Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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Suspended License and Habitual Traffic Offenses

Of course, we all have a responsibility to drive safely, to follow Washington traffic laws, and to obey law enforcement officers. That being said, there are days when all of us may fall short of those responsibilities. Perhaps you have a broken taillight, but simply have not had time to have it repaired, or you are running late for work, so are driving faster than normal—and faster than the posted speed limit.

Or, maybe the traffic light changed just as you were about to cross the intersection. You must make a decision in a split second, so you decide to go for it, only to find you just ran a red light. If you receive a single traffic ticket, it may not be that big of a deal. You will pay your fine, deal with the corresponding insurance increase, and go about your everyday life. If, however, you have multiple traffic tickets and moving violations, you could be facing serious problems—for your driving privileges as well as for your finances.

At the Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden, we work with those who are in danger of having their license suspended as well as those who already have a license suspension—whether due to a DUI or other traffic violations. If you are a habitual traffic offender and want to avoid probation or suspension, it is important that you contact an experienced traffic ticket lawyer.

What is a Habitual Traffic Offender?

Some of the most aggressive, restrictive laws for habitual traffic offenders can be found in the state of Washington. The goal of the state is to keep those with poor driving records off the roads, for a period of seven years. Unfortunately, many Pierce County drivers find themselves in HTO status when it could have been avoided through prompt legal action. The Washington statute which defines habitual traffic offenders, states that when a driver acquires too many criminal traffic convictions or moving violations within a specified length of time, his or her driving privileges will be suspended for seven years. If a Washington driver has any of the following, HTO status may be reached:

  • Three major moving convictions (DUI, Hit and Run Attended, Reckless Driving, Eluding an Officer, DWLS 1, DWLS 2, Vehicular Homicide, Physical Control or Vehicular Assault), or
  • A combination of twenty (20) separate moving traffic infractions or convictions within a five-year period.

Your license cannot summarily be suspended by the DOL, rather you must receive notification of intent to suspend and be given the opportunity to request a hearing. At the hearing, the DOL will attempt to determine whether you have the requisite number of infractions or convictions within a five-year window of time. If you have received four moving violations in twelve months, or five moving violations in twenty-four months, you may be put on probation, however, once you are on probation, your risk of suspension increases.

If you receive an additional two moving violation tickets while on probation, your license will be suspended for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, you are eligible for reinstatement but will be given an additional year of probation. During this new probation, if you are ticketed for one moving violation your license will be suspended for 60 days, and a second moving violation while on probation will result in a 120-day suspension. It is possible to challenge these suspensions, however, you will need to speak with an experienced Pierce County traffic ticket lawyer.

When Probation is Not an Option

If you simply have too many traffic offenses, you will probably receive a seven-year suspension at your hearing. Your hardship status or need to drive is not a factor at this hearing, however, if your proposed suspension is due to an alcohol or drug dependency issue, and you agree to enter treatment, it could be possible to stay the suspension.

Should you be caught driving during that period of time without getting back your license, you will be charged with Driving on a Suspended License in the First Degree (DWLS 1), and will spend a mandatory 10 days in jail, plus, in all probability, a longer suspension. If you are caught driving on a suspended license a second time, (DWLS 1), you will spend a mandatory 90 days in jail (180 days for a third DWLS 1).

In some cases, after being declared a habitual traffic offender, you may be able to regain your driving privileges on a probationary basis if it can be proven that you suffer from alcohol or drug dependency and you agree to enter a chemical dependency program. It is imperative that you contact a knowledgeable Washington traffic ticket lawyer from The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden as quickly as possible after learning you could have your license suspended.

Petitioning for Early Reinstatement

Four years into a seven-year suspension, you may petition for early reinstatement of your driving privileges without doing treatment. At the hearing, you will be required to convince the hearing officer there is no evidence of driving and you have changed your ways. If your petition is granted, it will be predicated on the assumption you will drive in a lawful manner from this point until the end of 1 year. If the agreement is violated, your license will be re-suspended, and a new original seven-year period begins.

Getting Help for Your License Suspension or HTO Status

Whether your license is suspended because of a DUI, or you are in—or close to being in—HTO status, you are facing long-term, even life-altering consequences. Most of us find driving a necessary part of life—we drive to and from work, we take children to school or go to school ourselves, we run errands, we go on recreational trips, or we go to church. If you are facing an HTO suspension or a DUI suspension, or if you believe you qualify for early reinstatement or a probationary driver’s license, contact an experienced traffic ticket lawyer from the Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden.

A highly knowledgeable attorney will review your specific situation, determining the best way to avoid an HTO suspension, or gain relief from an HTO suspension already in place. At the Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden, we not only specialize in avoiding license suspensions, we help drivers with suspended licenses obtain a valid license. Contact our Lakewood, WA offices today so we can immediately begin assessing your problem—and solving it in the best way possible.