Florida’s Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) Designation: Criminal Traffic Pleas Can Come Back to Haunt You
The Florida Statute Section 322.64 designates Habitual Traffic Offenders (HTO’s) as persons with specified convictions within a 5 year period. Convictions for such offenses as involuntary manslaughter, DUI, Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License, Leaving the Scene of an Accident resulting in Death or Personal Injury, or any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used will result in the designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender. Once the convictions occur, the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles will send you a notice that your license is suspended for 5 years.
People frequently get a civil citation for Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License Without Knowledge. Since it is just a ticket, people simply just pay it without realizing the legal consequences of what they just did. Just mailing in the money for that type of ticket is considered a conviction under the statute designating someone as a Habitual Traffic Offender. Other times people go to court on a Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License With Knowledge which is a criminal charge. If the person is just given a citation and not arrested; they may think it is not that big of a deal. They don’t go into court without an attorney. Many times I have seen unrepresented people go into court and plea to a withhold of adjudication and walk out of court with a fine. They’re thinking what a great resolution. The judge said I’m not receiving a conviction and all I got was a fine. Well the problem is that that too is an adjudication under the law designating someone as a HTO. They may have just agreed to a resolution to their case that may cause their license to be suspended for 5 years. When that person is in court, neither the Judge nor the prosecutor is under an obligation to advise them of this consequence. That’s why it is important to consult with an experienced attorney before entering any type of plea or disposition to any criminal traffic offenses or civil infractions involving the suspension or revocation of your license. How your case is resolved can have a significant impact on whether you are designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender.
However, the bright side is that if you have resolved your case without the assistance of an attorney and you have received your notice of suspension from the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles; you may still have legal remedies available to you. You should contact an attorney as soon as you receive the notice.