Driver’s License Suspension For Drug Possession Convictions Is Counterproductive, But The Practice Continues Unabated In Florida
Some corners of the Internet sing the praises of a world without automobiles, but the dream of a walkable utopia is not coming to Florida any time soon. People rely on their cars to go everywhere, including for commuting to and from work and picking up their children from school. They also rely on their cars to get to probation appointments and court-ordered drug tests. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you are at the mercy of Florida’s scarce public transportation options, or else you must pay for rideshare rides or build your schedule around family and friends being available to give you a ride to the places you need to go. Trying to manage the responsibilities of work and parenting in Florida when you do not have a driver’s license is enough of a challenge that you would not wish it on your worst enemy. Not content with handing out fines and probation and jail sentences, though, Florida courts routinely order driver’s license suspension for defendants in criminal cases. In some instances, this gives defendants little choice but to continue driving while their driver’s licenses are under suspension. Here, our Miami drug crimes defense lawyer explains how Florida law sets a Kafkaesque trap for cash-strapped defendants by imposing driver’s license suspension as a penalty for drug possession and various other offenses unrelated to driving.
The Courts of Florida Can Suspend Your Driver’s License for Almost Any Reason
It only makes sense that driver’s license suspension is one of the penalties for drunk driving and that traffic-related crimes punishable by prison time, such as leaving the scene of an accident resulting in bodily injury, would also require restriction of a convicted defendant’s driving privileges after his or her release from prison. Likewise, traffic courts can suspend your license if you accumulate a certain number of points of your license for traffic infractions within a certain period of time. It only makes sense that driver’s license suspension is a penalty for infractions and crimes related to driving.
Unfortunately, though, the Florida courts do not stop there. The family courts can order the suspension of a parent’s driver’s license if he or she falls behind on child support payments. The criminal courts can also suspend your license if you do not pay your court-ordered criminal fines. Driver’s license suspension is also a common penalty for drug possession convictions, even when the arrest that led to the conviction did not involve a vehicle or a traffic stop.
Life in the Fast Lane With a Suspended License
Criminal justice reform advocates often talk about a cycle of recidivism, in which the criminal justice system puts defendants in situations where breaking the law is their only feasible option. For example, the difficulty of finding a job when you have a criminal record pushes formerly incarcerated people to seek out illegal sources of income, and punishing people for drug possession without providing them with treatment for substance use disorder makes it almost inevitable that they will stay addicted and continue to purchase illegal drugs.
Being on probation is expensive, so are criminal fines, and so is reinstating your driver’s license. The only legal way to get money to pay your court-ordered financial obligations is to work, and in most cases, the only way to get to your job in Florida is to drive there. At any given moment, the percentage of drivers on the road whose licenses are suspended is higher in Florida than it is in other states. Meanwhile, if you get caught driving with a suspended license, your legal problems only get bigger, so you end up owing the state even more money, and the cycle repeats itself.
Rely on Your Criminal Defense Lawyer Like Your Financial Future Depends on It
The best way to avoid all the hassles of the court suspending your driver’s license just to make your already difficult life even more difficult is to get a criminal defense lawyer involved with your case as soon as possible. For example, if you are being charged with first offense drug possession, your lawyer may be able to get you into a pretrial diversion program which, if you complete it successfully, will result in the court dismissing the charges against you. Even if you take a plea deal, your lawyer can help you get a sentence which does not involve the court requiring you to do two mutually exclusive things.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys
A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges for drug possession or another crime that could result in driver’s license suspension. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.