The laws governing driving privileges in Florida can be confusing to navigate and the consequences can be severe. Never pay a traffic ticket without first consulting an attorney about the consequences. Why? Because you can go to jail.
Florida Statute 322.34 addresses the charge of Driving while license Suspended and the various levels associated with it. A license can be suspended for any number of reasons (failure to pay traffic tickets, drug offenses, prior DUIs, failure to pay child support, etc.) and if you are unlucky enough to be caught driving on a suspended license (whether you knew of the suspension or did not) you may be one step closer to jail as well as losing your license for up to 5 years.
Here is how it breaks down:
Florida Statute 322.34 (1) addresses Driving on a suspended license without the knowledge that the license is suspended. This is a non-criminal, moving violation citation, aka “a ticket.” This is non-criminal because the driver did not have the knowledge the license was suspended. Due to this being merely “a ticket”, many people just simply pay the ticket rather than having an attorney handle the matter. This type of decision can lead to a person’s license being suspended for five years while additionally having the driver classified as a “Habitual Traffic Offender”.
Florida Statute 322.32 (2) addresses Driving while a license is suspended with knowledge. This is no longer a non-criminal citation; this is a criminal charge. The distinguishing factor in this subsection is that it contains a “knowledge” element. So what satisfies the “knowledge”? Knowledge can be attributed if a previous citation under 322.34(1) was issued to the driver, if the driver admitted to the police that he was aware of the suspension, or if a person is deemed to have received notice through the court or DMV system. The first time a person is charged under 322.34 (2), they are facing a second degree misdemeanor conviction which can result in a penalty of up to 60 days in jail. If this is the second time a person is charged under 322.34 (2), they face conviction a first degree misdemeanor which carries a penalty of up to 364 days in jail. If this is the third time a person is charged under 322.34 (2), that person is facing a third degree felony conviction. This conviction can carry a penalty of 60 months in prison.
Habitual Traffic Offenders
Any three DWLS convictions (even if the three convictions are of the DWLS w/o knowledge variety!!) can result in a person being classified as a “Habitual Traffic Offender” (HTO). If a person is designated as an HTO, their driving privileges are revoked for a period of 5 years. If a person is caught driving during this five year period, they face a third degree felony charge under 322.34 (5) for Driving while a license is suspended as an HTO. This is punishable by 60 months in prison.
Driving while license suspended charges may not initially appear to be very serious, but the reality is they need to be handled with care and with precision or there may be unanticipated and serious consequences.
You Still Have Options
However, there is good news. If you are charged with driving with a suspended license, a skilled attorney can help you sort through the various state traffic laws and navigate your case to a resolution that does not involve the losses of freedom associated with a DWLS charge.
And there is also good news for those people who have already been designated as a “Habitual Traffic Offender.” An attorney can help you undo this designation. An attorney is able to review your driving record, identify the offenses that were used to designate you as an HTO, and attack that those offenses. When this occurs, the HTO designation is removed and driving privileges are reinstated.
Before you resolve any traffic offense, such as a DWLs charge, consult with an attorney. Remember, even paying the fines for a DWLS without knowledge can make you a Habitual Traffic Offender. Do not make the mistake of handling the case without first being informed of the consequences.