Suspended Driver’s License
Florida laws and matters of proof can be complicated to the non-attorney. The laws regarding driving and penalties for violations of the laws regarding driving are designed to take away your driver’s license for your failure to act or for your bad act or, in some situations, when someone else fails to act. I explain how these actions affect your driving privilege below.
The Reason Your License May Be Suspended
There are several ways that the DMV will gladly suspend your driver’s license. These are broken down into several categories. These are not comprehensive but give you a good perspective on how you can lose your driver’s license in Florida and how to prevent it.
Failures To Act
Failures to act involve suspensions that are typically court ordered or statutorily triggered. These include the following:
- Failure (Forgetting) To Pay (a ticket)
- Failure To Appear (in court)
- Failure To Comply (with a court order)
When you get a traffic ticket you have 30 days to do something with it and not receive a penalty. This includes just paying it, electing a driving school, or electing a hearing. If you forget to do any one of these things the DMV will suspend your driver’s license. The reason for the suspension will be listed as a Failure To Pay.
Failure To Appear suspensions occur when you do not show up to your court date. This could be for a mandatory hearing on a ticket or a criminal case. If you fail to appear the court can issue a suspension.
Failure To Comply occurs when you fail to comply with an order from the court. For traffic tickets, this usually happens after you have a traffic ticket hearing and you fail to pay or provide required documentary evidence such as proof of registration.
Failure To Pay Financial Obligations
Failure To Pay Financial Obligations involve payments outside of the court. When you owe money or are required to pay an obligation to maintain your driving privilege. The following fall into this category:
- Lack Of Automobile Insurance
- Failure To Pay Child Support
- Financial Liens Placed On Driving Privilege
These financial issues will cause a driver’s license suspension. These are often designated with the letters
FR on official documents and websites.
If your insurance lapses for any reason it’s your fault and your license will be suspended. This includes situations when your insurance company forgets to tell the DMV you are insured.
A Lack Of Automobile Insurance suspension, unlike most others, is immediate. The Department does not warn you with a letter of an impending suspension. They tell you that is has been suspended after the fact.
Failing To Pay Child Support payments can result in a driver’s license suspension. The Department of Revenue [DOR] initiates this action. You have two options to fix this. First is getting current on your child support payments. You can do that by going to the DOR and paying what you owe or coming up with an amount that will satisfy them. That you can do on your own. The other way is to file a Motion to Set Arrears and Release Driver’s License Suspension.
Financial Liens Placed On Driving Privilege come about for a variety of reasons but the most common is the result of you being involved in an accident and you plum-forgot to pay for that insurance – D’oh! Or you decided to skimp on your coverage and you bought the cheapest insurance coverage possible. If your insurance (or lack thereof) does not cover the costs of the damages to the other guy then you will probably be sued and have a lien put on your license. You’ll be stuck making a monthly payment until the damages/restitution is paid.
Accumulation of Points
A traffic ticket for a moving violation can result in points being assessed against your driving privilege if you just pay the ticket. The DMV has a way to calculate points and issue a suspension based on the number of points received over a specific period of time. This is why it is important to not just pay traffic tickets without first electing the Driving School Option or hiring a lawyer.
By bad acts I’m typically referring to offenses for driving with a suspended driver’s license and other criminal acts although this includes repetitive specific civil infractions too. Another way of receiving a suspension of your driving privilege is to commit three unknowingly driving with a suspended license infractions within a 5-year period. This results in a 5-year suspension and designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender.
How To Check If Your Driver’s License Is Suspended
Knowing that there are many ways that your license can be suspended by the State of Florida and that driving with a suspended license can be a crime it becomes imperative to make sure your license is not suspended. Here is how to check if your license is suspended.
How We Try To Get Your Driver’s License Back
There are various ways to reinstate a suspended driver’s license and make it valid again before the end of the suspension period. In order to be able to tell you what can be done (or not done) there are a few things we will need to evaluate your situation.
First, stop driving with a suspended license. I know it is hard to survive without being able to drive but the problem with continued driving is that your current situation will be much worse if caught driving without a valid license. A new charge can throw everything we have done or will do out the window and put us both back to square one. This only exacerbates your problems.
Documents That Are Needed To See If We Can Help
In order to determine if I can help you I will need the following documents:
- (1) The suspension letter you received (if you still have it);
- (2) Copy of an official and complete driving record.
We understand that sometimes people misplace the suspension letter or don’t ever receive one. We also know that you may no longer have a valid driver’s license. Don’t worry, the main document we need is your driver’s license record.
The Suspension Letter
The Department will send out a letter titled
Order indicating when your license was or will be suspended. The letter will indicate why the suspension is going into effect and when. Upon receipt of any suspension letter you should seek professional advice. If you still have this letter, I need a copy of it.
The Driving Record
This is the most important document. It can be obtained at a local Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office [DMV]. It has to be a full complete history of your driving record. Do not obtain a 3-year or 7-year unless it covers your entire time driving.
The best place to get your driving record is:
- Directly from a local DMV Office.
- Downloaded from the DMV’s website.
This must be a FULL driving record – do not get only a 3 or 7-year record. Send a legible copy of it to us by fax or scanning (to PDF) and emailing it.
Application of the Law and Rules
When you have these documents you can scan and email them to me or fax them to me. Upon receipt of the driving record and the Department letter (if available) a determination of what can be done to reinstate your driver’s license will be made. Please remember to send your contact information.
The results will be conveyed to you along with a fair estimate of the legal fee. Factors that will be considered include the law, the procedural rules, local rules and practices, and experience. Once you receive this estimation it will be up to you on whether you would like this office to endeavour to get your license back.
What Happens If You Are Caught Driving On A Suspended Driver’s License
The first thing to understand is that a citation for driving with a suspended driver’s license comes in two forms. The first is driving without knowledge of the suspension. This is a civil traffic infraction and is presented like an ordinary ticket. However, you need to be very careful on how you handle this ticket. Do not just pay it. Contact a traffic lawyer immediately (it is a very inexpensive fix typically).
The second is driving with knowledge your license is suspended. This is a criminal infraction. When this ticket is issued to you the police officer has the option of taking you to jail or giving you a notice to appear (which is usually the ticket itself). You should seek professional legal help whenever you are issued this type of criminal citation.
Both types are serious because both can lead to you being designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender. I would suggest that the civil infraction is more insidious than the criminal charge because it is cloaked in benign attire that leads most people into underestimating the damage it can cause.
You Can Go To Jail For Driving With A Suspended License
Yes, you can go to jail for this infraction – even if you didn’t know your driver’s license was suspended. It is the law enforcement officer that decides whether you had knowledge or not. That may not make sense to you but accept it. The issuance of the criminal citation does not depend on your actual knowledge. It is based on what the law enforcement officer believes (whether true or not).
Going to Jail; Getting Out of Jail
Unless you have a lot of DWLS citations on your driving history you are likely to be released from jail on your own recognizance or a small bond. Your car will probably have been towed. Your driver’s license should have been forfeited. If you have a lot of DWLS on your history you will probably have to post a higher bond.
The law enforcement officer has the discretion to not take you to jail and just issue you a criminal citation and require you to appear in court. This happens quite often. Just because you did not go to jail does not mean the charge is any less serious. All it means is the Officer was nice to you.
Repetitive Stops for Driving While License Suspended
If you get caught driving with a suspended license after you have received a DWLS ticket you can expect a trip to the jail. Additionally, your bond may be higher. Moreover, the Driving With A Suspended License offense is a cummulative charge. This means that each additional criminal ticket you receive can be charged at a higher level all the way up to a third degree felony.