License Charges Attorney in Lake Worth
How Can an Attorney in Lake Worth, FL, Help You with License Charges?
A police officer may give you a ticket for driving without a valid license for many different reasons. The officer may believe your license was suspended, canceled, or revoked; that you never had a license to begin with; or that you reside in Florida but have a license from another state or country. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, your prior record, and what you are charged with, you could face an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony. Your penalties could range from a simple civil penalty to five years in prison.
A great license charges attorney, especially one familiar with the laws in Lake Worth and Wellington, FL, can review your case for possible defenses as well as mitigating factors. Possible defenses include legal or procedural errors by police, the inability to identify the alleged driver, or evidence that your license really was valid at the time of the stop. Mitigating factors involve the positive aspects of your life that show you are deserving of dismissal or a lighter sentence.
If you are accused of driving with a suspended license, driving without a license, or any other driver license charge, your first course of action should be to contact the legal professionals at Casanova Law. Leading Attorney Lourdes Casanova has extensive experience defending criminal traffic cases in Lake Worth and Wellington and understands the threat that something as seemingly simple as a traffic citation can pose to your freedom, future, finances, and immigration status.
Types of License Charges in Florida
There are many different license charges in Florida, including:
- Driving Without a License
- Driving with a Suspended License
- Driving with a Revoked License
As a law firm experienced with license charges in Lake Worth, FL, Casanova Law is equipped to deal with all of these charges. We will help you flex your constitutional rights to ultimately try and get your case dismissed. Founding Attorney Lourdes Casanova is not only a former prosecutor who handled thousands of license cases, but also a dedicated attorney who fights for her clients.
Driving Without a License
As declared by Florida Statute §322.03(1), a person cannot drive a motor vehicle in Florida without a valid driver’s license. A valid Florida driver’s license is a license issued by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with no suspensions, cancelations, expirations, or any other issues. Any resident of Florida driving on a Florida highway is required to have a valid driver’s license.
What Are the Penalties for Driving Without a License?
Some people cannot get a Florida driver’s license because of their immigration status while others simply cannot pass the written or practical tests required to secure a license. Regardless of the reason, an allegation for Driving Without a License in Florida is a crime. Driving Without a License or No Valid Driver’s License (often abbreviated as No Valid DL) is most commonly charged as a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida, punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Aggravating circumstances can affect these penalties. For example, a commercial driver who is driving without a valid commercial license commits a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalties are also enhanced for making a false affidavit about not having a driver’s license in any other jurisdiction to get a driver’s license in Florida. Those who are alleged to have made a false affidavit concerning their previous driver’s licenses are accused of committing a first-degree misdemeanor.
The most serious enhancement occurs when a driver with no license causes death or serious bodily injury to another person by driving carelessly or negligently. The charge of Driving Without a License Causing Serious Bodily Injury or Death is designated as a third-degree felony in Florida Statute §322.34(6)(a), carrying a maximum sentence of 5 years in state prison and a $5000 fine.
How Can a Driving Without a License Attorney in Wellington, FL, Help?
While we discussed maximum sentences, there is a range of possible outcomes for a Driving Without a License charge. A Driving Without a License attorney in Wellington, Florida, can help you navigate the court system, securing the best possible outcome.
For example, the court may enter an Adjudication (conviction) or Adjudication Withheld (plea of guilty without a conviction). The State may offer a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, which involves completion of certain terms in exchange for a Nolle Prosse (dropping your case). Alternatively, you may receive probation as part of a plea deal with the State or a plea to the court. Sometimes an offer is in the form of a “Plea and Pass.” A Plea and Pass is a plea of guilty with the opportunity to later withdraw the plea and drop your case after completing the negotiated terms.
Understanding all of these outcomes and the differences between them can be confusing. This is where a driving without a license attorney in Lake Worth, FL can be very helpful.
What Happens if You Get Pulled Over for Driving Without a License?
Law enforcement typically initiates a No Valid DL charge by citation. Although many people associate citations with mere traffic tickets, certain citations are considered criminal. As outlined above, Driving Without a License is a criminal offense in Florida.
In Palm Beach County, a citation for Driving Without a License is often the only charging document submitted to the court system for the case. When the citing officer submits the No Valid DL citation to the clerk of courts, the clerk’s office creates a new criminal traffic case in the court system. The accused, or the Defendant, should then receive a Notice of Hearing that contains the date, time, and place for arraignment (formal reading of the charges).
There are other ways to initiate a No Valid Driver’s License charge. The police officer can serve the accused with a Notice to Appear, the officer can arrest a suspect on scene, or the State Attorney’s Office can file an Information (a formal criminal charge). In rare circumstances, when an officer is uncertain of whether to charge the suspect at the scene or if the case still needs further investigation, a case may be initiated days, weeks, or even months after the alleged incident by Warrant or Summons.
