Attorney’s Guide to Driving While License Suspended in Florida
Under Section 322.34, Florida Statutes, Driving While License Suspended is committed in Florida when you drive on the streets or highways of the state while your driver’s license is canceled, suspended, or revoked. The severity of the charge depends on whether you knew of the license suspension at the time—it is a non-criminal traffic infraction if you did not know of the suspension, but it is a criminal offense if you did have knowledge.
Penalties for Driving While License Suspended in Florida
The penalties for Driving While License Suspended depend on whether you knew of the license suspension, as well as whether you have been previously convicted of the same offense. Here is a chart summarizing the penalties:
||Knowledge of Suspension
||Non-criminal traffic infraction, punishable by a fine
||Up to 60 days of jail or 6 months of probation, and a $500 fine
||Up to 1 year of jail or probation, and a $1,000 fine
|Third or Subsequent Offense
||Up to 1 year of jail or probation, and a $1,000 fine. Minimum sentence of 10 days in jail
However, the law also imposes a minimum sentence of 10 days in jail. Therefore, the judge is required to impose a sentence of anywhere between 10 days and 1 year of jail time.
How to Fight a Charge of Driving While License Suspended in Florida
As an experienced law firm with years of experience in criminal defense, we know that each case is unique, and a defense strategy that works for one person may not work for another. However, there are common defenses that have proven successful in many DWLS cases.
- Lack of Knowledge: The Florida law stipulates that for a DWLS charge to be criminal, the driver must be aware of the suspension. Therefore, if we can demonstrate that you didn’t know about the suspension, it can result in your charges being reduced or even dismissed.
- Invalid Suspension: Sometimes, licenses get suspended due to administrative errors or without sufficient legal basis. In such cases, we will challenge the validity of the suspension. If we can prove that the suspension was invalid, the DWLS charge may be dropped.
- Emergency Necessity: In some situations, you may have driven out of necessity, like in emergencies. If you can show that you had no reasonable alternative but to drive, this could be a valid defense.
- Motion to Suppress: This is a request made by a defendant in a trial that asks the court to exclude certain evidence from the trial. The motion will be granted if the judge determines that the evidence in question was obtained in violation of the defendant’s rights. In the context of a DWLS case, this could involve evidence obtained during an unlawful traffic stop.
- Alibi Defense: An alibi defense is based on the premise that the defendant was somewhere else at the time the alleged offense was committed. While this defense is more commonly used in cases involving crimes like robbery or assault, it could potentially be used in a DWLS case if there is evidence to suggest that the defendant was not the person driving the vehicle at the time of the alleged offense.
Here are just a few of the additional strategies we can use to challenge the State’s case or prove your innocence:
- Moving to throw out evidence that was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights
- Show that there is no evidence supporting the charge
- Show that you have an alibi
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What constitutes driving with a suspended license in Florida?
Driving with a suspended license in Florida is defined as operating a motor vehicle on public roads during a period when your driver’s license has been temporarily withdrawn due to various reasons such as DUI, accumulating points for traffic violations, or non-compliance with court mandates.
2. What are the penalties for driving with a suspended license in Florida?
In Florida, the penalties for driving with a suspended license can range from monetary fines to imprisonment. The severity of the punishment depends on whether it’s a first-time or repeat offense, and whether the offender knew about the suspension. A first-time violation is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail. Repeat offenses or driving while knowing about the suspension can result in harsher penalties, including being charged as a felony.
3. How does Florida classify driving with a suspended license offenses?
Florida classifies these offenses based on their frequency and the driver’s knowledge of their suspension status. A first offense is typically a second-degree misdemeanor. A second offense could be considered a first-degree misdemeanor. If a driver is convicted of a third or subsequent offense, they could be charged with a third-degree felony.
4. Can a police officer pull me over to check if my license is suspended?
A police officer cannot pull you over just to check if your license is suspended. They must have a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or criminal activity to initiate a traffic stop.
5. Is driving with a suspended license in Florida a criminal offense?
Yes, driving with a suspended license in Florida is considered a criminal offense and can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the number of previous offenses.
6. How can I know if my driving license is suspended in Florida?
You can check the status of your driving license online through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ website. You may also receive a notification through the mail informing you of your suspension.
