If someone has had his or her driving privileges suspended, it is illegal for him or her to drive a motor vehicle within the State of Virginia, regardless of whether a resident or not - and the Commonwealth Attorneys throughout the state take this seriously. In fact, in many counties, more people are put in jail for driving on a suspended license than any other charge.
How Your License Can Be Suspended
There are several different ways you could have your driving privileges suspended, including the following.
- Conviction or a deferred finding of a drug offense.
- Administrative suspension due to too many points.
- Failure to pay court fines and costs. Most often, driver licenses are suspended after a failure to pay fines, fees, or costs.
- Failure to pay child support.
- Conviction of certain driving offenses, such as DUI, Reckless Driving or Driving on a Suspended License.
What the Prosecution Must Prove in Driving on a Suspended License Case
In order to prove a person is guilty of driving after suspension, the state must show the following three elements existed:
- The accused was driving a motor vehicle.
- The accused's driving privileges had been suspended by the State of Virginia or another state.
- The accused had notice that his or her driving privileges were suspended.
Element 1: Driving a Motor Vehicle
Typically, a ticket for driving on a suspended license is issued after police have pulled a person over for another driving offense. When the officer takes the driver license to write out the ticket for speeding, driving through a stop sign, or taking a right turn on red, or whatever the driving conduct may be, the officer then discovers the driver's driving privileges have been suspended. Thus, most of the time, proving the element of driving is a standard process.
Element 2: Driving License Suspension
The State proves the suspension of driving privileges by bringing in a certified copy of the Department of Motor Vehicles transcript that documents the suspension of one's driving privileges for a period of time. This is considered legally sufficient to prove this element of the offense.
Element 3: Knowing Driving Privileges Suspended
Finally, the State must prove the driver knew he or she was suspended at the time they were driving. Oftentimes, this is made easy, because, upon discovering a suspended license, a cop may ask the driver, “Did you know you were suspended?” to which the driver frequently answers, “yes.” This is an example of convicting yourself with your own words.
However, not everyone convicts themselves by providing proof of the element a driver knew he or she was suspended. Another way the government can prove it is by establishing the clerk provided notice of suspension of a person's driver's license for failing to pay fines and costs. This is considered “sufficient notice” of suspension under the law.
Defenses to the Crime of Driving After Suspension
If the state cannot prove any one of the three essential elements of driving after suspension, the defendant will be found not guilty. Other ways to challenge the charge include:
- If the person wasn't driving;
- If the person's license was not suspended pursuant to law; or
- If the person did not receive notice of suspension.
Another possible defense strategy involves the traffic stop. When an officer pulls a car over, he or she must have probable cause that the driver committed a crime. If a car is pulled over without probable cause, the stop can be challenged as unconstitutional. If a court finds the stop unconstitutional, the case could be dismissed.
Penalties and Consequences to a Driving After Suspension Conviction
Driving after the suspension is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. This means a person may be punished by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2500. Most people aren't required to serve any jail time for a first driving after suspension conviction. However, in many cases, the Commonwealth Attorney will ask for jail time if you are convicted of a second a third driving after suspension conviction results in a mandatory 10-day minimum jail sentence.
Additionally, you could be assessed a fine, and your driving privileges could be suspended for an identical period of time as your suspension was at the time you were served the ticket. Finally, in some cases, a person's car may be impounded or immobilized for a period of time up to 90 days.
If You are Facing Driving After Suspension Charges...
If you are facing Driving After Suspension charges, don't attempt to handle it alone. Let the experience of Charles F. Koehler work for you. Contact us online or call us at 703-669-5644 today for a consultation.