Habitual Traffic Offender Revocation

If you were cited for DRIVING WHILE LICENSE REVOKED-HABITUAL OFFENDER (TRAF6078), the crime is charged as a third degree felony. We can represent you on the charge, or better yet, we can help you get the five (5) year HTO revocation removed from your driving record so you can avoid such a charge.

The best time to contact us is immediately after you receive a letter from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) that your driver’s license has been or is about to be revoked or suspended for a five (5) year period as a Florida Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO). If you get such a letter, contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm.

Three DWLS or DWLSR convictions cause the five-year revocation. The five-year revocation disappears if you hire an attorney to get one of those prior convictions vacated (or taken off your driving record).Act quickly because certain deadlines exist in these cases, potentially blocking certain avenues of defense.

Follow these steps:

  1. First, stop driving until your driving privileges are reinstated.
  2. Second, send us a copy of your lifetime Florida Driving Record. Drive Safe Today can email you a copy of your lifetime driving record for $24.95 (or save money by obtaining a copy of your driving record at your local clerk of court or the DHSMV).
  3. Third, send the driving record, your name and phone number to our paralegal, Tammy Baker, at tammy@sammislawfirm.com.
  4. After we get your driving record and contact information, one of the attorneys in the firm will call you for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your options.

Most people are better off trying to vacate a prior conviction instead of living with the 5-year HTO revocation and waiting one year to apply for a hardship license.

Attorneys on Eliminating the HTO Revocation in Florida

In this article, we explain how it might be possible to get your Florida driver’s license reinstated much sooner if you hire an attorney. The attorney can go back to court to attack one of those three convictions that originally caused the HTO status.

In order to vacate a prior conviction, the attorney will file and litigate a post-conviction motion. If the conviction is vacated and removed from your record, the Bureau of Driver Improvement (BDI) with the Division of Driver Licenses at the DHSMV will immediately lift the five-year HTO revocation.

At that moment, your driver’s license would again become valid (assuming you had no other issues causing a suspension or revocation).

Our attorneys fight the five-year Habitual Traffic Offender revocation throughout all of the greater Tampa Bay Area, including:

  • Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County;
  • New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County;
  • Clearwater and St. Petersburg in Pinellas County;
  • Brooksville in Hernando County; and
  • Bartow, Winter Haven, and Lakeland in Polk County, FL.

By fighting the HTO revocation, you might save your driving privileges, avoid the expenses associated with obtaining a hardship license, and avoid the need for high-risk insurance premiums.

Call 813-250-0500.

HTO Revocations in Florida are Common

The DHSMV website does not even discuss your right to collaterally attack one of the underlying offenses through a motion to vacate or set aside the conviction. As a result, many people suffer the five (5) year suspension, not knowing they have other options under Florida law.

According to the Bureau of Driver Records, the Florida DHSMV sent out the following number of habitual traffic offender notices to Florida drivers:

  • 22,742 HTO notices in 2008;
  • 23,753 HTO notices in 2007;
  • 21,816 HTO notices in 2006.

(Source JB Report, Statistics and Special Projects by the Florida DHSMV).

How the HTO Revocation Occurs

To be deemed a habitual traffic offender in Florida, your driving record (maintained by the Florida DMV) must show you have accumulated certain convictions, as explained below. The HTO revocation often results from three driving with a suspended license convictions, which can be civil or criminal citations. When the person enters the plea resulting in the conviction, they probably did NOT know it would trigger the five-year revocation.

Fighting to Remove the HTO 5 Year Revocation

You can fight to remove the HTO status with the help of an attorney experienced in fighting Florida Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) revocations. Fighting to remove the HTO revocation depends on timing issues because different legal challenges can be filed:

  • within 30 days after you receive the notice of revocation from the DHSMV;
  • within 30 days after entering a plea to a criminal charge by filing a motion to withdraw the plea;
  • within 180 days after a conviction in traffic court for a civil infraction under Rule
  • within two (2) years after a plea to a criminal charge

Many people are surprised to learn that they have up to two years after their conviction to file a motion to vacate or set aside a conviction that caused the Florida habitual traffic offender five-year revocation.

Contact us today to preserve all avenues of attack to remove the underlying offenses that caused your HTO status. Find out how a motion to vacate could potentially cause the HTO status to be lifted so that the driver’s license again becomes valid without any restrictions.

