What is a Habitual Traffic Offender?
Under Florida law, once you receive a certain number of traffic violations, you will be labeled a "habitual traffic offender" by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Once you receive this designation, the Department is required by law to revoke your driving privileges for a minimum of five years.
What are the Qualifying Offenses?
To become a habitual offender, you must accumulate either three convictions for certain serious traffic offenses or 15 moving violations for which points were assessed against your driving record during a five year period.
The serious traffic offenses include:
- Voluntary or involuntary vehicular manslaughter
- Any driving under the influence (DUI) related conviction
- Any felony involving the use of a motor vehicle
- Driving a motor vehicle while your license is suspended or revoked
- Failure to stop and render aid at a motor vehicle accident that resulted in death or serious injury
- Driving a commercial vehicle while your privilege was disqualified
Some examples of moving violations that result in points against your driver's license include:
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Reckless driving
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Disobeying traffic signals
Additionally, any out-of-state convictions for comparable serious traffic offenses or tickets for moving violations count against you in Florida for the purposes of finding you a habitual offender. So if you traveled up the coast for vacation or to visit family and received a DUI, not only does the DUI conviction count against you in Florida for purposes of finding you as a repeat DUI offender, but it also counts against you for purposes of labeling you a habitual traffic offender.
Challenging the Revocation
If you have accumulated the required number of violations to be deemed a habitual traffic offender, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is required to send you notice that your license has been revoked. Once you receive this notice, you have the right to challenge your designation as a habitual offender and show cause why your license should not be revoked.
Twelve months after your license has been revoked, you also have the right to petition to have your license reinstated early. If the Department grants your request, the reinstatement only will be for business and/or work purposes. You will not receive a full, unrestricted reinstatement of your license.
- "Business purposes" generally cover the right to drive to and from work, school, church and the doctor or other medical care providers. It also includes any necessary driving for your job, like if you drive a delivery vehicle.
- "Work purposes" generally only includes driving to and from work and any on-the-job driving that may be required by your occupation.
To have your license reinstated for business and/or work purposes, you must be able to show how the revocation has imposed a "serious hardship" on your ability to provide financially for you and your family.
If you were labeled a habitual traffic offender because of DUI-related offenses, you will have to complete additional steps to have your license reinstated early. You will have to successfully complete an alcohol treatment program and participate in a DUI supervision program. You also may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your personal vehicle and any vehicle you use for work. Those who fail to meet these requirements will have their revocation period reinstated and may be subject to additional penalties.
Driving on a Revoked License
Those who are caught driving while their license is revoked under the habitual offender law may be charged with a third degree felony, which carries a penalty up to five years in prison and/or a $5000 fine.
Reinstatement of Driving Privileges
In order to have your license reinstated after the five year suspension period is over, you must petition the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to have your license reinstated. This will not happen automatically at the end of the revocation period. If you fail to file the petition and are caught driving, you may be charged with a third-degree felony for driving during a habitual offender revocation period.
Once you petition the Department to have your license reinstated, the Department will schedule a hearing to determine whether your license should be returned to you with or without restrictions. The Department may decide that you only will be allowed to use your license for business and/or employment purposes for a certain amount of time after reinstatement.
Becoming a habitual traffic offender under Florida law has serious repercussions, including losing your ability to drive for five years or more. If the three convictions that counted towards your habitual offender designation are DUI-related, you face even more serious consequences, including significant time in jail and fines.
To protect your rights to drive and fight the charges against you, contact an experienced attorney today. With the help of a knowledgeable lawyer who understands Florida's traffic and DUI laws, you may be able to avoid being designated a habitual traffic offender.