Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (DWLSR) Offenses in Florida

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Driving with a suspended or revoked license can be as benign as a civil traffic violation or as serious as a third degree felony, depending on the reason for the suspension and/or your number of prior convictions.

For the first offender, who has no knowledge of the suspension, the offense is classified as a non-criminal traffic infraction. Under Florida law, a non-criminal violation is punishable by no other penalty than a fine, forfeiture or other civil penalty. A non-criminal violation does not constitute a crime, and a conviction for a non-criminal violation does not give rise to any legal disability
based on a criminal offense. I have seen this "no knowledge" scenario occur where a person switches insurance companies, even though there has been no lapse in coverage. If you switch carriers, it may behoove you to thereafter check the status of your driver's license online and contact the DMV if there is an issue. The face of the ticket will tell you whether you have been cited for a non-criminal violation or something more serious.

For the first offender who has knowledge of the suspension, the offense is classified as a second degree misdemeanor. In Florida, this is the least severe degree or level of criminal offense. It is punishable by up to sixty days in jail and/or six months of probation. The knowledge requirement, under Florida law, is satisfied if the person has been previously cited for driving on a suspended license, the person admits knowledge of the cancellation or suspension, or receives notice from a court or other adjudicatory body.

A second offense, with knowledge, constitutes a first degree misdemeanor. A first degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail, one year of probation, or some combination of the two. If you have a no prior criminal record, the court may withhold adjudication of guilt, which would avoid a criminal conviction. Also, if you can obtain a driver's license, it may be beneficial to come to court with it in hand. In any event, you should always consult with a criminal defense attorney ahead of time, and hire one if you can.

A third offense, with knowledge, constitutes a third degree felony. Yes - you can be charged and convicted of a felony offense for driving with a suspended or revoked license. A third degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and, as with all felony offenses in Florida, sentencing guidelines will apply in determining the appropriate range. Under most circumstances, a person will not be facing a mandatory prison sentence for a suspended license felony offense unless he or she has other, more serious pending felonies before the same court for sentencing, or a lengthy criminal history.

For the holder of a commercial driver's license, a first offense for driving a commercial vehicle while such privilege to do so is suspended constitutes a first degree misdemeanor. A second offense is classified as a third degree felony.

A person may also be charged with a felony suspended license offense if he or she drives after having been designated a habitual traffic offender or after his or her license has been permanently revoked. A habitual traffic offender is any person who has accumulated the specified number of convictions for the following offenses within a five year period: (1) three or more convictions of any one or more of the following offenses arising out of separate acts: (a) voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle; (b) DUI; (c) any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used; (d) driving while license suspended or revoked; (d) failing to stop and render aid as required by law; (e) driving a commercial motor vehicle while the privilege to do so is suspended; or (2) fifteen convictions for moving traffic offenses for which points may be assessed.

You should also be aware that a conviction for any drug related offense in Florida will result in a two year driver's license revocation. This includes misdemeanor possession of marijuana. You may qualify, however, to obtain a hardship license after six months. Depending on the nature of the offense, and your criminal history, there may be ways to avoid a conviction, and therefore, the license suspension altogether.

The foregoing is a brief overview of the various degrees of driving with a suspended license, and the their corresponding penalties. If you have been cited, arrested or charged with a suspended license offense, you should contact a criminal defense attorney. This area of the law can be surprisingly complicated and a misstep can easily make a difficult situation a lot worse.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donald J. Kilfin, The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C.
Donald J. Kilfin is a former Pinellas County State prosecutor. He owns and operates The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C., a Tampa Bay area DUI and criminal defense firm representing clients in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, New Port Richey, Dade City, and Bradenton.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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