Understanding Florida’s Laws:  Driving with a Suspended License vs. No Valid Driver License

By Luz Root

As a criminal defense attorney practicing in the sunshine state of Florida, I have represented numerous clients facing criminal charges for Driving with a License Suspended (DWLS) or No Valid Driver License (NVDL).

Although the offense may seem minor, this offense is taken very seriously in Florida, and the consequences can be severe. On its face, the charges may all sound similar, but they are different.  This blog will help you understand the distinctions and its potential consequences.

Yes, there are different –Know the lingo!

driving with a suspended license vs driving without a license

NVDL: No Valid Driver License Charge

You could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 60 days, 6 months probation, and/or a fine of up to $500.  This charge is usually brought against individuals who never obtained a driver’s license or, in some cases, whose license has expired without being renewed.

DWLS without knowledge

If you are given a citation for DWLS, this is the best one you could receive. It is not a criminal offense; it is a civil citation. Generally, officers give this citation when someone’s driver’s license had recently become suspended, and the driver has no knowledge of the suspension.

Nevertheless, the judge can still adjudicate you guilty of the civil offense and reduce points off your driver license. Although is not a criminal offense, you should still contact an attorney to be represented and avoid any future issues.

DWLS with knowledge

Driving with a suspended license occurs when an individual operates a motor vehicle while their driving privileges have been suspended or revoked by the state and they have knowledge of the suspension.

-First offense: you could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 60 days, 6 months’ probation, and/or a fine of up to $500.

**Keep in mind that you can be charged with DWLS even if you do not have a driver’s license or you never had one!  A first offense on a NVDL can turn into a DWLS if you, for example, don’t pay your tickets or your tolls.

-Second offense: you could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a jail term or probation of up to one year and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.

-Third or subsequent: you could also be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. New Florida laws impose a mandatory sentence to a minimum of ten days in jail and it does not matter when you had the previous offense.

Felony DWLS or Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO)

If you have been convicted of three qualifying driving offenses, you could be classified as a “habitual traffic offender” (HTO). You could be charged with a third-degree felony, which can result in a prison sentence of up to five years and/or a maximum fine of $5,000, and your driving privileges will be suspended or revoked for five (5) years.

The Trifecta, in simple words, it’s three (3) qualifying offenses withing five (5) years.

Some of the qualifying offenses are driving with license suspended, DUI, Refusal to Submit to a breath, urine or blood alcohol test, a traffic offense causing death or serious bodily injury, or fleeing/eluding police.

Is my Florida Driver License is suspended?

Here’s a tip to our readers. You can check the status of your license in this website:

Driver License Check (flhsmv.gov)

If you or a loved one have been charged with driving offenses, or would like to reinstate their driving privileges, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our Criminal Defense Attorneys have ample experience handling traffic offenses across the State of Florida. Call us today: 352-WIN-4YOU.

Safe driving and best wishes to all!

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