Schedule a free consultation over the phone or in the office. From our initial free consultation, we can help you develop a strategy to protect your privilege to drive.

Our attorneys can help you fight to remove your Habitual Traffic Offender status for any underlying offense that occurred in Hillsborough County or the surrounding counties of Polk County, Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Manatee County, Sarasota County, FL.

Florida’s Definition of Habitual Traffic Offender Suspensions

Florida Statute Section 322.264 defines the phrase “habitual traffic offender” as a person whose driving record maintained by the DMV shows three serious driving offenses, including:

  • DUI;
  • Driving while license suspended with or without knowledge; or
  • the accumulation of 15 convictions for moving violations for which points may be accessed within a five (5) year period.

To figure the five (5) year period, DHSMV goes from the date of conviction (or plea) to the date of conviction (or plea).

As explained in Florida Statute Section 322.264, even if the court withholds adjudication on the criminal version of DWLS, the withhold still counts as a conviction.

Problems with Getting the HTO Hardship License

Many people contacting the Sammis Law Firm are interested in obtaining a hardship license so that they can drive to and from work. If you are able to successfully attack the offenses that cause the Florida HTO revocation or suspension, then no hardship license is needed because you may be able to have your full driving privilege reinstated.

The problem with seeking a hardship license after the HTO revocation is that you are not eligible during the first year beginning on the effective date that the license was suspended or revoked. That means that you can not drive for any reason. After one year, you can apply for a hardship license through the Administrative Review Office so that you can drive to and from work.

Before you can obtain a hardship license, you must complete the Advanced Driver Improvement (ADI) School unless alcohol was involved, and then you are required to complete a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) school (in certain cases).

Even after the five-year HTO revocation has expired, a resident of the State of Florida can petition through the Administrative Reviews Office to restore driving privileges.

After the petition is filed, the DHSMV will conduct an investigation into the driver’s fitness to drive. If the request is properly filed, the department must hold an administrative hearing to determine whether full driving privileges can be restored or driving privileges will only be restored on a restricted basis for business or employment purposes.

You owe it to yourself to talk with an experienced Florida Habitual Traffic Offender lawyer before you continue to suffer the consequences of the HTO suspension. Many people are surprised that they could have avoided the revocation or suspension by going to court with an experienced attorney.

In some cases, the individual was represented by an attorney who never told them their plea would subject them to a five-year habitual traffic offender revocation. Those same individuals are even more surprised to learn that it is possible to undo the damage up to two years later.

Three Offenses Can Cause a Habitual Traffic Offender Revocation

In Florida, any driver who has three offenses listed below within a Five (5) year period becomes a Habitual Traffic Offender and receives a Five (5) year revocation or suspension of their driver’s license. The qualifying offenses include:

  • DUI – Driving Under the Influence;
  • DWLSR – Driving While License Suspended or Revoked regardless of whether adjudication was withheld (except that a civil infraction for driving while license suspended without knowledge does not count only if adjudication was withheld on that civil infraction. If you paid the fine for a civil infraction for DWLS without knowledge- then it counts);
  • Committing certain felonies while using a motor vehicle;
  • Failing to stop and as required under the laws of this state in the event of a motor vehicle crash resulting in the death or personal injury or another; or

Although less common, the Florida Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) suspension or revocation can also occur if the driver has fifteen moving violation convictions for which points may be assessed within a five-year period.

Typical Habitual Traffic Offender Case – Does this Sound Familiar?

An individual is cited for driving while license suspended (DWLS) without knowledge, a civil infraction, in 2022 in Bartow, Polk County. The person pays for the ticket without going to court which is counted as a “conviction.” In 2023, in Dade City, Pasco County, the individual is again arrested for driving while the license is suspended, but this time, the offense is “driving while license suspended with knowledge,” a criminal offense. The person goes to court on this citation, and the court “withholds adjudication.” In 2024, the individual is arrested for DWLS with knowledge, this time in Clearwater, Pinellas County.

When the last ticket is resolved, even if the court in Clearwater again withholds adjudication, the third “conviction” will trigger the HTO revocation. As a result, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) will mail a notice that it is imposing the five (5) year Habitual Traffic Offender Suspension.