7. What is the difference between driving with a suspended license and driving without a license in Florida?
Driving with a suspended license means you once held a valid license, but it was temporarily withdrawn due to violations. Driving without a license, on the other hand, implies you have never obtained a valid driver’s license. Both actions are illegal, but driving with a suspended license is often considered more serious due to the assumption of prior knowledge.
8. What are the potential defenses if charged with driving on a suspended license in Florida?
Potential defenses can include arguing you weren’t aware of the suspension, the vehicle wasn’t being driven on a public highway, or the original reason for suspension was invalid or unlawful. It’s best to consult with a defense attorney to understand your options.
9. How long does a suspended license stay on my driving record in Florida?
Most infractions, including suspensions, stay on your Florida driving record for up to 3-5 years. However, serious violations such as DUIs can remain on your record for up to 75 years.
10. Can I apply for a hardship license in Florida if my license is suspended?
Yes, depending on the reason for your suspension, you might be eligible to apply for a hardship license in Florida. This restricted license allows you to drive to certain places like work, school, or medical appointments during your suspension period. However, it’s not guaranteed and there are specific requirements to meet.
11. Are there any additional penalties for multiple offenses of driving with a suspended license?
Yes, multiple offenses of driving with a suspended license can result in increased penalties, including higher fines, longer jail sentences, and potentially being classified as a Habitual Traffic Offender, which comes with a 5-year driver’s license revocation.
12. How does Florida law differentiate between knowing and unknowing offenses of driving while license suspended?
If you were unaware of your license suspension, it is typically treated as a lesser offense compared to if you knowingly drove with a suspended license. However, the state considers it your responsibility to keep your address updated with the DMV to ensure receiving all notifications, including suspensions.
13. What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended due to a DUI?
If you’re caught driving with a license suspended due to a DUI, you can face severe penalties including hefty fines, a longer suspension period, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, and even jail time.
14. Will I be arrested immediately if caught driving with a suspended license in Florida?
Being arrested for driving with a suspended license in Florida depends on the circumstances. It’s possible to be arrested immediately, especially if it’s a repeat offense, or the suspension resulted from a serious violation like DUI. Alternatively, you may be issued a citation and given a court date.
15. What is the process to reinstate a suspended license in Florida?
The process to reinstate a suspended license in Florida generally involves completing the terms of your suspension, paying any associated fines or fees, and applying for reinstatement with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Depending on the reason for the suspension, you might also have to complete a defensive driving course or substance abuse treatment program.
16. How will driving with a suspended license affect my insurance premiums in Florida?
Driving with a suspended license is a high-risk behavior and is likely to result in higher insurance premiums. Some insurance companies may even deny coverage due to the risk associated with insuring a driver who has had their license suspended.
17. Can I fight a charge of driving with a suspended license in court?
Yes, you can fight a charge of driving with a suspended license in court. Defenses might include a lack of knowledge about the suspension, improper notification of suspension, or demonstrating that the suspension itself was invalid or unlawful. It’s recommended to have legal representation in such cases.
18. What happens if I’m an out-of-state driver and get caught driving with a suspended license in Florida?
Out-of-state drivers caught driving with a suspended license in Florida will face similar penalties to Florida residents. This may include fines, jail time, and further suspension. The offense will likely be reported to the driver’s home state, which could impose additional penalties.
19. Is it a felony to drive with a suspended license in Florida?
Driving with a suspended license can be classified as a felony in Florida if it’s a third or subsequent offense or if the suspension was for certain serious infractions, such as DUI.
20. Will driving with a suspended license impact my eligibility for a future driver’s license in Florida?
Yes, repeated offenses or serious violations can result in longer suspensions, permanent revocation, or being labeled as a Habitual Traffic Offender. This can make it more difficult to regain a driver’s license in the future. It’s important to comply with all court and DMV requirements to increase the chances of restoring your driving privileges.
Let Leppard Law Fight For You
At Leppard Law, we don’t just defend—we fight for you. Our team of highly skilled attorneys will work tirelessly, exploring all possible defenses to ensure you get the best possible outcome.
Our record speaks for itself. As the “Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Orlando” from 2016 to 2023, we have a history of excellent outcomes for our clients. We’ll bring this award-winning experience to your case.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for Driving While License Suspended, Revoked, or cancelled in Central Florida, contact Leppard Law: Florida DUI Lawyers & Criminal Defense Attorneys PLLC today at 407-476-4111. Our attorneys have the right knowledge, skills, and experience to get you through this extremely stressful process all while getting the best possible result.