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Virginia law prohibits driving while your license is suspended. The very first offense is a class one misdemeanor which may carry up to a $2,500 fine and up to 12 months in jail. In addition, the Virginia code calls for an additional suspension of your driver's license equal to the length of your original suspension or up to 90 days. If you are facing your third charge for driving on a suspended license in a 10 year period, your charge may carry a mandatory jail sentence of 10 days.
Some driving on suspended charges are treated even more harshly. For example, if your license is suspended as the result of a DUI conviction or if you are charged for driving outside the terms of your restricted license, you may be charged under a different section of the Virginia code. Under that section, a third conviction within 10 years is a class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. It is critical that you determine which code section you are charged under and which code section applies to your situation.
It is important to obtain a current copy of your driver's license and review it with an experienced attorney before your court date. There are many reasons that someone's license may be suspended in Virginia. Just a few include failure to pay court costs or fines, delinquent child support payments, and a drug related criminal conviction. Your driving record and other DMV documents will reveal if your license really was suspended, the reason why, and what steps you can take to get your license back or obtain a restricted license.
There are several defenses available to defendants in driving on suspended cases. An attorney familiar with the Virginia code, caselaw, and driving records can determine if any apply to your situation.
To convict you of driving on a suspended license, the Commonwealth must prove that you were notified of the suspension. Often this is established by interpreting codes on a DMV record. Our attorneys have reviewed hundreds of DMV records and are familiar with the codes used for various types of notifications. We advise defendants to obtain a copy of their driving record from the DMV before coming to our office for a free consultation so that we can determine if they have a potential defense to the charge.
The Virginia code allows a person to drive whose license is suspended if there is a situation of "apparent extreme emergency" and they must drive in order "to save life or limb." This is a high bar but we understand that emergencies do happen. If you are charged for driving due to an emergency, we will help you gather documentation and subpoena witnesses to establish the emergency and present a solid defense in court.
Every person has the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Police officers stop suspended drivers in a variety of ways, one of which is "running the tags," or looking up the car's license plate number from their cruiser. However, under Virginia caselaw this information alone may not be enough to justify the stop. Our attorneys have successfully challenged these stops through motions to suppress and won cases on this issue. If you believe you were stopped this way, we can discuss the other factors of your case to determine if this defense may be available to you.
If you are convicted of driving on a suspended license and your punishment includes a longer license suspension, you may be eligible for a restricted license during that period of time. A restricted license will allow you to drive to work, school, doctor's appointments, religious services, appointments and visitation for children, and several other important tasks. It is critical that you only drive exactly within the allowable terms of your restricted license. Your attorney should explain each section to you fully as well as what additional documentation you must carry with you when driving.
Even if you do not believe you have defenses to your driving on suspended charge, an attorney can advocate for your restricted license to allow you to keep your job and maintain your obligations during your suspension period. The application is very detailed and can be completed even before court with your lawyer so that you are fully prepared to preserve your right to drive no matter what the result is in your case.