Suspended License Tickets Leading to Felony Habitual Traffic Offender Conviction

A Jacksonville driving on a suspended or revoked license conviction could cause you to become a habitual traffic offender in Florida. It will depend on your driving record. Florida Statute Section 322.264 lists the Jacksonville traffic tickets and criminal convictions that will be used against you to make you a habitual traffic offender. This Florida habitual traffic offender law states:

A “habitual traffic offender” is any person whose record, as maintained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, shows that such person has accumulated the specified number of convictions for offenses described in subsection (1) or subsection (2) within a 5-year period:
(1) Three or more convictions of any one or more of the following offenses arising out of separate acts:
(a) Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;
(b) Any violation of s. 316.193, former s. 316.1931, or former s. 860.01;
(c) Any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;
(d) Driving a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked;
(e) Failing to stop and render aid as required under the laws of this state in the event of a motor vehicle crash resulting in the death or personal injury of another; or
(f) Driving a commercial motor vehicle while his or her privilege is disqualified.
(2) Fifteen convictions for moving traffic offenses for which points may be assessed as set forth in s. 322.27, including those offenses in subsection (1).

If your drivers license has been suspended as a habitual traffic offender or you have received notice that you are facing a Florida drivers license suspension, speak with a Jacksonville drivers license attorney as soon as possible by calling (904) 564-2525. A Jacksonville drivers license lawyer may be able to help you.

Do not drive while your license has been suspended as a habitual traffic offender. You could be arrested and charged with a felony. I have met people that have never been in any kind of trouble before, but their driving record creates a criminal record. If you are charged with felony driving while having a suspended license as a habitual traffic offender, you may be adjudicated guilty of a felony. I have also met people that have become convicted felons based on felony habitual traffic offender convictions. If you have been arrested for driving on a suspended or revoked license as a habitual traffic offender, it is very important to seek the help of an experienced Jacksonville criminal lawyer. You may have a defense to the charge. Your attorney will need to look further into the case and your record. You may have a defense to the felony charge based on the citations that were used against you to suspend your drivers license. Florida Statute Section 322.34(10) gives a defense to those habitual traffic offenders who qualify. This usually applies to drivers that became habitual traffic offenders due to financial reasons. This law states:

(10)(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, if a person does not have a prior forcible felony conviction as defined in s. 776.08, the penalties provided in paragraph (b) apply if a person’s driver license or driving privilege is canceled, suspended, or revoked for:

  • Failing to pay child support as provided in s. 322.245 or s. 61.13016;
  • Failing to pay any other financial obligation as provided in s. 322.245 other than those specified in s. 322.245(1);
  • Failing to comply with a civil penalty required in s. 318.15;
  • Failing to maintain vehicular financial responsibility as required by chapter 324;
  • Failing to comply with attendance or other requirements for minors as set forth in s. 322.091; or
  • Having been designated a habitual traffic offender under s. 322.264(1)(d) as a result of suspensions of his or her driver license or driver privilege for any underlying violation listed in subparagraphs 1.-5.

(b) 1. Upon a first conviction for knowingly driving while his or her license is suspended, revoked, or canceled for any of the underlying violations listed in subparagraphs (a)1.-6., a person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
2.  Upon a second or subsequent conviction for the same offense of knowingly driving while his or her license is suspended, revoked, or canceled for any of the underlying violations listed in subparagraphs (a)1.-6., a person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

This does not mean that all habitual traffic offenders that have a suspended license due to unpaid financial obligations cannot be convicted of felony driving on a suspended license in Florida. A prior forcible felony conviction will stop this defense from being successful. A failure to appear in court on one of these Jacksonville traffic tickets will also affect the use of this defense. Here is a case from the 3rd District Court of Appeals. The trial court dismissed a felony information for unlawful driving as a habitual offender under section 322.34(5), Florida Statutes. The state attorney alleged in the charging document “that the defendant had three convictions of driving with a suspended driver’s license within a five-year period. Two of the underlying suspensions occurred because she twice failed to pay assessed traffic fines; the third, because she failed to appear in court on a traffic summons after she had herself requested a hearing for the offenses of driving with an expired registration and failure to provide proof of insurance.” The Florida appellate court needed to decide “whether the term ‘[f]ailing to comply with a civil penalty required in s. 318.15,’ § 322.34(10)(a) 3., includes by reference all the provisions of section 318.15, including the failure to appear at a scheduled hearing as involved in this case.” This is what the 3rd District Court of Appeals found:

“Section 322.34(10)(a) 3. simply does not say ‘those offenses contained in section 318.15.’ It says only failure to comply with a civil penalty required in that section. Thus, it refers only to the civil penalty requirement and not to any of the others…. It seems to us that the legislature, as it was clearly entitled to do, drew a distinction, which is decisive in this case, between a failure to comply with a civil penalty, which occurs when such a penalty has been validly assessed after trial or without contest, and the deliberate refusal to appear at a hearing, with its consequent disruption of the court’s process and which, it must be added, would actually preclude the valid assessment of a penalty because there would have been no trial in the first place. Accordingly, we reverse the order below with instructions to reinstate the information.”  State v. Wooden, 92 So. 3d 886, 887-88 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012)

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