It depends on how many drunk driving convictions you have and how far apart the convictions occurred. In Florida, only some people convicted of multiple drunk driving offenses are considered habitual traffic offenders.
Generally, the word “habitual” implies a regular or usual pattern of behavior. However, the term habitual traffic offender has a precise legal definition, and you should only be labeled as a habitual traffic offender if you violate the terms of Florida’s habitual traffic offender law.
How Florida Law Defines Habitual Traffic Offenders
Florida Statute Section 322.264 defines a habitual traffic offender as anyone who has:
- Three or more traffic-related convictions within five years. These convictions may include (a) voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from operating a motor vehicle; (b) driving under the influence; (c) committing a felony while using a motor vehicle; (d) driving a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license; (e) failing to stop and render aid as required by law after a motor vehicle crash; and (f) driving a commercial motor vehicle without a valid license.
- Fifteen or more moving traffic violations within five years. These must be moving violations for which points were assessed.
Each conviction or moving violation must be a separate act within the five-year period. The five-year period runs from the date of the first conviction to the date of the last conviction.
You may be labeled a habitual traffic offender if drunk driving is one or more of your three traffic-related convictions within five years.
Potential Consequences of Being a Habitual Traffic Offender
Habitual traffic offenders face the legal consequences of each conviction or moving violation. For example, if you’ve been convicted of multiple drunk driving offenses, the consequences may become more severe with each conviction. Your third DUI conviction within ten years carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison, a ten-year license suspension, a fine of up to $5,000, and other penalties.
In addition to the criminal penalties of one or more drunk driving convictions, you could face the following consequences if you are labeled a habitual traffic offender:
- License revocation. Your driver’s license may be revoked for a minimum of five years. During the first year of your habitual traffic offender designation, you may not drive at all. After the first year, you may apply for a hardship license which will allow you to drive to and from work if the hardship license is approved by the Administrative Review Office.
- Increased insurance premiums. You will likely see a significant increase in your insurance premiums. Habitual traffic offenders may be required to carry high-risk motor vehicle insurance.
These consequences can significantly impact your ability to work and go about your regular activities.
Why You Need a Fort Lauderdale DUI Defense Lawyer
Being labeled a habitual traffic offender is not a separate and distinct crime in Florida. However, habitual traffic offenders face serious legal penalties, as described above. An experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney can help you avoid these consequences by defending you at the time of each traffic-related offense. Remember, you will be considered a habitual traffic offender if you have three or more traffic-related convictions within five years. A DUI defense lawyer can raise appropriate drunk driving defenses and help protect your rights at the time of each drunk driving charge to prevent a conviction.
Additionally, if you are arrested for driving with a license that is suspended or revoked because you are a habitual traffic offender, you may be convicted of a third-degree felony. The potential sentence for a third-degree felony includes up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. As with any crime, you have the right to defend yourself, and an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer can ensure that every possible defense is considered and your rights are protected.