Driving on a Suspended License
Driving on a Suspended License (“DOSL” for short) is a misdemeanor charge defined by Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) 28-3473 – Driving on a Suspended License which you can read in full here
What is Driving on a Suspended License (DOSL) in Arizona?
Essentially, you can be cited for this Class One (1) misdemeanor anytime you drive a motor vehicle on a public highway and your driving privilege is either suspended, revoked, canceled, refused, or disqualified.
Many people are shocked to learn their license was even in this condition when they are informed by a police officer during a stop for another violation.
Although you can be stopped for DOSL alone, most of the time drivers are initially stopped for another offense such as speeding and the DOSL gets added once the officer checks your license status.
Unfortunately, unless you are doing regular checks with the Motor Vehicle Department (which most people don’t), being stopped for another violation is often the only way to know your license is suspended.
If you do happen to be reading this to be proactive, or want to confirm your license status after being charged, you can do the following to get more information.
- Driver’s License Reinstatement (check) on Service Arizona: enter your information and see if your license needs to be reinstated. Oftentimes a reinstatement fee needs to be paid before your license can be reinstated.
How did my License get Suspended in the First Place?
There are many ways a license can become suspended, however, some of the most common are the following:
- Failure to Appear or Pay Fine for Traffic Citation
- DUI and DUI Related Consequences (i.e. Refusal to Submit to Blood Alcohol Concentration or Drug Content (BADC) Testing)
- Failure to Attend Traffic Survival School
- Too Many Points within a Period of Time
- Red-Light Violation
- Altered or Fictitious License
- Aggressive Driving
- Failure to Stop at the Scene of an Accident
Often times the suspension is the result of the failure to address a previous MVD or court order.
If a certain class was not completed or you failed to appear for a court hearing, your license may have been suspended since that occurred.
Although that prior issue will need to be addressed, it is important to be tactical in deciding what should be addressed first and the order to proceed in.
If there are multiple complications, things such as date of violation, judgment/sentencing date, order date, and type of charge will play a factor in deciding the best approach. Also, it is possible the suspension may not be the result of your fault at all!
What are the Common Defenses in a Driving on a Suspended License Case?
Fighting a Driving on suspended license case depends a lot on pretrial negotiation, mitigating factors, and eventually evidence (or lack thereof) available for trial.
Because there are ways to have a judge dismiss your charge and opportunities to negotiate with the State for a reduced (less serious, possibly civil) offense, defending against a DOSL requires a very technical approach that requires in-depth knowledge of the different courts, causes of the DOSL, and MVD policies.
If you were completely unaware your license was suspended, the first step is to determine the cause. Once the cause is determined, information must be obtained to determine whether or not your were properly notified of the pending suspension and/or even had the opportunity to correct it before enforcement.
If the MVD did not properly notify you of your license being suspended, there is a strong defense to prove you had no criminal intent in committing this crime.
This lack of intent and a case built around it will serve as a strong trial defense and leverage against the State for pretrial negotiations.
In addition to legal defenses, mitigating factors can play a large part in reaching a favorable resolution.
If it is determined you were aware of the suspension (or reasonably should have been aware) but took every step to correct the suspension once being cited, the steps and timing to correct the issue will help in negotiating a resolution.
This is why it is important to act on Driving on suspended license violations as soon as you receive one.
What are the Possible Punishments and Consequences for Driving on a Suspended License?
A conviction for Driving on a Suspended License is a Class One (1) Misdemeanor.
Although there are no mandatory fines or jail time, a judge can impose up to a maximum penalty of six (6) months jail (ARS 13-707), $2,500 fines plus surcharges (ARS 13-802), and three (3) years of probation (ARS 13-902).
Although a maximum penalty (or anywhere near it) is unlikely to be imposed, prosecutors’ offices will quite frequently recommend one (1) or more days of jail to be imposed; especially if there are prior convictions.
The more prior convictions, the more jail time that is likely to be pushed for.
For first time offenses and depending on the cause of the suspension, the judge can sometimes dismiss the charge.
If your license was suspended due to unpaid traffic fines and you have paid those fines to close the cases, the judge has the discretion to dismiss your DOSL charge (ARS 28-3473A and ARS 28-1601).
However, it is entirely in the judge’s discretion and he or she may not be willing dismiss or may only be willing to reduce your fine.
The key is to figure out any and all pending/old cases you have and address them ASAP. Once those cases are closed you MAY be able to reinstate your license.
Complications can sometimes arise due to the new DOSL case you have and MVD may not let you reinstate until that case is closed as well.
In those situations, additional investigation and negotiation will be necessary to try and avoid the criminal conviction for the DOSL.
Aside from the possible penalties which may be sentenced by the court for this misdemeanor offense, possible secondary/non-legal consequences may include things such as:
- Disqualification from current/future job opportunities (i.e. driving required as part of duties, company car insurance covers you, rental car requirements when traveling, etc.)
- Immigration Consequences – although it is unlikely, a conviction for DOSL is still a criminal conviction and will appear on background checks; more importantly, it is the highest category of misdemeanor offenses in Arizona (one being the highest and 3 the lowest – ARS 13-601).
- Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Disqualification or Suspension
- Loss of Professional Licenses
- Loss of Security Clearances
- Reputation Damage – Having to check the box “criminal conviction” on applications and needing to explain during interviews
What Will MVD do? Will I get Points on my Driving Record? What if I have an Out-of-State Driver’s License?
Points are managed by the state your driver’s license is from. If you have an Arizona DL, points are assessed against your Arizona record for moving traffic violations only.
As such, DOSL does not carry any points. Points can cause a suspension, however, a suspension cannot cause points.
Points are not ordered or imposed by the court, only by motor vehicle departments.
Once Arizona MVD will receives record of a DOSL conviction they will enter it on your record in Arizona only.
However, if you have an out-of-state DL, Arizona will send your home-state MVD record of the conviction and it will be up to your MVD to decide if they will take any action against your license there.
Since it is often difficult to determine what will happen to your DL, it is better to fight the conviction instead of taking the chance of hoping nothing will happen to your DL.
What are Common Outcomes in a Driving on suspended License Case?
Once the cause of the suspension is determined and the steps have been taken to correct or remove the suspension, there are several outcome possibilities.
Depending on other charges on your citation, it is possible to work out a plea agreement with the State to dismiss your DOSL charge. Similarly, it is possible to work out an agreement to reduce your charge to a civil violation which will not appear on your criminal background.
This negotiation will be dependent on your driving history, the factors contributing to your current case and suspension, corrective measures taken, and strength of legal defenses (i.e. lack of knowledge/intent).
As discussed above, it is also possible to have the judge dismiss your case without the need to negotiate with the prosecutors.
The judge has discretion in dismissing DOSL charges such as those which result from unpaid civil tickets.
It is important to make this request with proper proof and explanation the first time when going in front of a judge.
A judge will not have access to your driving history and status of previous tickets and therefore, it is your responsibility to be fully prepared before making the request.