Knowingly driving while on a suspended drivers license in Florida punishable by an arrest and a potential jail term. DWLS with knowledge can be either a misdemeanor which is punishable up to a year in jail or a felony which can be punishable by over a year in jail. Even unknowingly driving on a suspended drivers license is punishable by law as a civil infraction in Florida. It carries up to a $500 fine and three points on your record.
Normally, if you are stopped while driving and the police officer discovers you have been driving on a suspended license, you could face arrest and be charged with DWLS (driving with a suspended license). But what about an emergency situation? This is a question that many people who have a suspended license wonder about and there are no hard and fast answers.
Emergencies that might make you think about driving on a suspended license • The Defense of Necessity
The most common reason for driving while on a suspended license is a medical emergency. Consider the following scenario. You have an auto in the garage, but you haven’t been using it because your license has been suspended for 6 months. Your 3 year old is really sick and you are panicking. You need to get the kid to a hospital fast! You jump in the car with the kid and head off to the hospital, only 20 miles away. Is it legal?
Florida is in a hurricane and tsunami prone zone. You’ve been watching Hurricane Nasty develop out in the Bahamas and it’s now heading for the Florida Panhandle. Current forecasts put the eye right over your location. Do you wait for the order to evacuate, or get your family out now? You only have a suspended license. If you had to evacuate, would you be allowed to drive on your suspended license? What would be the alternative?
Although driving while license suspended is a crime if you know your license is suspended, A good Miami Florida criminal defense attorney could argue The defense of necessity under the circumstances. Florida appellate courts have recognized the defense of necessity in a very narrow set of circumstances. You would have to prove to the judge or jury that you needed to drive to save your life or someone else’s life. It would be up to the fact finder whether to believe you, that’s where hiring an experienced criminal lawyer in Miami really pays off.
Driving while on a suspended license is illegal
The law in Florida is quite clear. Driving while on a suspended license is illegal. It is a crime to knowingly drive while on a suspended license and you could face imprisonment and fines. As with many other crimes, the more you are caught committing the same crime, the harsher the penalty. A DWLS charge may result in a felony conviction if there is a history of two previous convictions within the past five years.
To prove that someone is guilty of knowingly driving while on a suspended license, prosecutors need to prove three things.
1. You have a suspended license.
2. You know you have a suspended license.
3. You were driving while on a suspended license.
These three criteria are easy to prove. The first two can be extracted from records by an officer who stops you. Does your driving record show you were sent a notice when your license was suspended? Your lawyer can dispute that you ever received notice of your suspension and that’s when your case.
The third is obvious if you are stopped by the officer, anyway. However, what’s the stop valid? That question is the fruit of lots of litigation. In this country, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or probable cause that an infraction was committed in order to stop a vehicle. This is based on United States Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court precedent. Thus, an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney would challenge the stop by filing a motion to suppress all of the evidence obtained as a result of the illegal stop, namely that you had a suspended license while driving. That is the key to winning many driving while license suspended cases.
There is nothing in the Florida statutes that permits you to drive while on a suspended license in an emergency. However a well-versed criminal defense lawyer in Miami would research the caselaw in Florida which permits the defense of necessity and can argue and win you’re driving while license suspended case.
The fact that DWLS is illegal even in an emergency might still not stop you, of course, but you are risking further charges if stopped. It might be asked why you didn’t get someone else to drive your car who had a license, or in the case of a medical emergency why you didn’t ring 911 and request an ambulance. Basically, as long as there is any chance of an alternative, you would expect police and the courts to take a dim view of any attempt to make the excuse that you were in an emergency. Again, that’s when it pays to hire the best criminal defense lawyer in Miami that you can afford.
Response of Florida DHSMV during and after Hurricanes Irma and Maria
Last year saw severe hurricane activity in the Caribbean and two of these storms affected Florida. These were Maria and Irma. During that time and in the immediate aftermath, the DHSMV did announce fee waivers for license fees and put out the following statement: “To aid in the recovery effort, Florida DHSMV is committed to providing all possible assistance to Florida residents. We are proud to serve as a resource in this time of need.”
Note that the help did not extend to allowing people to drive while on a suspended license! As an administrative agency, the DHSMV lacks the power to do that. Granting such a waiver is a legislative function and a state agency is there to administer, carry out and enforce the law not make it. But the courts are there to interpret the law and what is permissible under the law and what is not. Your lawyer is there to convince and persuade a judge that you did not violate the law under the circumstances. That’s why it pays to gra but the courts are there to interpret the law and what is permissible under the law and what is not. Your lawyer is there to convince and persuade a judge that you did not violate the law under the circumstances. That’s why it pays to have a good lawyer in your corner.
Defense if caught driving while on a suspended license in an emergency
The best advice if you are in an emergency situation, need to drive but have a suspended license is to try and stay calm and not add to your woes. You need to first consider any legal alternative you can under the circumstances.
Don’t rely on the defense of necessity to violate the law. However, if you do decide to risk it and are caught and charged you need to contact Miami Criminal Defense Attorney Albert Quirantes Esq.
We understand why you might decide to make a decision in an emergency when it is easy to panic and there may be few obvious alternatives. We will do everything in our power to fight a charge of DWLS.
There is no guarantee that you would escape a further conviction but the case may very well depend on the exact circumstances. If the circumstances show you had no alternative and there was a possibility of serious injury or death, the case may be dismissed or at the least the sentence and impact on your record minimized.
Albert Quirantes: Your Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer & DUI Lawyer
For over 30 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida. With his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.
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