Assume that the individual, now with notice of the HTO suspension, drives again. This time, the individual is arrested in Hillsborough County for Driving While License Suspended or Revoke as a Habitual Traffic Offender, a third-degree felony punishable by a $5,000,00 fine and five (5) years in Florida State Prison.

At Sammis Law Firm, we would proceed with a comprehensive defense that may span four counties to address the Habitual Traffic Offender Suspension.

First, we could collaterally attack one or more underlying driving while license suspended cases from 2022, 2023, or 2024. If one or more of those cases can be vacated or set aside, and then resolved in a way that does not count toward a HTO suspension, then the individual may be able to get their driver’s license reinstated, even while the felony driving while license suspended case is still pending in Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

Second, we could defend the individual on the felony DWLSR charge in Hillsborough County while helping them get their license reinstated. If the driver’s license is reinstated, then we can then use that fact to attempt to negotiate a disposition for a reduced charge of “no valid” driver’s license, which will not cause another suspension.

Prosecutors are often impressed that the individual is finally taking all necessary steps to address the problem and prevent future offenses. As a result, the prosecutor is often much more likely to reduce the charge.

Additionally, the client can still fight the Felony Driving on a Suspended License case on the merits by pursuing any number of defenses that might exist, such as a motion to suppress the driver’s identity because of an unlawful stop of the vehicle by law enforcement. These avenues of attack are available to avoid a felony conviction, possible jail or prison sentence, long probationary term, and another suspension that might otherwise occur.

The end result may be that the individual is now educated about the consequences of driving on a suspended license, and will not make that mistake again. The individual now has a reinstated driver’s license and may be able to avoid any felony charge or conviction (especially if the case is reduced to the misdemeanor charge of “no valid” driver’s license).

This result is much better than having a felony criminal record, incarceration or felony probation, and a five (5) year HTO suspension.

The Next Time You Are Caught Driving, the Consequences May Be More Serious

Any person arrested for driving while under a Florida Habitual Traffic Offender revocation or suspension is guilty of a third-degree felony punishable by a $5,000.00 fine and five years in Florida State Prison. See Florida Statutes §322.264 and §322.34(5).

Even being arrested for the third time for driving while license suspended or revoked with knowledge is guilty of a third-degree felony (if they have a prior forcible felony conviction) punishable by a $5,000.00 fine and five years in Florida State Prison. See Florida Statutes Sections §322.34(2).

These offenses are serious, and each new offense makes the problem worse. But you may be able to reverse the damage before it is too late.

Filing a Petition Writ of Certiorari to Challenge the Revocation Order

In many cases, the DMV does not receive notice of a conviction from the clerk of court in the county in which the conviction occurred until years after the conviction. Recently, some counties have begun sending notices of very old convictions to the DMV. As a result, some people receive Habitual Traffic Offender revocations years after the convictions occurred.

One of the most obvious problems with this procedure is that the driver is at a huge disadvantage in contesting one of the underlying convictions that caused the HTO revocation. As discussed below, a traffic ticket for driving while license suspended without knowledge can best be contested within 180 days of the date of conviction. The criminal conviction can only be contested up to two years after the conviction, although it is better to withdraw the plea within 30 days.

But what if the DMV does not send notice of the HTO revocation until more than two years after the last conviction occurred? One possibility is filing a petition for a writ of certiorari challenging the Florida DMV’s revocation order. The petition for writ of certiorari must be filed within 30 days of the order of revocation in the Circuit Court of the county in which the driver lives.

At issue in the petition for certiorari is whether the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles acted without jurisdiction or failed to follow an essential requirement of the law by issuing the revocation years after the three underlying convictions occurred.

The best argument for such an appeal is that because of the delay in processing the HTO revocation, the defense of “laches” bars the revocation. The defense of laches applies because the driver became prejudiced by the delay, which procedurally barred them from successfully contesting one of the underlying offenses.

In DHSMV v. Hagar, 581 So.2d 214 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991), the court granted no relief to the driver fighting a habitual traffic offender revocation under the “laches” theory based on a different theory of prejudice.

Requesting an Administrative Hearing to Review Your Record

The HTO notice from the Florida DHSMV also explains that you can apply for an administrative hearing to review your driving record (known as a “driver license record review”) if you believe you have any legal basis to show cause why the revocation is unjustified. You only have thirty (30) days from the date of the order of suspension to file a request for an administrative record review hearing.

