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Driving While License Canceled/Suspended/Revoked (DWLS)

AKA: Driving Under Suspension

A common charge in Florida is driving on a suspended driver's license. It is more difficult for the state to prove the charge than you may think. Also, although the penalty for a first-time offense may be slight, there are situations where the state will likely seek jail time.


Call our office if you would like an attorney to review your case. Please do not rely on the following information to make a decision on how to proceed with your case or legal situation.



Below are some of the more common issues seen in driving on a suspended driver license cases that, if present, can result in the charge getting dropped or reduced. 


If the initial stop of the vehicle was for an illegal or unconstitutional reason, then the identification of the driver can be suppressed and the prosecutor will likely be unable to prove the case.  Whether the stop was valid or not is a  technical question that should be answered by a criminal defense attorney who is current with Fourth Amendment Constitutional law.


An individual is guilty of the criminal offense of driving with a suspended license if he or she drives a motor vehicle in the State of Florida while knowing of the suspension.  If a person is unaware that their Florida driver license was suspended, then they should be charged with a civil traffic violation, as opposed to a criminal law violation.


Although it will not necessarily result in the charge being completely dropped, if a person is able to get their driver license back, then the state may be willing to reduce the charge or substantially reduce the punishment they were originally requesting.  If you get your license back, an attorney can help negotiate the best possible deal for you.


If the road or parking lot that you were on was private property and not open to public vehicular traffic, and you were charged with driving on a suspended license, it may have been an illegal arrest.

There must be a legal stop

It may seem straightforward: A person is pulled over, told that their driver license is suspended, and given a citation or a notice to appear for a court date. Is there anything that can be done?

Oftentimes there is. One of the first questions is, why was the car stopped? 

The police must have a legal basis to stop your car. 

'The person looked suspicious' is not enough. One tail light out (on a car with three rear lights) also is not enough. 

There are many reasons that a judge may rule that a stop was illegal. 

If the initial stop is challenged and determined to be illegal, then usually everything after the illegal stop that resulted in charges will be suppressed, including the underlining DWLS charge.

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Was your driver license actually suspended, and if so, why?


The state will have the burden to prove that your license was suspended. The state will attempt to do this by eliciting testimony regarding your certified driving record (CDR). Occasionally, misdemeanor prosecutors misread the CDR, wrongfully assuming one's driver's license is suspended. More frequently, misdemeanor prosecutors will misread the reason for the suspension. 

The reason a driver's license is suspended usually has a great deal to do with the offer (the punishment) that the prosecutor will want.

For instance, if one's license is suspended for failure to pay traffic citations, the offer will usually be relatively low. However, if the reason for the suspension is a DUI or failure to pay child support, the state will likely be seeking jail time.


Did you know that your license was suspended?

To convict one for criminal DWLS the state has to prove that the person had knowledge that their driver's license was suspended. (In some cases the state may prove that the person received "notice" of the suspension.) If the person was unaware that their license was suspended, they should not be charged with criminal driving on a suspended license.


What is a felony DWLS?

A person arrested for DWLS who has three or more prior DWLS convictions may result in the person being charged with a felony DWLS. This is a felony of the third-degree, punishable by up to five years in prison.


What is a HTO (habitual traffic offender)?

A "habitual traffic offender" is any person who accumulates three or more convictions of any of the following offenses within a five-year period:

  • Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle

  • Driving under the influence

  • A felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used

  • Driving a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked

  • Failing to stop and render aid in the event of a motor vehicle crash resulting in the death or personal injury of another

  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle while his or her privilege is disqualified.

The most common reason that people HTO is due to receiving three DWLS convictions over a five year period or one DUI and two DWLS convictions. Often people will not hire an attorney when they are first charged with DWLS because the state will make a low offer (usually time served and a small fine) and they do not think it is in their best financial interest to hire. In reality, it usually is in their best interest to hire an attorney because an attorney may be able to "beat" the DWLS, thus preventing them from receiving a "strike" for HTO purposes.


What happens if I am HTO'd?

If you receive a designation as a habitual traffic offender the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will revoke your license for a period of five years. You may be eligible to obtain a business purpose license (BPO) after a period of 12 months.

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