Fla. Stat. 322.34(5) makes it a third-degree felony for anyone to drive upon Florida roads while their driver’s license has been revoked as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO). As such, a person convicted under this statute can be imprisoned for up to 5 years if the State simply proves that a person was (1) driving and (2) that person’s driver’s license was revoked as an HTO. It’s a relatively easy case for the State without many defenses for the defense. As such, if your license has been revoked due to HTO status, you’ll want to get it fixed immediately!
What Is a Habitual Traffic Offender?
Fla. Stat. 322.264 defines a Habitual Traffic Offender. It states:
A “habitual traffic offender” is any person whose record, as maintained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, shows that such person has accumulated the specified number of convictions for offenses described in subsection (1) or subsection (2) within a 5-year period:
(1) Three or more convictions of any one or more of the following offenses arising out of separate acts:
(a) Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;
(b) Any violation of s. 316.193 [DUI], former s. 316.1931, or former s. 860.01;
(c) Any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;
(d) Driving a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked;
(e) Failing to stop and render aid as required under the laws of this state in the event of a motor vehicle crash resulting in the death or personal injury of another; or
(f) Driving a commercial motor vehicle while his or her privilege is disqualified.
(2) Fifteen convictions for moving traffic offenses for which points may be assessed as set forth in s. 322.27, including those offenses in subsection (1).
In sum, a driver who is convicted of three of the criminal acts listed in (1) or fifteen of the civil traffic violations listed in (2) within a 5-year period, will be designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender and have their driver’s license revoked for a period of five years. The person can apply for a Hardship license after one year of the revocation.
Does a Driver Have to Receive Notice of the Revocation?
The short answer is “no.” Prior to November 2021, there was some language that had been used by the District Courts of Appeal that seemed to suggest that an element of the offense of Driving While License Revoked as an HTO was that the driver/defendant must have received actual notice of the revocation. However, the Florida Supreme Court disagreed and held that the plain language of Fla. Stat. 322.34(5) does not require notice; it only requires that the license be revoked as a Habitual Traffic Offender.
In Robinson v. State, SC20-408 (Fla. 2021), “Henry Robinson was charged with DWLR-HTO and was tried by a jury in Pinellas County. At trial, Robinson sought to use a special jury instruction requiring the jury to find that DHSMV provided him with notice of his HTO driver license revocation. The trial court denied the request for the special instruction, and the jury was instructed using the standard jury instruction. Robinson was convicted as charged and sentenced to 365 days in jail.”
The Court simply held that proof that DHSMV provided a defendant with notice of an HTO driver license revocation is not an element of the crime of DWLR-HTO. As indicated earlier, it did so on the basis that the plain language of the statute doesn’t require notice. As such, any prior requirement to prove notice was improperly grafted upon the statute by prior courts.