One of the most serious offenses in Florida is the offense of driving while license suspended. It is serious because of the long term ramifications it can have on you and your family. Although it is seemingly innocuous, a driving with a suspended license ticket (whether criminal or civil; see below) should be taken very seriously.
The Penalties For Driving With a Suspended Driver’s License
If you are wondering whether driving with a suspended license is a crime – wonder no more. It is and it comes in several forms. Each is explained below.
Several Types of Invalid Driver’s License Offenses
There are several ways to get in trouble with the law by driving with a suspended license, an expired license, or no driver’s license at all. Each is unique and each carries serious penalties that you should avoid at all costs due to the potential long term ramifications they can cause. If you have been charged or received a ticket for any of the below offenses you should properly address them by first consulting with an experienced Traffic Lawyer.
Driving While License Suspended
As explained on my suspended driver’s license page, you can have your driver’s license suspended for a myriad of things. This offense can be in two forms – a civil citation indicating that you “unknowingly” drove with a suspended driver’s license and a criminal ticket indicating that you “knowingly” drove with suspended driver’s license.
Criminal Offense of Driving With Suspended Driver’s License
Knowingly driving while your license is suspended is a criminal offense. A first time charge is a misdemeanor of the second degree, the lowest criminal offense degree in Florida. However, it is punishable by up to 60 days in jail. Additionally, a second offense can be charged as a first degree misdemeanor and a third offense can be charged as a felony.
Do not plead guilty to a driving while license suspended offense without first consulting with and hiring a lawyer. If you do you are setting yourself up for possibly higher insurance rates, a black mark on your driving record that will exist forever, and worst – potential serious criminal and collateral penalties. This may easily be avoidable but you have to address the situation correctly.
Civil Infraction; As Serious as Criminal Offense
Unknowingly driving with a suspended driver’s license is a civil infraction (like a speeding ticket). It can simply be paid (do not do just pay this kind of ticket), or you can provide proof that you have reinstated your license and then pay it, or take it to a hearing.
Every one of these “tickets” should be handled by a Traffic Lawyer. It is inexpensive, the ticket is typically dismissed, and you avoid future problems such as criminal charges or long term suspensions. See below regarding Habitual Traffic Offender status.
NOTE: Whether a ticket is issued as “knowingly” or “unknowingly” has nothing to do with whether you actually knew your license was suspended. It is totally up to the law enforcement officer that issues the ticket.
Anderson v. State, 87 So.3d 774 (Fla. 2012): For purposes of the crime of Driving While License Suspended, proof that the DMV mailed notice to the last known address that the defendant provided is sufficient to prove knowledge. The State is not required to prove “actual knowledge.”
Driving With An Expired Driver’s License
This offense also comes in two forms – civil infraction and criminal ticket. The difference is specifically due to how long the license has been expired. The penalties for these are not as bad as driving while license suspended, however a criminal ticket is a second degree misdemeanor and should be handled by a lawyer.
Driving Without Having a Florida Driver’s License
Typically designated as No Valid Driver’s License, this is also a misdemeanor offense that carries criminal penalties (incarceration, fine or probation) but does not have the same ramifications as Driving While License Suspended. Because it is always criminal you should seek the advice of experienced legal counsel.
Driving While License Suspended as Habitual Traffic Offender
The Habitual Traffic Offender [HTO] status is the most serious issue related to Driving While License Suspended tickets (either civil or criminal – it does not matter). Once you have been designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender your driver’s license will be suspended for 5-years. All it takes to be designated is being found guilty of driving with suspended driver’s license 3-times within a five year period.
If you have been caught driving while you are designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender you can be facing felony charges. You should immediately contact experienced legal counsel familiar with the HTO offense.
If you have been designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender and you are facing a 5-year suspension there may still be help. Often the 5-year suspension can be reversed. Contact an experienced Traffic Lawyer immediately.
Contact an Experienced Traffic Attorney
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More information about tickets and driver’s licenses:
- Speeding Tickets
- Careless Driving (Accident) Tickets
- Red Light Camera Tickets
- Commercial Driver’s License Issues
- Toll Tickets
- Suspended Driver’s License Issues