In Florida, there are certain crimes that come with an automatic suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license. For instance, a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) conviction will always result in a driver’s license suspension of at least six months. Other crimes that come with driver’s license suspensions include possession of marijuana and racing if the defendant is convicted of one of those crimes.
Routine traffic offenses are not considered crimes in Florida. They are not normally handled in criminal court; they are handled in traffic court by a traffic court judge. The penalty for most traffic citations is a fine and possibly a driver improvement course. If a person gets a certain number of traffic tickets within a certain period of time, it can result in a driver’s license suspension.
While the penalty for most traffic tickets is a fine, the judge does have the authority to suspend a person’s driver’s license for a routine traffic violation like speeding or running a red light. A Florida statute gives the judge discretion to suspend a person’s driver’s license for a period of up to one year for certain traffic violations.
However, if a person violates a traffic law and causes an accident as a result, a different Florida statute allows the judge to suspend the driver’s license for more than a year. In a recent case south of Jacksonville, Florida, a driver ran a stop sign and failed to yield and crashed her vehicle into a motorcycle killing two people. This was not considered reckless driving so no criminal case was filed, but it did go to traffic court as a result of the traffic law violations. The judge suspended the driver’s license for a period of 10 years. The driver’s lawyer appealed the decision arguing that the judge did not have authority to suspend the driver’s license for more than a year for the traffic violations. However, the appellate court affirmed the suspension. Florida law does allow a driver’s license suspension of more than one year if the driver commits one or more traffic violations and causes a crash. The Florida statute requires the judge to look into the totality of the circumstances, which would include the nature of the crash, the severity of the injuries and property damage, the driving of the defendant and his/her driving record.
If a person does have his/her driver’s license suspended and is caught driving thereafter, that does become a criminal offense for which a jail sentence is a possibility.