At an arraignment, a Defendant can plead “not guilty” and continue with the court process to review the evidence, negotiate with the prosecutor, and consider any plea offers. Note that a “not guilty” plea does not mean that a person cannot resolve his or her case later; it simply means that the accused is not ready to, or comfortable with, admitting guilt at the first court date without knowing his or her rights, the evidence in the case, and all options available.
A plea of “not guilty” will prompt the judge to schedule a future hearing, typically called a “Case Disposition.” During the life of a criminal traffic case, it is possible to have multiple hearings while the accused prepares his or her defense and considers all of the options. Ultimately, if the Defendant does not wish to accept a plea offer after carefully weighing the evidence and the options, the Defendant may exercise his or her constitutional right to a trial by judge or jury.
Alternatively, the accused can plead “guilty” at arraignment and end the case immediately. However, pleading guilty at arraignment is usually not in the client’s best interest because it removes the possibility of seeking a better outcome after investigating, negotiating and preparing a defense. An attorney would be able to provide guidance to the accused as to the appropriate time to resolve the case.
Driving With a Suspended, Canceled, or Revoked License
Driving While License Suspended, Canceled, or Revoked (DWLS) is an offense in Florida ranging in severity from a traffic infraction to a felony charge depending on the facts and the Defendant’s criminal record. A person who unknowingly drives with a suspended, canceled, or revoked license faces a noncriminal traffic infraction. Any knowing violations of this law, however, subjects the accused to criminal charges.
What Are the Penalties for Driving With a Suspended, Canceled, or Revoked License?
The first conviction for DWLS with knowledge is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in the county jail and a $500 fine. A second conviction for DWLS with knowledge can be classified as a first-degree misdemeanor, raising the maximum penalty to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. As expected, a third conviction for DWLS with knowledge can be charged as a third-degree felony with a potential sentence of five years in state prison and a $5,000 fine. Penalty enhancements also exist for aggravating factors such as causing a crash resulting in serious bodily injury or being on habitual traffic offender status.
Three guilty pleas (or findings of guilt) for DWLS within a five-year period triggers a five-year driver’s license revocation from the DMV as a designated “Habitual Traffic Offender” (HTO). This revocation occurs even if you no longer have a valid license simply because of the change in the Florida driving law for undocumented migrants. Should you continue to drive while on HTO status and are pulled over, the prosecution will ask for significant jail time. As such, HTO status is something to avoid.
What Happens if You Get Pulled Over for Driving With a Suspended, Canceled, or Revoked License?
Your case will normally begin at the scene of the alleged incident. The officer may physically arrest you and take you to the county jail; alternatively, the officer may choose to let you go with a Notice to Appear in criminal court. If you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer and accused of driving on a suspended, canceled, or revoked license, it is best to refrain from making any statements to police that could further incriminate you. If the officer believes you had no knowledge of your suspension prior to the stop, he or she may simply write a non-criminal ticket for “unknowingly” driving while license suspended.
Unless you are charged with unknowingly Driving While License Suspended, Canceled, or Revoked, you have mandatory court. (With an unknowing DWLS, you have the option of going to court to fight your case, but you don’t have to.) Further, you may have more than one court hearing. The reason for this is to review the government’s evidence, prepare your defense, engage in plea negotiations, and weigh your options. In most cases, it is a bad idea to resolve your case at the first court hearing, also known as the arraignment, because you have no knowledge and no bargaining power without further investigation of the case.
At the conclusion of all the pre-trial hearings (often called case dispositions, status checks, or plea conferences), you may decide to resolve your case or go to trial. Naturally, the State Attorney’s Office has the burden of proving the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Throughout this process, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced driving with a suspended license attorney. Mishandling your case could result not only in a criminal record but an extended suspension.
How Can a Suspended, Canceled, or Revoked License Attorney in Wellington, FL, Help?
Driving with a suspended, canceled, or revoked license is considered a serious criminal offense in Florida that can result in hefty fines, felony charges, and even jail time. A conviction can also trigger an extended suspension or revocation of your driver’s license.
Too often, unrepresented Florida drivers plead to charges without knowing the long-term consequences for their driving privileges and criminal record. At Casanova Law, we know how to defend suspended, canceled, or revoked license cases, and we will employ the best strategic defense to minimize potential penalties and avoid damage to your reputation and bank account.
Our experienced team will review your case to determine the best defense tactic. Common defenses for DWLS charges include:
- Challenge the legal validity of the traffic stop
- Accused was unaware of the suspension, cancellation, or revocation
- Accused was not driving
- Accused’s license had been reinstated or accused had adequate reason to believe it was reinstated
- Accused was not driving on a public highway
- Vehicle was not considered a “motor vehicle” for purposes of the driver’s license statute
Permitting Unauthorized Operator to Drive
You let a coworker, family member, or friend borrow your car to run a quick errand. You know he doesn’t have a license, but it will only be a few minutes and you feel bad saying no. When the borrower returns your car, he informs you he was pulled over and cited for No Valid Driver’s License. Not your problem, right? Wrong!
