Driving on a Suspended License: Is This a Misdemeanor?

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Every state has varied statutes and penalties associated with driving with a suspended license, however, driving suspended license charges are typically misdemeanor offenses. Furthermore, most states carry provisions increasing the severity of a driving while license suspended charge based on the reason for the suspension initially, as well as for consecutive driving while suspended charges.

Elements of a Driving while Suspended Case

Again, it should be noted that each individual state’s laws and statutes will vary on the elements of a driving while suspended charge. However, the following is an outline of how driving while license suspended charges are prosecuted.

  • Charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, if handled in the criminal courts. Certain states handled driving offenses in a different manner, potentially through administrative actions in conjunction with criminal charges.
  • The crux of a driving with license suspended charges relies on proving that driver was operating a motor vehicle and that his or her license was suspended at this time.

The largest areas of dispute over these charges may come in the form of what constitutes “driving” a vehicle, and based on state law, simply having “physical control” of a vehicle may constitute driving. However, by far the largest area of dispute concerning driving while license suspended revolves around the driver’s knowledge that his or her license is actually suspended.

Constructive Knowledge of License Suspension

Again, state laws widely vary on this matter, but in essence, a person charged with driving while their license was suspended may simply claim that they had no knowledge that their license was in fact suspended. Typically, the administrative procedure for informing a driver that his or her license was suspended is through the mail. If, per state statutes, the driver did not receive proper notice of suspension (which will widely vary based on jurisdiction concerning what constitutes “proper notice”), he or she may have their charge dismissed. Commonly, if as the result of a court action, the driver is present and hears the court order stating their license is suspended. However, the processes for suspending licenses based on administrative action often rely on mailing notice to a driver, which is unreliable at best. Each state has a specific standard that satisfies what is known as “constructive notice”, which if met, means a driver is legally responsible for knowing his or her license is suspended.

Getting Legal Help with Suspended License Charges

In reality, every suspended license case is highly individual in nature, which means only a lawyer with a broad understanding of the applicable driving and criminal laws can make determinations on how a charge can best be contested. Driving while suspended charges do carry criminal penalties in most cases, however, the bulk of the practical penalties will come in the form of further administrative action restricting one’s driving privileges. Consult with a lawyer to learn more about the validity of your driving while license suspended arrest and to determine if it is possible to have these charges dismissed on any number of grounds.

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