Having one’s driving license suspended can be a great inconvenience, especially for a person who has to go to work, school or run errands every day. When your driving license is suspended, you need to know that you could face criminal charges if you are found driving on the suspended license. Even though this charge could seem trivial, it helps to know that any criminal conviction on your criminal record will always affect your life in one way or the other. What then can you do if you are found driving on a suspended driver’s license in Phoenix, Arizona? The Phoenix Criminal Attorney can help you understand the implications of a suspended license and how you can protect yourself against the possible charges.
Driving License Suspension
A suspended driving license means losing one’s driving license for a specified period. There are many reasons why this could happen, including having too many driving points or after committing a traffic offense. If even after the suspension, you decide to continue using your driver’s license, you will face criminal charges. Some of the reason you could have your license suspended include:
The state of Arizona is a no-tolerance state for DUIs, which means that any DUI offense, however minor it may seem, will be treated as a serious offense and one can quickly lose their driving privileges for a specific time or permanently if they are charged with DUI. Three types of DUIs are considered here, and each one of them considers the driver’s BAC levels and other factors to determine the penalties they will face. The more serious your DUI charge will be, the more serious the penalties will be. Note that the blood alcohol content that is legally accepted is one that is below 0.08%.
Aggressive or Reckless Driving
Traffic can get congested, especially during rush hour. There are all types of drivers on our roads, including elderly drivers, out-of-state drivers, and college-age drivers. When the traffic is backed up, it is possible for an impatient driver to get frustrated, leading to aggressiveness. Recklessness on the road can be caused by aggressiveness or drunk driving, and most road accidents in the state have been caused by this. That is why it is easy to have your driver’s license suspended if you are charged with aggressive or reckless driving.
A High Number of Driving Record Points
Arizona’s point system is designed to keep the roads safe, and points are given to drivers who commit a traffic offense. The number of points awarded to a driver who violates a traffic offense depends on the violation the driver has committed and the seriousness of the offense. If you accumulate too many points, you might end up getting an automatic suspension of your driving license. These offenses including extreme DUI, reckless and aggressive driving have higher points compared to speeding and parking in the gore area.
Felonies Committed in a Vehicle
There are many types of crimes that could be committed in a vehicle. They include recklessly endangering another person with a substantial risk of injury or death; unlawfully fleeing or eluding a clearly-marked police vehicle that is pursuing you; injuring a peace officer who is on duty; leaving the scene of accident immediately you cause an accident and recklessly causing an accident with a minor inside the car among others. Vehicular crimes are treated as misdemeanors in Arizona while others are felonies, with a suspension of the driver's driver's license as the most common penalty in both cases.
Failing to Appear or Pay Fines
The state of Arizona, like most other states, has laws that make it a criminal offense for an offender who has been released on bail to fail to appear in court as required. Penalties for this crime can be very steep, depending on the type of crime you had previously committed. If, for instance, you were charged with DUI and you were later on released on bail, failing to appear in court as required may see you facing other serious charges and also losing your driving privileges.
Violation of Insurance Laws
Driving without insurance is another reason why many motorists have their driver’s license suspended in Arizona. There are always serious penalties if you are pulled over without insurance or when you are involved in an accident with an uninsured car. The very first penalty you get for that kind of crime is to have your driver’s license suspended, and then other fines and punishments will follow. Also, Arizona does not allow motorists to drive with insurances from companies that do not operate within the state.
Being Medically Unable to Drive
The law requires every driver to be in good health if they want to drive safely on public roads. There are several conditions that are believed to affect the way a driver will operate a vehicle. There are disabilities as well, which makes it impossible for a driver to drive properly. Some of the medical conditions that could cause a suspension of one's driver's license include severe mental disorder, epilepsy and persistent misuse of alcohol and drugs. Your eyesight should also meet the legal requirements.
Differences between a Suspended or Revoked License
It is important to know the difference between a suspended and revoked driver’s license so that you can understand your punishments better when you get yourself into trouble for violating certain traffic laws. Depending on the nature of the violation, you can either get a license suspension or a revocation.
A suspended driver’s license takes away your driving privileges for just a specified period of time. This could be bad if you are used to driving to work, school or running your personal errands easily and conveniently. However, the good news is that a suspended driver’s license can be reinstated. In case of a definite suspension, your license is automatically reinstated once the suspension period is over and you have paid the necessary fines. An indefinite suspension, on the other hand, means that your license will remain suspended until you take action to have it reinstated.
A revocation will be very bad as it takes your driving privileges for good. Your driver’s license will be revoked if you have committed a more severe traffic violation, and it cannot be reinstated. To get a new license, you will be required to go through a long process, which includes making an application and taking the written and road tests. This process is quite similar to applying for a new license a new driver.
Elements of Driving on Suspended License
If you have been arrested for driving on a suspended driver’s license, the prosecutor must demonstrate certain elements or facts to prove that you are indeed guilty of the offense:
- That you were driving a vehicle at the time your driver's license was revoked or suspended
- That at the time you were driving on that license, you knew too well that your driving license was revoked or suspended
To prove that the defendant knew that the license was suspended or revoked, the Arizona State’s DMV should have sent the notice of suspension or revocation to the defendant through the mail, informing him/her that their driving privileges were either revoked for good or suspended for a period of time. The law requires that the notices should be sent to the most recent physical address that was provided to the DMV or the most recent address the person has given to the court or to a law enforcement agency. The prosecutor will use the fact that the notification was not returned to that department as unclaimed or undelivered to demonstrate that the defendant must have received it.
