If you are caught driving with a suspended license in Washington State you could be facing criminal charges and jail time. Driving with a suspended license is the most common crime committed in Washington State.
Having your Washington license suspended can happen for several reasons. The most common are:
1. Unpaid traffic tickets
2. Suspended because of a criminal conviction like a DUI
3. Suspended as a result of administrative suspension
4. Failure to properly reinstate your license after a license suspension (not paying the reinstatement fee or retaking the driving test)
5. Being involved in an accident but failing to have car insurance
6. For being a habitual traffic offender
Driving with a Washington suspended license, also known as driving with license suspended or DWLS has three degrees.
DWLS 3rd is the least serious of the three degrees. It is a simple misdemeanor and carries a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Very few people get jail time for this infraction. Your license can be suspended in the 3rd degree for unpaid traffic tickets or because you are eligible to reinstate after suspension due to a criminal charge but haven't reinstated yet. Many times, you can avoid criminal charges in Washington State if you reinstate your license in a timely manner. The help of an experienced criminal defense attorney is helpful in navigating this process.
DWLS 2nd is much more serious than DWLS 3rd. It is a gross misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. There are, however, no mandatory minimum penalties and most people convicted of DWLS 2nd don't get jail time. A conviction for DWLS 2nd carries an additional year license suspension beyond the Washington license suspension. There are only two ways to avoid the suspension 1) have your license back at the time of the sentencing and 2) the judge recommending against re-suspension. Most people receive a DWLS 2nd charge because of a prior criminal conviction such as a DUI or felony driving crime. Some people are eligible for a restricted license that will allow driving during the Washington license suspension. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be helpful in navigating through the suspension.
DWLS 1st is not issued that often but it comes with big consequences. It is a gross misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and $5,000 fine. If you are convicted of DWLS in the 1st degree, there is mandatory 10 days in jail for the first offense, 90 days of jail for a second offense, and 180 days for a third offense. Some judges allow the jail time to be served on electronic home monitoring. A charge of DWLS 1st is only issued to those that have been deemed a habitual traffic offender by the Department of Licensing and had their license suspended for seven years. Again, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be helpful in navigating through the suspension.
The best way to prevent a suspended license is to only drive when you are certain that you have a valid driver's license. If you are uncertain as to the status of your license, use the online tool provided by the Department of Licensing to check. If you have a Washington suspended license, the best thing you can do is to get it reinstated as quickly as possible. Use this free tool that tells you what you need to do reinstate your license. Your best bet is to hire a competent criminal defense attorney who can help you wade through the system and avoid any criminal charges if possible.
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