G.W. (not his real initials) was ticketed on December 8, 2010, in St. Lucie County for driving while license suspended (DWLS) without knowledge. Since it was a non-criminal offense, G.W. was able to pay the ticket without having to go to court. G.W. paid the ticket on February 25, 2011, and thought no more about it.
Within 30 days, G.W. received a “love letter” from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), advising that he had been classified as an habitual traffic offender (HTO). The letter told G.W. that his license was being revoked for five years effective April 11, 2011. G.W. retained Attorney Jeffrey H. Garland on April 7, 2011, to remove the HTO classification or find some other relief. Attorney Garland immediately identified the payment of the DWLS ticket as the primary cause of the 5-year HTO revocation.
Attorney Garland filed a motion seeking a reduction of penalty within two days of being retained. The traffic hearing officer granted the motion on April 19, 2011. The hearing officer’s memorandum showed that the adjudication was converted to a “withhold of adjudication”.
Attorney Garland pulled a driving history for G.W. on April 28, 2011. The new driving history showed that the withhold of adjudication had been reported to DHSMV. Consequently, the HTO classification was automatically removed. G.W.’s driving privileges were reinstated. Life was much improved for G.W.
Moral: A driver can be classified as an HTO via several methods. The most common method is via three convictions for certain “major” offenses. Most people would not think of DWLS, especially if it is without knowledge, as a “major” offense. Still, DWLS charges do constitute predicate offenses for HTO classification. Therefore, drivers should be especially careful in attempting to resolve a DWLS charge. In G.W.’s case, the timely motion seeking to convert the adjudication to a withhold saved G.W.’s driving privileges.