One of the most common arrests criminal defense attorneys see are for driving while license suspended. Part of the reason that we see so many of these cases is that it is incredibly easy to lose your driving privileges in Florida and sometimes near impossible to get them back. Often the reason that a person’s license was suspended was because of inability to pay tickets, and this financial mountain is compounded with criminal cases which can exponentially increase financial hardships. In addition, it is extremely difficult to live one’s life in Florida, where the availability of public transportation is limited at best. The hard truth is that often people who have lost their driving privileges continue to drive because driving is the only way they can get to and forth to work to support themselves and their family.
There is a provision in Florida law that can assist people in this situation. Florida Statute Section 318.14(10) allows defendants to avoid criminal convictions for driving while license suspended if the reason for that suspension is a failure to appear, failure to pay a civil penalty, failure to attend a driver improvement course, failure to pay child support, truancy, or failure to pay a financial obligation. If the reason for your suspension is one of those listed above, you can take what is called the “clerk’s option”. If you can get a valid driver’s license, pay costs, and sign an affidavit, you or your attorney can get rid of the criminal charge and instead receive a withhold of adjudication for a civil citation or ticket. The reason this is important is that criminal driving while license suspended charges “stack”, with the penalties increasing each time, and can lead to habitual license revocation. Electing the clerk’s option will not “stack”, but can only be utilized once a year and not more than three times in a lifetime.
Many people do not know about this option, and indeed not all criminal attorneys are aware of its existence or how to utilize it. This choice can literally save you from losing your driving privileges for five years. If you find yourself charged with driving while license suspended please take the time to consult with a criminal attorney regarding the possibilities that are available to you in resolving your case with an eye towards minimizing the possibility of future suspensions or criminal charges.