Generally, if your license or privilege to drive is taken from you for less than one year, it's called a “suspension” of your driving privilege. If you have lost your license for a year or more, it's referred to as a “revocation” of your driving privilege. You do not have to hold a Washington license to be prohibited from driving in Washington State.
There are several charges which can result in a suspension or revocation of your license, and all prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle during the time of suspension. There are different degrees of license suspension or revocation:
- Driving with No Valid Operators License: If you do not have a valid license for a variety of reasons (which are not due to a suspension or revocation), you can be cited as driving with no valid operator's license, which is a simple misdemeanor. It carries the possibility of up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Driving While License Suspended/Revoked in the Third Degree: Legally, you are prohibited from driving, but you could reinstate your license during this time if you took care of some details. Ordinarily this means that you have a fine or a reinstatement fee that has not been paid, and that if you pay this you could then reinstate your license. If you were cited with a speeding ticket and failed to pay the ticket, you would then become suspended in the third degree.
- Driving While License Suspended/Revoked in the Second Degree: You have been prohibited from driving and you legally have no way to reinstate your license until a certain amount of time has passed. For example, you have been convicted of a first offense DUI with a breath test which exceeds BAL .15. This would mean you lose your privilege to drive for one year. During this time, unless you have obtained a provisional license (often you are eligible for an “ignition interlock license”), you would be charged with DWLS 2nd Degree if you were stopped while driving a vehicle. DWLS 2 is a gross misdemeanor, which means it carries up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. A conviction for DWLS 2 also carries an additional one year of license revocation onto whatever suspension or revocation you are already “serving.”
- Driving While License Suspended/Revoked in the First Degree: This means that you have been classified as a “habitual traffic offender” (also known as “HTO” – HTO status is defined here by statute). If you are charged with DWLS 1st degree this means the State/City alleges that you were driving during an HTO revocation. This is a gross misdemeanor, with up to 365 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. The first conviction for DWLS 1 carries a mandatory 10 days in jail. For a second DWLS 1, you face a mandatory 90 days in jail. A third offense carries a mandatory 180 days in jail.
A note about “HTO” /Habitual Traffic Offender Status: The HTO chapter in Washington Law is here. If you have been notified that the DOL wants to classify you as “HTO,” you have a right to a hearing to contest this determination. You must act quickly to preserve your rights associated with this hearing, because the DOL gives you only a short window to request a hearing. If you are currently classified as a “habitual traffic offender,” you have the right to request a hearing so the DOL can consider an early reinstatement of your driving privilege. Your driver's license is an important property interest and you have a right to due process before the State can take action to deprive you of this property right. It is in your best interest to consult with an attorney who regularly deals with the Department of Licensing. Our firm can discuss your options.
Your license can be suspended or revoked for many reasons, including civil/administrative actions for refusing a breath test, for submitting a test over the legal limit, for being convicted of Vehicular Homicide, Vehicular Assault, DUI, Reckless Driving, or any felony involving a motor vehicle. You can also be suspended or revoked in some instances for MIP, for causing an accident which resulted in a death, serious injury, or property damage, for failing to pay for fuel at a gas station, for failing to pay child support, for failing to pay or appear in court to contest a traffic infraction, and numerous other reasons. In some instances, you can be eligible for a temporary or provisional license that may permit you to drive for work/school/childcare purposes, or a license which may permit you to drive a vehicle if it is equipped with an ignition interlock device. For information about restricted licenses in Washington, click here.
If you are suspended or revoked in another state, it is possible (in fact likely) that you have no privilege to drive in Washington State, under the Driver's Compact. Most states recognize suspensions from another jurisdiction and would prohibit a person in Washington from driving if their license/privilege to drive was suspended elsewhere for a reason that Washington would typically recognize. Click here for the statute which controls.
While these charges are often hard to beat, it's important to seek the services of an attorney who is well-versed in the challenges that can be made to the basis of the suspension (whether it was valid or not), the reason for your stop or arrest, and any mitigating factors that the prosecutor would consider important. Give us a call and we can talk about your options.