dirga, P.A., Orlando - Statewide Representation

Last Updated: June 2, 2016

A "Habitual Traffic Offender" is someone that has been found guilty of a number of specified offenses (typically driving with a suspended driver's license) within a 5-year period or has accummulated 45 points on their driving record within 5-years. Up until 2008 it was always a felony offense punishable up to 5-years in prison. Today the offense can be classified as a misdemeanor under certain conditions.

What is a Habitual Traffic Offender

A habitual traffic offender [HTO] in Florida is any person whose record, as maintained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV), shows that such person has accumulated the specified number of convictions for offenses listed below within a 5-year period:

Three or more convictions of any one or more of the following arising out of separate acts;

  • Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle.
  • Driving Under the Influence.
  • Any felony conviction in which a vehicle was used.
  • Driving a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked (adjudication withheld = conviction in criminal cases).
  • Failure to render aid in the event of a motor vehicle crash resulting in the death or personal injury of another.
  • OR, a person with 15 convictions for moving traffic violations for which points may be assessed.

You can read more about the actual Florida HTO statute on my HTO Law Page. Note: This law is not straight forward and is open to interpretation by appellate courts and judges. Read more about how Florida driver's license suspensions are determined.

Defending Habitual Traffic Offender Charges

One of the keys to your defense is knowing how you became labelled a Habitual Traffic Offender. The defense usually involves getting your driver's license back. Other factors involve whether you were actually driving or just in actual physical control of the vehicle. Each case stands on its own and everything will need to be reviewed including your past driving history.

The Habitual Traffic Offender Letter from DMV

If you recently received a letter from the Department indicating that your license will soon be suspended for 5-years you should contact us immediately. There may be a way for us to get your drivers license back. We will need your complete driving record and the letter that the DMV sent you if you still have it (click here for more info on how to obtain a driving record).

The letter is an "order" which means that you have some rights regarding seeking relief. Under some circumstances you only have thirty days from the date on the letter to obtain relief. However, there are other forms of relief that extend beyond 30 days. Time is of the essence so you need to act fast - the sooner the better.

How To Avoid Being Designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender

The law puts the burden on you to make sure your license is valid. By routinely checking your driver's license status you can know if it is or is about to be suspended. The Department typically sends a letter in advance of a license suspension. They also annotate any suspensions or pending suspensions on their website. You can check to see if your license is suspended by going to my How to check if your license is suspended page.

Another thing to look out for is if you are ever ticketed for Driving While License Suspended. You should never just pay those citations. Those traffic tickets (or criminal traffic tickets) are the easiest path to a 5-year revocation if you do not handle it correctly. Call us whenever you get one of those tickets regardless of whether it is a civil citation or a criminal citation.



Corrections/Errors; Questions

The purpose of publishing this information is to help both prosecutors and defense attorneys, and non-lawyers better understand the criminal justice system in Florida. We appreciate any input that may further this goal.

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