Habitual Traffic Offenders
Individuals convicted of certain serious driving offenses such as DWLS (driving while license suspended) or DUI can be designated as habitual traffic offenders under Florida law. If you are classified as a habitual traffic offender, your driving privileges in the State of Florida can be revoked or suspended for a (5) five year period. Many people are surprised to learn that the HTO revocation can be eliminated if one or more of the underlying convictions are vacated or set aside by the court.
Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you received notice from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) that your driver’s license is about to be revoked as a “Habitual Traffic Offender.” In certain cases, even convictions that are less than two years old can be removed. Attorney Melinda Morris is experienced in helping her clients fight to remove the HTO designation.
St. Petersburg Habitual Traffic Offender Attorney
Melinda Morris is a former Pinellas County prosecutor who has handled hundreds of traffic cases. Now as a criminal defense attorney in the same county, she has insight into how to protect her clients against the damaging impact of a habitual traffic offender designation. Learn more about how your attorney can file motions to undo prior convictions that if lifted will remove the HTO revocation. Contact the Morris Law Firm, P.A. at (727) 388-4736 for a consultation about your habitual traffic offender case.
Florida Definition of Habitual Traffic Offenders
Under Chapter 322.264, a habitual traffic offender is defined as any individual who has three or more convictions within a five-year period, including:
- A civil infraction for driving while license suspended without knowledge (DWLS);
- Any criminal charge of driving a motor vehicle on a suspended or revoked license (DWLSR);
- Driving under the influence (DUI);
- Leaving the scene of an accident where someone was injured or killed;
- Vehicular manslaughter;
- Using a motor vehicle while committing any felony offense;
- Driving a commercial vehicle with a suspended license; or
- 15 convictions for traffic offense that fall under the Florida point system.
It is important to contact an attorney right away if you have been designated a habitual traffic offender because the punishment is to take away your license for five years. It is a significant hardship to be unable to drive for a few weeks let alone a few years. It is possible to get your license reinstated if you quickly speak to an experienced lawyer in Pinellas County, Florida about your HTO case.
How do people normally fall into the HTO category?
The most common way people get designated as habitual traffic offenders involves getting three (3) or more convictions for driving while your license is suspended or revoked within a five year period.
A conviction occurs if you pay the civil ticket because then you will be “adjudicated guilty.” In those cases, your attorney can petition the court to vacate or set aside the conviction. The court can then “withhold adjudication.” For the civil infraction of DWLS without knowledge, the withhold of adjudication will NOT count as an offense which causes the HTO status. The DHSMV will then remove the HTO status when it receives the amended sentencing order from the traffic court.
If you were charged with driving while license suspended with knowledge, this offense counts towards the HTO status regardless of whether the court adjudicates you to be guilty or withholds adjudication. In these cases, your attorney will fight to vacate the conviction by withdrawing the plea of guilty or no contest. If the prosecutor agrees to amend the charge to “no valid” license then that conviction will not count towards your HTO status.
Many people enter the plea without understanding how Florida’s HTO laws will impact their privilege to drive. In certain cases, it is possible to undo the damage in order to undo the five-year revocation.
Steps to take if you Received a Five Year HTO Notice
It is important to take care of an HTO notice as quickly as possible or else you will lose your driver’s license for 5 years. Follow these steps as soon as you receive notice that your license is about to be revoked for five years because of the habitual traffic offender designation.
- Obtain a copy of your Florida driving record.
- Contact an attorney with experience in filing motions to vacate or set aside one or more of the convictions.
- Retain an attorney to file and litigate the motion to vacate one or more of the convictions that caused the HTO revocation.
- In many cases, you have up to two years to petition the court to vacate a prior conviction, although ideally, your attorney should file the motion to vacate within 30 to 60 days of when the conviction occurred.
- In some cases, your attorney can also request an administrative records review hearing within 30 days after the revocation order was issued.
How to avoid an HTO designation under Florida Law
The best way to fight an HTO designation is to not acquire the status in the first place. First of all, if you think you may have a suspended driver’s license, find out the actual status of your driver’s license. If you do have a suspended license, do not drive. Even though it is inconvenient, arrange for someone else to drive you to your destinations until your driver’s license is reinstated. The best thing to do is to hire an attorney to try to take care of your suspended license so subsequent violations do not lead to an HTO revocation.
If you get any other type of traffic citations, do not enter a plea or pay the ticket. Instead, hire an attorney and fight the charges because, in many cases, the attorney will be able to provide a winning defense or fight for reduced charges. It is much cheaper to take care of minor traffic tickets then to take care of an HTO revocation when it is in full effect.
Morris Law Firm, P.A. | St. Petersburg Reckless Driving Defense Attorney
The Morris Law Firm, P.A. is committed to representing persons who are designated as habitual traffic offenders throughout Florida. If you currently have your license suspended for five years due to a habitual traffic offender designation in Pinellas County or St. Petersburg, contact the Morris Law Firm, P.A.. Talk with an experienced Pinellas County traffic lawyer. Our goal is to get some of your traffic violations dismissed so that you can get your license reinstated.