Driving while license suspended (or "DWLS") is a crime in Washington. DWLS is a complicated crime with multiple levels and confusing punishments. Depending on the degree - there are three "levels" of DWLS - people charged with DWLS can face significant fines, mandatory jail time and re-suspension of driver's license. The most important questions to be answered in any DWLS case are (i) why is the suspension in place and (ii) what can be done to fix it, lift the suspension and reinstate license privileges? If you are charged with DWLS of any degree, it is critical to retain a lawyer to help resolve the matter, protect your rights and freedom and ensure that your driver's license status is protected or restored.
Driving While License Suspended 3°
Most people charged with DWLS are accused of DWLS 3°, the least serious suspended license charge. Although DWLS 3° is still a crime with potential punishment of up to 90 days jail and a $1,000 fine, very few people charged with DWLS 3° go to jail or pay large fines. Another important fact to consider - even if you are convicted of DWLS 3°, that will not cause any additional license suspension.
Some jurisdictions (like the City of Bellevue, the City of Sammamish, the City of Kirkland and the City of Issaquah) charge many people with DWLS 3°. You will almost always need a lawyer in these places to resolve the matter. Other jurisdictions, like King County, rarely charge anyone with DWLS 3°.
There are several reasons why a license might be suspended in the third degree. Some of the most common ones are:
- Unpaid tickets or court fines;
- Failure to provide proof of insurance to the Department of Licensing;
- An "at fault" accident while a driver was uninsured; and
- Unpaid or delinquent child support.
The most important thing to remember about a DWLS 3° charge is that you should be able to get your license back once you take care of whatever caused the suspension. Usually it is simply a matter of paying off fines (or getting on a payment plan to take care of the fines).
Getting your license reinstated will make it much easier for your lawyer to successfully resolve your DWLS 3° matter and avoid jail and large fines. So as soon as you get notice that you have been charged with DWLS 3°, take steps to figure out why your license is suspended and what it will take to clear it. Or call us, we can help you answer those questions.
Driving While License Suspended 2°
Driving While License Suspended in the Second Degree, or DWLS 2° is significantly more serious than DWLS 3°. It is a higher level of crime, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. More important, if you are convicted of DWLS 2°, it will probably cause an additional license suspension and could trigger Habitual Traffic Offender (or "HTO") status where you are barred from driving for years.
People are not charged with DWLS 2° by accident or by simply forgetting to do something. Persons charged with DWLS 2° have had their license suspended for something serious yet they continued to drive and got caught. There are more than a dozen things that can trigger a DWLS 2° suspension including:
- A conviction for a serious traffic crime like DUI, Hit & Run or Attempting to Elude;
- A conviction for a felony involving a motor vehicle;
- A prior DWLS 2° conviction;
- Driving without a required Ignition Interlock Device;
- A alcohol or drug related conviction (like MIP) when you are under 21;
- Your license was suspended and was not eligible to be reinstated in another state.
Once a person gets to the point where they have a more serious suspension yet they continue to drive, prosecutors and courts get frustrated. As a result, DWLS 2° cases are significantly more difficult to resolve than DWLS 3° cases. The general rules are still the same - if you can get your license back, do - but the stakes are much higher due to potential jail time, large fines and additional license suspension.
In any case, if you are charged with DWLS 2°, you need to do two critical things. First, stop driving until you are relicensed. Even a quick trip to the grocery store can land you in jail if you are suspended 2°. Second, call and hire a lawyer immediately. Leist Law Office has an excellent track record of successfully resolving DWLS 2°cases without jail or an additional license suspension, but the quicker we can get on board, the better your odds.
Driving While License Suspended 1°
In order to be charged with DWLS 1°, you have to be a Habitual Traffic Offender without a license and get caught driving.
Reaching Habitual Traffic Offender (or "HTO") status is difficult. It requires "committed" findings on many tickets over a short period of time or multiple convictions for serious traffic offenses (like DUI, Hit & Run or DWLS 2°).
A driver in HTO status is usually not eligible to get a driver's license for 7 years from the date of suspension (although that can be reduced to 4 years under certain circumstances). Once you reach HTO status, the message should be clear - the State of Washington does not want you behind the wheel of a car, period.
The consequences for a conviction for DWLS 1° are severe. First, there is mandatory minimum jail time, 10 days for a first offense up to 180 days for a 3rd offense. That is more jail than many felons receive.
Second, a conviction for DWLS 1° triggers a new license suspension and re-starts the 7 year clock. So even if you avoided driving for 6+ years and your DWLS 1° suspension was almost done, if you get caught driving before your license is reinstated, the 7 year period starts all over.
Although DWLS 1° cases are incredibly difficult, Scott usually obtains excellent results for his DWLS 1° clients. In one recent case, Scott was able to get the matter reduced to a DWLS 3°with no jail, a resolution that allowed the client to keep her license. In another recent case, Scott was able to reach an agreement with the prosecutor to keep the matter open for several months, after which the client (who committed no new crimes during that period and did not drive) received a DWLS 3° charge instead. Again, the client avoided mandatory jail and large fines and will be relicenses soon.
If you, or anyone for whom you care, are charged with DWLS, call Leist Law Office right away. We know DWLS cases and we understand how to successfully resolve them.