Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) Charges
The charge of Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) is one of the most common criminal charges in the State of Washington. The reason for the volume of charging has to do with the fact that it is fairly easy to be charged with this offense.
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These Charges Are Common, Inexpensive, And Quick To Resolve.
There are three levels of DWLS. The level of DWLS depends on variables such as the reason your license was suspended in the first place, whether you made a mistake in trying to reinstate your license (assuming you were permitted to reinstate), whether you have been determined to be a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO), and the nature of the crime (or just fines) that lead to the original suspension.
Third Degree DWLS (Least Serious)
This charge happens when a person is driving after their license has been suspended due to unpaid fines. The fines or costs can be due to unpaid traffic tickets, child support, or improperly reinstating your license. The last issue comes up when you fail to do all of the proper procedures necessary after you become eligible to reinstate your license. This criminal charge is a misdemeanor and is the least serious of the three degrees of Driving With License Suspended.
Second Degree DWLS
The primary differences between DWLS 2 and DWLS 1 are: (1) the person charged with DWLS 2 has not been suspended for being a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO), (2) unlike DWLS 1, the person charged with DWLS 2 does not face a mandatory jail sentence. The person charged with DWLS 2 has been suspended due to a criminal conviction or an administrative finding (not HTO and not just due to unpaid fines). The crime of DWLS Second Degree is a gross misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. You may also face additional license suspension.
The most common way a person is charged with DWLS 2 is by violating a condition of probation on a previous crime. For example, if you were convicted of a DUI or have entered into a PDA for that DUI, you have certain conditions regarding your driving. You may not be able to drive or you might have an Ignition Interlock License. If you are caught driving outside of the permitted conditions (not using the ignition interlock or failing to get the ignition interlock license), you have committed a probation violation. As a side note, in addition to the new charge of DWLS 2, you are likely going to face a Motion To Revoke on the previous criminal charge if you are on a PDA. If this is your situation, you need to contact your criminal defense attorney immediately. You will have two separate pending criminal charges, which may be in separate jurisdictions.
First Degree DWLS
A person can be charged with First Degree Driving While License Suspended if they were caught driving after their license was suspended for being a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO). A driver can be determined HTO by the Department of Licensing if they have 3 major traffic convictions such as vehicular assault, DUI, Hit and Run, DWLS 2 (there are others) or a combination of 20 separate traffic infractions, within a 5 year period. If you are convicted of DWLS 1, you face a mandatory jail sentence of up to 364 days in jail, a $5,000 fine, and new 7 year period of HTO suspension.
To learn how these charges will impact your past or existing criminal charges, contact our office for a free consultation. While DWLS is the most common criminal charge, the resolutions can vary significantly and dealing with the problem early is your best bet. Some counties and cities have options for you to pull unpaid fines out of collects and qualify for a relicensing program. To learn if that is an option for you, contact us immediately.
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