One of the most common misdemeanor offenses I see in the South Florida area - specifically Miami-Dade County - Driving While License Suspended (DWLS).
It is a crime to KNOWINGLY drive while your driver's license is suspended, revoked, or otherwise cancelled. It is not a crime to drive with a suspended, revoked, cancelled driver's license provided you have no knowledge of the suspension.
Driving in Florida is a privilege, not a right. This means that the State of Florida has the authority to take away your driving privilege for any number of reasons.
Here are a few:
1) Failure to appear for a traffic ticket or failure to pay: If you fail to pay a traffic ticket or fail to appear in court for a non-criminal traffic ticket, your license will be suspended.
2) Criminal bench warrant for a criminal traffic offense: If you fail to appear in court for a criminal traffic offense (reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, etc...) your license will be suspended.
3) DUI: Your license will be suspended for a DUI offense (6 months for unlawful blood-alcohol level, 1 year for a refusal). Your license will also be suspended if you are convicted of DUI.
4) Financial responsibility: Failure to maintain current auto insurance or failure to pay a judgment levied against you for an auto accident.
5) Child support: Failure to pay child support will result in a driver's license suspension.
6) Points: If you have too many traffic ticket convictions, you will accumulate points on your license. Too many points and your license will be suspended.
The most common reason that I see for suspended licenses is owing money on traffic tickets. It is important to stay on top of your traffic citations, and to not let them go into collections for non-payment. The longer you wait, the worse it gets.
If you license is suspended, you may want to consult with an attorney to see about getting your driver's license reinstated. Simply paying off your tickets may actually hurt you because if you pay traffic tickets online, you will be automatically convicted. A good lawyer may be able to vacate old guilty pleas or set aside suspension for failure to appear.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward.