For those who have had their license suspended by the State of Florida, there may be no worse feeling then seeing those blue lights approach. If there is reason for an officer to believe that the driver’s license has been suspended, the officer may issue a driving while license suspended ticket, which could bring serious with it serious criminal consequences. Florida law provides that a person who drives a vehicle with knowledge that their license has been suspended or revoked has committed the crime of driving while license is suspended, a misdemeanor. Although many people may look at this offense as relatively easy to prove, there are ways to challenge the charge if there is evidence to back up the presentation of a valid defense.
Did the driver actually know that their license was suspended?
As is the case with any traffic stop, police officers are looking to build the strength of their case as soon as they make contact with the driver of a motor vehicle. As stated in previous posts, an officer will initially ask the driver if they know why they were pulled over. The correct response to this is to give “no” answer at all. If a person admits that they knew that their license was suspended, or even if they give an indication that they may have knowledge as to the suspension, this could be enough to satisfy the burden of proof needed for a prosecutor to secure a conviction. Beyond an actual admission of guilt, the State may also be able to prove that a driver knew of their suspension by showing that the Department of Motor Vehicles had sent them written notification. Relying on the Department of Motor Vehicles information can be difficult for the State, especially if there is question as to whether they had the right address, or whether the driver had changed addresses recently. If such is the case, a defense can be presented that asserts that although there may have been grounds for the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend a license, the proper notice was not received and thus, the driver did not “knowingly” violate the statute.
Was the license suspension directed at the right person?
With over 19 million people populating the State of Florida, it can be easy for administrative errors to take place at the DMV. These errors can often result in someone with a similar name being subjected to a license suspension when they in fact are not responsible for the violation. To clear up such a mistake, a thorough look into DMV records may reveal the cause of the error, which could serve as conclusive evidence as to why the criminal charge is unjustified.
Why did the police officer stop the driver?
Another common challenge in a driving while license suspended case is to look at the reason the officer claims to have initiated the stop. Federal law has illustrated that a police officer must have a “reasonable and articulable” suspicion of wrongdoing in order to pull a vehicle over. This standard falls short of the officer actually witnessing a traffic infraction, but it still requires the officer to rely on specific facts that point to their conclusion that a stop was justified. In some cases, an officer will claim that they were able to identify the driver as being someone they knew was under suspension. This claim can be tenuous, as the circumstances surrounding their alleged ability to view the driver may not reach the proper standard, causing a judge to question whether a valid stop was made.
A Florida driving while license suspended ticket is a big deal. With its elevated penalties for each subsequent offense and the detriment of having such a violation on one’s criminal record, it is important for Florida residents to analyze whether they have a defense before they agree to plead guilty to the charge. This applies to out of state residents also. Remember, the difference between a DWLS traffic ticket that will land you in jail or just a ticket is your response. Did you know your license was suspended? NO had better be your answer or you will be spending the night in jail.