It’s almost too easy to have your license suspended in Florida. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles suspends nearly one million licenses a year in the Sunshine State. Often, drivers whose licenses are suspended owe monetary fines to the court, meaning that many drivers lose their driving privileges over financial issues.
Most Floridians rely on their cars for transportation, and many people who have their licenses suspended make the choice to drive anyway, knowing their licenses are temporarily invalid. Anyone who knows about their license suspension and gets caught driving faces a misdemeanor criminal charge the next time a police officer stops them.
Driving with a suspended license is just one of many different criminal traffic violations for which a conviction may lead to a Habitual Traffic Offender designation. Anyone who drives as a Habitual Traffic Offender faces a more severe third-degree felony charge.
It’s a difficult situation to be in, but with the help of an attorney, it may be possible to plead a felony HTO offense down to a misdemeanor.
Who is a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO)?
After three convictions of a serious traffic offense or accumulating 15 moving violations or 45 DMV points on your license in 5 years, the state licensing authority may consider you a Habitual Traffic Offender and revoke your driver’s license for 5 years. All three convictions must be for criminal traffic violations, which can include driving with a suspended license. So, even if your license is suspended over an inability to pay child support, if you’re caught driving after your suspension three different times, you’ll be labeled an HTO in Florida.
Other traffic violations that are criminal offenses include:
- Fleeing a car accident in which a person suffered an injury or died
- Using a vehicle to commit a felony
- Driving with a suspended license
- Driving a commercial vehicle with a suspended CDL
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Driving as a Habitual Traffic Offender
When you receive a letter from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles warning you about your HTO license revocation, you could reach out to a driver’s license lawyer who practices in your jurisdiction. A lawyer may be able to vacate one of the convictions to cancel out the HTO status.
If you wait too long to work with an attorney and are caught driving as a Habitual Traffic Offender, you face a third-degree felony charge, which may lead to a fine of $5,000 and 5 years of incarceration if you’re convicted. If you face this charge, you’re urged to speak with an attorney to try reducing it to a misdemeanor.
How Can My Felony HTO Charge Become a Misdemeanor?
Florida’s laws have changed so that anyone whose license is suspended due to financial reasons may not face a felony charge for driving as a habitual traffic offender. Still, the State Attorney’s Office may fail to look into the reasons for your suspension before charging you with a felony. If your criminal defense attorney can prove that your license suspensions occurred because of unpaid tickets or other reasons involving the nonpayment of fines, he or she can appeal to have your charge reduced to a misdemeanor driving while license suspended charge. By showing the prosecutor your driving record, your HTO felony charge could be reduced to a misdemeanor charge.
Trust Gabriel Law Team to Fight Your West Palm Beach Traffic Charge
Developing a relationship with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who fights traffic charges is the key to enjoying driving privileges after you’ve experienced legal troubles with your driver’s license. If you face a suspended license or any type of misdemeanor or felony charge for a traffic offense in West Palm Beach, contact The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel.
Attorney Brian P. Gabriel has been defending traffic charges for more than 25 years in Palm Beach County and surrounding areas. He enjoys a positive professional relationship with prosecutors, judges, police officers, and others who might be involved in your case, which could benefit the outcome. As a National Trial Lawyer Top 100 Trial Lawyer, you can count on him to provide the best experience possible when helping you navigate the criminal justice system. Call 561-622-5575 or contact us for a free consultation.