If the defendant was personally given the notice by a court or the department or even by a peace officer, that will be a direct proof that they intentionally and knowingly drove on a suspended driver’s license.
However, even if all requirements above are true, the panel of judges is not supposed to assume that the accused had knowledge that they were driving on a suspended driver’s license. The defendant may have evidence to rebut the claims.
Consequences of Driving On A Suspended Driver’s License in Arizona
Driving on a suspended driver’s license, as provided under Section 28-3473 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, is defined as knowingly and intentionally operating a vehicle while your driving license has been revoked, suspended, refused, disqualified or canceled. Any person that is caught operating a motor vehicle on a suspended driver’s license in the Phoenix area of Arizona will require an effective legal representation to have their rights protected, so they can also have their charges dismissed or reduced.
In the state, driving on a suspended driver’s license is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense, with no mandatory jail time or fine. However, depending on the prosecuting judge and the reason why your license was suspended in the first place, you might end up getting up to 6 months in jail or probation.
If it was not your first time driving on a suspended driver’s license, the judge will give you mandatory jail time. Second, third, fourth and consecutive offenses are treated with more severity and could attract the following penalties:
- At least 5 days of jail time for the second offender
- At least 30 days in jail for the third offender
- At least 90 days in jail for the fourth offender
- Up to 6 months in jail for the fifth and subsequent offender
Moreover, offenders will have their vehicles impounded for a period not exceeding 30 days. In other instances, a fine of not more than $2,500 may be imposed on the offender. Further action may be taken against the offender including re-suspension of their driver’s license.
Possible Legal Defenses for Driving on Suspended License
Fortunately, there are legal defenses that a criminal attorney can use to get you a possible lighter sentence or have your charges dropped altogether. These are:
Lack of criminal intent
This is a very common defense strategy in most of the cases involving suspended licenses. The court will require the prosecutor to prove that you were knowingly driving on a suspended driver’s license. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew or should have known that your license was suspended or revoked. If your attorney is able to prove that you did not see any notice about the suspension, the state will not be able to prove that you knew about it and that you were just ignorant. An experienced attorney will know how to prove that you did not know and should not have known that your license was revoked or suspended.
You were not properly notified
There are rules that must be followed when drivers are being issued notices about suspension and revocation of their licenses. In this case, the State must provide evidence that the law was properly followed and that DMV did not violate any law in the issuance of the suspension notification. If your attorney is able to prove that DMV did not give you the notice properly, he/she will easily be able to have your case dismissed. This is because there will be no evidence that you were aware or should have known about the suspension.
You were not driving on a highway or a public road
A person cannot be guilty of any traffic offense if they were not driving on a public road or a highway, unless in DUI cases whereby DUI is termed as unlawful on any property, whether private or public. If you were found driving on a suspended driver’s license on a private road or in your property, you will not be guilty of this offense.
Lack of evidence
In a case of driving on a suspended case in Arizona, there must be proof that you were actually found driving a vehicle. If no one saw you operating a vehicle, you may have an exceptional defense, and your case may be dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence.
There are certain constitutional violations that could help your attorney in your defense. If, for instance, there was no probable cause for the law enforcement officers to stop you, or there was lack of a reasonable suspicion that you were driving on a suspended driver’s license, the court may not accept the evidence gathered against you as sufficient enough to convict you of the crime. The same applies to a case of illegally obtained evidence or violation of the right to counsel. In a case where the prosecutor used involuntary statements to prove your liability, the court may not admit the evidence, and you may have your case dismissed.
Driving without a valid driver’s license
Depending on the surrounding circumstances, driving without a valid driver’s license can get you into serious trouble in Arizona. If you are a motorist with a valid driver’s license, but you did not have the license with you at the time the law enforcement officers stopped you, you could be charged for driving without a valid driver’s license. The court may treat this as a lack of proof that you indeed have a valid license, and this always indicates a traffic infringement in the state. Your charges could be dismissed if and when you are able to show that you have a valid license. You will, however, be fined for this infraction.
You could also be guilty of driving without a valid driver’s license if you never applied for the license or your license has expired. Arizona Revised Laws require every driver always to have a valid license when operating any type of motor vehicle under Section 28-3151.
Again, you will be guilty of the same offense if you were driving on a suspended, revoked, or a canceled license. Driving without a valid driver’s license is treated as a Class 1 or Class 2 misdemeanor, and the driver could face jail time or pay fines.
Driving under Influence
DUI is not tolerated in Arizona, and this kind of crime is severely punished. A first-time offender, for instance, can be sentenced to up to six months in jail, with a fine of up to $2500, inclusive of jail fees. Second and subsequent offenders are severely punished, and the penalties can get steeper if there are aggravating factors surrounding the case.
Find a Phoenix Criminal Attorney Near Me
Driving on a suspended driver’s license is possible if you were not aware that your driver’s license was suspended or revoked, or if you were only driving on private property. Depending on the reason why your license was suspended or revoked, you could face serious penalties if you are ever found guilty of the offense. Other than the possible jail time and fines for this offense, you will have a criminal record, which may affect various aspects of your life for a long time. What you need is a proper defense to have your charges dismissed or reduced, and the Phoenix Criminal Attorney is here to help you fight for better outcomes. Call us at 602-551-8092 to speak to our experienced legal defense attorneys today.