Caught Driving with a Suspended License in Washington?
In the state of Washington, the offense of driving while license suspended in the third degree (DWLS 3) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. However, you may be eligible to get your license reinstated. Thus, if you are charged with this crime, you should understand why your license got suspended and which steps to take that may help clear your license, avoid jail time and fines, and settle your case with the judge.
A person may get DWLS 3 charges when police officers run their license plate, see that the vehicle is registered in their name, and discover that the person has a “suspended” status. As a result, the officer will give them a court date for driving with a suspended license. Oftentimes, people mistakenly think, “I’ll just go into court and plead guilty, no big deal.” Well, that is not a good idea because doing so may cause a court to administer hefty fines and put you in jail.
So, how did your license get suspended in the first place?
Over the past 20 years, our Lynnwood criminal defense lawyer has seen the various ways in which someone’s license could get suspended. While no two situations are exactly alike, common reasons for getting a DWLS 3 charge include:
- Having an unpaid ticket
- Failing to respond to a ticket
- Paying only part of the ticket because money is tight
The Department of Licensing may send a notice that essentially means, “If you don’t pay your ticket by a certain date, we’re going to suspend your license.” Unfortunately, if you move locations or otherwise don’t receive the notice, you may get a rude awakening that your license was suspended when you get pulled over.
How to Handle a Single Ticket
Believe it or not, the court wants to see you get your license back. To accomplish this, you can follow the steps below:
- Visit the Department of Licensing website at https://dol.wa.gov
- Create a License Express account where you can add your driver’s license details and name, and identify the exact court that suspended your license
- Call the court, give them your date of birth, and ask if they can inform you of any unpaid tickets with their court
- If they tell you that you do have an unpaid ticket, politely ask how you can take care of it
- If your case is relatively new, you may still be allowed to pay the ticket through the court
- If your case is old, your ticket may have been sent to collections, therefore, you may need to call the collections company
If you can pay off your ticket, do it. However, doing so doesn’t guarantee that you’re instantly allowed to drive. The court must first send an adjudication to the Department of Licensing, which may take a while if you paid your ticket through a collections company. You may politely ask the court to send the adjudication as soon as possible and do not drive until your license status is clear. To check your status, visit the Department of Licensing website, as stated in the steps above.
What to Do If You Have Multiple Tickets
If you have more than one ticket, you must follow the process described above with multiple courts. For every court in which you have an unpaid ticket, contact each court, learn what your driver’s license status is, and ask what the court’s process is for resolving the matter.
If you have multiple tickets in collections, you may be able to establish an agreement with the collections company. In some cases, the company will adjudicate all your tickets and put you on a payment plan if you agree to pay off a portion of the overall amount owed.
However, if you are in a difficult financial situation and have one or more tickets in collection, you may be able to write a letter to the court and request that your tickets be recalled from collections. In the letter, explain that it is more expensive to pay your fines and the collections fees, but you can pay off your tickets today if the court recalls the fines from collections.
Keep in mind that the court doesn’t want to punish you, as it is simply following the rules. Court officials want you to get your license back and may sometimes help you recall your tickets from collections. In some instances, the court may have amnesty, which refers to a month in which all your tickets can be paid directly to the court, even if they’re in collections. Keep an eye out for that alternative or call a local attorney to help you work towards that possibility.
Do You Have a Criminal Traffic Charge in Lynnwood?
Despite paying your tickets, you may still get a third-degree driving while license suspended charge if you have a pending criminal traffic matter, hit-and-run charge, DUI, or another DWLS case. If you failed to appear for your pending criminal traffic matter, you may experience bigger problems. You could get a warrant for your arrest due to missing a court date, but the warrant may also put your license in a “suspended” status.
How do you get out of that mess?
First, you should contact an attorney or the court and ask how to clear your warrant. Once you get it cleared, the adjudication must be sent to the Department of Licensing. Again, do not drive until your status is clear!
If you are ordered to appear in criminal court, the court must see that you have a valid license. Once they do, you may be able to avoid penalties such as major fines for driving while your license was suspended. A qualified, experienced attorney can help you navigate this process.
As such, turn to our Lynnwood criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Lance Fryrear. For two decades, we have defended the accused throughout Washington state and can assure you that driving while license suspended charges, generally, are not costly to defend and may potentially result in a positive outcome if you complete each step correctly.
If you have any questions about your case or want to learn about how we can best serve you, please contact us at (425) 224-7075. We will do everything we can to clear your name and be there for you every step of the way.