Driving with a Suspended License in Sarasota, FL: Get the Defense You Need
While most of us drive pretty much every day, either for work, school, or pleasure, the reality is that, in the eyes of the law, driving is a privilege and not a right. Therefore, the state requires you to be properly trained and to have a license to operate a motor vehicle. The potential to cause harm to yourself and/or others is too great to simply allow anyone to drive.
Therefore, if the state has suspended or revoked your license for any reason and you are caught driving, expect to be punished. You could face heavy fines or even be put in jail for a period of time ranging from 60 days to five years.
If you’ve been charged with driving with a suspended license, get in touch with the lawyers and Smith & Eulo to help you navigate your defense.
In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about your charges:
Driving with a Suspended License in Sarasota, FL
According to Florida state statutes, if your license has been suspended, canceled, or revoked, and you drive on the highways and roads in Florida, you have committed a moving violation. This will lead to points on your driving record and fines of up to $300.
However, the far more common charge in the state of Florida is “driving with a suspended license with knowledge.” This is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor.
In most cases, you will be charged as if you had knowledge and it will be up to you to prove in court that you did not. The state considers sending you a notice of suspension as you have knowledge, even if you claim to have not received it. Proving otherwise can be tricky, though it is possible.
Either way, it is illegal to drive with a suspended license in the state of Florida.
Reasons Why You Might Get Your License Suspended
Although it doesn’t ultimately matter when it comes to your charges, know that there are several reasons why your license might be suspended, canceled, or revoked. Which one applies to you might matter later when the judge is contemplating sentencing.
Some of the most common reasons why your license might get suspended in Sarasota and the rest of Florida include:
- Points suspensions — If you’ve committed too many moving violations (usually three) during a five-year period, this can lead to a license suspension.
- Child support delinquency, i.e., not paying
- DUI arrest or conviction
- Being classified as a Habitual Traffic Offender
- Failure to pay fines and/or court costs
- Failure to appear in court
- Being convicted of drug charges
- Refusing a DUI screening
As you can see, some of these reasons are related to driving and some are not. If your license has been suspended for a non-driving-related charge, you may be able to negotiate a lesser sentence if you are caught driving with a suspended license. Though this is not always the case. It’s up to your attorney to argue this to the courts.
Punishments for Driving with a Suspended License
The state of Florida takes driving with a suspended license quite seriously.
If you are caught and can prove you had no knowledge of the suspension, you will be cited with a moving violation, which carries fines of up to $300 and will result in points against your license.
If you are caught and the state charges you did indeed have knowledge of the suspension, you will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. This carries a maximum fine of $500 and up to 60 days in jail.
Those caught driving with a suspended license for the second time will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which brings a maximum fine of $1,000 and a maximum jail sentence of one year.
Should you be caught for a third time, the charges will be elevated to a third-degree felony. This carries a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to five years prison time. However, with these charges, you will be required to spend a minimum of ten days in jail.
Habitual Traffic Offender
Habitual Traffic Offenders are individuals the state has identified due to their repeated violation of traffic laws. They have been convicted three times of any one of the following offenses:
- Voluntary or involuntary vehicular manslaughter
- Any felony in which a motor vehicle was used
- Driving with a suspended license
- Failing to stop and help when involved in a motor vehicle crash (hit-and-run)
- Driving a commercial vehicle without proper privileges, or when those privileges have been revoked.
In addition, if you are convicted of fifteen moving violations for which points are issued within five years you will also be labeled a habitual traffic offender.
Driving without a license can potentially land you on this list if you have prior convictions, but if you are already considered a habitual traffic offender and are caught driving without a license, you will automatically be charged with a felony of the third degree, which carries a minimum of ten days in jail, a maximum of five years, and fines of up to $5,000.
One important thing to note is that if you have been labeled a habitual traffic offender, it does not matter if you had knowledge of your suspension or not. Being caught without a license will lead to third-degree felony charges no matter what.
Commercial drivers are those who drive for purposes of business, such as truck drivers or delivery drivers. Since they are meant to be professionals, the state holds them to a higher standard.
If caught driving a commercial vehicle when your commercial license has been suspended or revoked, your first offense will result in a first-degree misdemeanor charge and your second offense will bring third-degree felony charges. In short, the punishments are elevated by one degree.
Potential Defenses for Driving with a Suspended License
If you have been charged with driving on a suspended license, the first thing you must do is hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Many people are tricked by law enforcement into pleading guilty before going to trial, and this is not always in your best interest as it can leave your offense on your permanent record and also lead to harsher penalties.
While every case is different, there are some defenses you can use to try and mitigate the charges, such as:
- Challenging the notion of knowledge — The key to misdemeanor and felony charges related to driving with a suspended license is the idea of knowledge. If you did not know your license was suspended, then you will only be charged with a misdemeanor. The state must prove you had this knowledge, which is not always a given.
- Questioning the legality of the traffic stop — Although it’s illegal to drive without a license, the police must have a viable reason to pull you over. As a citizen of the United States, you still have civil rights, and if the traffic stop that resulted in the charges can be proved to be unlawful, you may be able to get charges dismissed.
- Claiming you were not driving on a public highway — This statute only applies to those driving on public roads and highways. If you were on a private road and stopped, the charges may not apply.
Again, the defense that will work best for you will depend on the nature of your case. If you were indeed driving with a suspended license with knowledge, the best course of action may be to try and mitigate your sentence. If you can prove it was a mistake, or that this is not a habitual behavior, you may be able to get charges dropped or sentences reduced.
Hire a Lawyer to Defend You if Charged with Driving with a Suspended License
The only way to achieve the best possible result if charged with driving with a suspended license is to hire an experienced attorney to defend you.
At Smith and Eulo Law Firm, we have helped countless clients in Sarasota, FL handle these charges, and we’re ready to do the same for you. Get in touch today so we can start crafting your defense.
* Here are some additional legal resources in the Sarasota area to help you navigate your situation.
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