habitual traffic offenderHere is an acronym you probably have not heard before: HTO. HTO stands for Habitual Traffic Offender, and I can assure you, it is no reason to LOL. Thanks to the Florida Supreme Court, judges are required to advise defendants that a plea of no contest or guilty may result in a driver’s license revocation or suspension. That means that if you receive a traffic ticket in the state of Florida, and you decide to fight it in court yourself, a judge has to inform you that pleading guilty to your traffic ticket or pleading no contest could result in your license being revoked or suspended immediately.

Any good traffic ticket attorney will submit a plea of not guilty. An experienced traffic ticket lawyer will never plead no contest and definitely would not plead guilty. The courtroom can be an intimidating place. Add on to that the testimony of the officer who pulled you over and a not so perfect driving record, and you may feel pressured to change your plea to no contest or even guilty. A situation where this could equal an automatic revocation is when you plead guilty or no contest to a charge of driving while license suspended for the third time within five years. This will result in a five year habitual traffic offender (HTO) driver’s license revocation. In other words, no driving for 5 years. Sounds crazy? Can’t happen to you! Read on.

I had a client come into the office with an order of suspension. He told me that he paid all of his tickets on time and was not sure why his license was being suspended. Fighting a traffic ticket is always the best choice, but sometimes people pay their tickets not knowing the consequences that come with paying a traffic ticket. They think that they are doing the responsible thing by taking care of the ticket to avoid a late fee or worse, a suspension. These consequences can range from points that are assessed on the driver’s license to raised insurance premiums to even five year revocations. That’s right. You do not have to be in a courtroom to be branded with HTO status. It happens all the time. You forget to pay a ticket and your license is suspended. You get pulled over and given a ticket for driving with a suspended license. It would seem that the responsible thing to do is to take care of all your tickets so that you can reinstate your license. You pay the ticket you received for driving with a suspended license and forget all about it.

However, what you may not know is that once you pay a ticket, you are automatically submitting a plea of guilty to the court. If you pay three tickets for driving with a suspended license within a five year period your license will be automatically revoked for five years. Congratulations, you are now considered a habitual traffic offender (HTO). Better go bicycle shopping. You more than likely feel cheated. Someone should have told you (much like judges are now required to), that paying three tickets for driving with a suspended license would earn you a five year revocation. I don’t know about you, but not having a license for five years in the state of Florida is a big problem. We have very limitted public transportation and the buses we do have stink. They are always late and often never come at all. The weather also prevents us from biking. It’s also dangerous to bike on our roads. Thus, don’t become a HTO. If you ever get a traffic ticket, all a lawyer. If you want to fight it, then yes, fight it. But NEVER pay it. If you do, you might find yourself doing a lot of walking.