Common mistakes that warrant a showing that the revocation is unjustified include:

  • showing court entry errors on your Florida driving record related to the type of offense and whether you were convicted of the offense;
  • an incorrect entry that resulted from a case of mistaken identity when a citation belongs to another person who has a similar or identical name;
  • identity theft if someone else used your driver’s license number or identification;
  • the officer who issued the citation put incorrect identification information on the citation;
  • the clerk of court made a mistake entering the information into the computer;
  • the three offenses listed were not separated by less than five years;
  • the DHSMV waited too long before sending a notification of the suspension to the driver; or
  • the DHSMV listed the wrong offenses.

If the underlying conviction was added to the driving record in error, you can petition the court that made the error to send written certification to the DHSMV for a review under Florida Statute Section 120.057(2) to correct the driving record.

The Court Has a Responsibility to Advise the Defendant

A license revocation is such a serious consequence that the Florida Supreme Court has directed judges to give this collateral consequence (the five-year revocation) warning to all defendants entering a DWLS plea. The Florida Supreme Court has directed that Rule 3.172, Fla. R. Crim. P., be amended to inform the defendant of this consequence. Bolware v. State, 995 So.2d 268 (Fla. 2008).

Another important defense was discussed in State v. Miller, 193 So.3d 1001 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2016). In that case, the defendant was charged with driving while his license was revoked as a habitual offender, even though he has never had a Florida driver’s license. The criminal defense attorney filed a sworn motion to dismiss, which the Court treated as a motion for a reduction of the charge to the offense of driving without a valid driver’s license (NVDL). The defendant was found guilty of NVDL, and the state appealed. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court decision. The Appellate Court reviewed several Florida appellate cases that dealt with this issue and concluded “… as a matter of law that having, at some time, a Florida driver’s license is an element of a section 322.34(5) offense” and thus “a defendant may not be convicted as a habitual traffic offender under section 322.34(5) for driving with a suspended license when no license had ever been issued to that defendant.”

Fla. R. Traf. Ct. 6.490 to Reduce Penalty

To set aside a “conviction” for a non-criminal traffic citation for Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) Without Knowledge, your attorney can file to set aside the conviction. Your attorney might also move to reduce the penalty by changing the adjudication of guilty to a withhold of adjudication under Fla. R. Traf. Ct. 6.490. Rule 6.490(b)(1) provides, in part:

(b) Reduction of Penalty. An official may reduce a legal penalty:

(1) within 180 days after its imposition, or thereafter with good cause shown; . . .

For the traffic court to have jurisdiction to consider an untimely filed motion under Fla. R. Traf. Ct. 6.490, the driver must show that there was good cause to justify its untimeliness.

This rule was amended effective July 1, 2023, to expand the time frame within which a legal penalty may be reduced from 60 days to 180 days.

Finding an Attorney to Fight the HTO Revocation

If you need an attorney to fight your Habitual Traffic Offender Suspension, we represent clients throughout the greater Tampa Bay area on serious driving or traffic offenses. E-mail us a copy of your driving record with your contact information, and we will contact you today to discuss your options.

“In today’s society, it is difficult, if not impossible in some locales, to travel from place to place without a driver’s license. In many areas there is inadequate or no public transportation. We have come to rely more and more on the use of personal motor vehicles to get to work, to shop, to attend recreational activities, and to attend many other activities that are a part of daily life. It is sometimes virtually impossible to perform the ordinary functions of life without ready access to a motor vehicle. Thus, having a driver’s license is often not just a desire but a necessity.”

Bolware v. State, 995 So.2d 268 (Fla., 2008)(Quince, J., dissenting).

To resolve your Florida Habitual Traffic Offender Status, do the following:

  • Stop driving until your driver’s license is reinstated or you obtain a hardship license;
  • Get a copy of your driving history;
  • Learn more about the recent case law regarding Florida Habitual Traffic Offender Decisions; and
  • Contact an experienced Florida habitual traffic offender lawyer to discuss your case today.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm can help you file a motion to set aside a conviction that triggered a five year HTO revocation in Florida.

Call (813) 250-0500.

This article was last updated on Thursday, January 18, 2024.