Driving while license suspended or revoked in Florida can either be a criminal or non-criminal charge, depending on whether there was knowledge of the suspension. The law which defines this is set forth in Florida Statute 322.34. If you have been charged with a violation of 322.34 without knowledge, it is a civil infraction, which means it does not carry a jail sentence. Those types of tickets do not involve mandatory court dates, but can carry a maximum potential fine of $500. Those types of tickets are discussed further in another section of this website. Driving while license suspended is often referred to in court as “DWLSR”.
For those persons who are charged with driving while license suspended with knowledge, these are criminal charges, and require a mandatory court date. A first offense charge carries a potential sentence of sixty days in the county jail, and/or a $500 fine. For a second offense, the maximum jail sentence increases to one year in the county jail, and/or a $1000 fine. If this is your third or subsequent charge of driving on a suspended license, it is a felony offense, punishable by up to five years in state prison, and/or a $5000 fine.
To be a valid criminal charge, the State of Florida must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the driver knew that his or her license was suspended at the time of the ticket. In some cases this burden is easy to meet, because the driver during the traffic stop admits to the police officer knowledge of the suspension. Knowledge can also be inferred if the driver has previous driving while license suspended charges, and never reinstated the license.
The State’s burden of proof is much harder to establish on cases where the license has been suspended for unpaid traffic tickets, or in cases where the license has been suspended because of a lapse in insurance, or other reasons such as unpaid child support or parking tickets. Florida law creates what is called a “rebuttable presumption”, which means that the prosecutor can argue that because the Department of Motor Vehicles mails a notice of suspension to the driver, it is presumed that the driver knew about the suspension. However, this does not mean the driver has no defense to the charge. Often times the driver in these cases has failed to update his or her address with the Department of Motor Vehicles, and never received the notice. In other cases the driver received the letter and simply never opened the envelope. It would ultimately be up to a judge or jury to determine whether the driver knew of the license suspension at the time of the offense.
Driving while license suspended charges do not carry points against your license, but if you are convicted of three charges of driving while license suspended, either with or without knowledge, within a five year time period, the state of Florida will classify you as a habitual traffic violator, and your driver’s license will be suspended for a period of five years.