If you knowingly allow someone without a valid license to drive your motor vehicle, the law believes you are just as culpable as the unlicensed driver. This charge is called Permitting Unauthorized Operator to Drive (Florida Statute §322.36), and it is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
An “unauthorized operator” means someone without a license or someone with a license that is suspended, canceled, or revoked. If the unauthorized person who borrowed your car is involved in an accident causing serious bodily injury or death, you can lose your license for one year in addition to the other penalties.
What Are the Penalties for Permitting an Unauthorized Person to Drive?
As previously noted, if you knowingly allow someone without a valid license to drive your car, you will be charged with Permitting Unauthorized Operator to Drive. In Florida, this is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. If an accident causing bodily injury or death occurs, the penalties will be more severe.
What Happens if You Allow Someone Without a Proper License to Drive?
The charge of Permitting Unauthorized Person to Drive brings about a mandatory court appearance because it is considered a criminal traffic charge rather than a simple traffic infraction. Once the police officer issues you a citation or Notice to Appear, you must attend Arraignment (formal reading of the charges) for your case unless an attorney files a “not guilty” plea electronically on your behalf. After the arraignment, you or your lawyer have the opportunity to review the evidence against you, engage in plea offer negotiations, and weigh your options. Ultimately, you may decide to resolve your case or demand a trial by judge or jury.
How Can a Lawyer Help With Permitting an Unauthorized Person to Drive?
With an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side, you may be able to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement for your criminal traffic charge. A Deferred Prosecution Agreement is a pre-trial diversion program agreed-to by the State and Defense that requires the Defendant to complete certain conditions (i.e. community service, a driving class, payment of costs) in exchange for a Nolle Prosequi (the prosecution dropping your case).
Getting an experienced license charges attorney in Lake Worth, Florida, is especially important in this situation. An experienced lawyer is trained to review evidence, question witnesses, and negotiate. In terms of negotiation, a criminal defense lawyer may come up with creative solutions, such as securing an amended charge.
License Charges Attorney FAQs
How much does a license charge lawyer cost in Florida?
The cost of a lawyer trained in defending criminal license charges (such as Driving Without a License and Driving with a Suspended License) varies upon the circumstances of each case. Factors that could affect pricing include the severity of the charge, complexity of the case, and prior offenses on your record. An attorney’s level of experience also factors into the price. Most license charges in Florida are misdemeanors. The representation fee for a misdemeanor license case normally ranges from $900-$2500. Felony license charges may arise due to an extensive prior record or an allegation of a crash with serious bodily injury. Legal representation for a felony charge of No Valid DL or Driving While License Suspended, Canceled or Revoked can range from $2500-$5000. If a license charge involves death, the price can exceed $5000.
How do I choose a license charges lawyer?
Choosing the right lawyer for your criminal license case is the first step toward a successful outcome. Naturally, you should consider an attorney’s level of experience with the type of charge you are facing. A lawyer who has handled thousands of Driving Without a License charges, for example, will likely have the legal knowledge and experience it takes to explore all available defenses. However, legal experience is not the only factor that can benefit your license case. Practical knowledge, such as familiarity with each judge’s procedural preference, courtroom personalities, and local administrative orders is critical to strategy. In this sense, choosing a local lawyer rather than someone out of area is advantageous. A local attorney is also beneficial because he or she is more likely to personally attend rather than seeking coverage counsel to handle the case. Beyond legal and practical knowledge, you may consider a law firm’s reputation, reviews, references and recommendations.
Is there a defense for license charges in Florida?
Although a charge of Driving Without a License or Driving While License Suspended may seem like an open and shut case for law enforcement, there are some possible defenses to license charges. One possible defense is the lack of a “wheel witness” – meaning nobody actually observed the alleged offender driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle. Another possible defense is a police officer’s failure to articulate a valid reason for the traffic stop. Perhaps all of the legal elements are in order, but your reason for driving involved an emergency; in this instance, you may be able to raise the necessity defense. There are many possible defenses to license charges, and you should seek the advice of an experienced criminal traffic lawyer to explore the options. In cases where there may not be a legal defense, it is still important to get a lawyer. A great criminal defense attorney can often negotiate a better plea offer by presenting mitigating information to the court or prosecutors. A defense attorney will also protect your rights every step of the way, ensure you are not railroaded, help you understand your case, waive your presence in court, and navigate the criminal justice system with ease; all of these factors save you time and energy, and ultimately reduce your stress.