In Arizona, the crime of driving on a suspended license occurs anytime you knowingly operate a motor vehicle while your license is suspended, revoked, or canceled. Depending on the reason the prosecution is claiming your license was suspended, you may face three different ranges of punishment.
Were You Aware Of The License Suspension?
The key to defending a charge of driving on a suspended, revoked or canceled license is showing that you did not "knowingly" drive while suspended. The state has the burden of proving that you were actually notified that your license had been suspended. However, the current case law allows the prosecutor to show that you "should have known" that your license was suspended. In other words, if you have moved and you did not change your address with the Motor Vehicle Division within ten (10) days of moving, then it is presumed that it is your fault that you did not receive your notice of suspension.
However, it is always up to the jury (or to the judge if you are having a bench trial on a misdemeanor) to determine whether you should have had knowledge of your suspension. Many times, the suspension notices indicate that you will be suspended for thirty (30) or sixty (60) days, then it tells you to read the fine print on the back of the notice in order to determine your rights.
What they do not make clear is the fact that until you pay a $50 "reinstatement fee", your license will be suspended until the end of time. Many people think that they served their suspension time and that their license was automatically put back into full force and effect. This can be very understandable during jury trials.
Exploring All The Possible Defenses
Burden of proof — Because driving on a suspended license is a criminal charge not a normal traffic violation, you are entitled to all the protections afforded anyone charged with a crime. The prosecutor has to prove your charge by the same burden of proof that is necessary to prove a homicide case. The officer may find him or herself unprepared to meet the burden of proof in a criminal case. An experienced defense lawyer may be able to convince the prosecutor to dismiss or reduce the charge after reviewing the citation and police report with the prosecutor.
Proving you knew about the suspension — Assuming the prosecution can prove you were driving, they must still be able to prove that you "knowingly" drove with a suspended license. This focus of this evidence generally revolves around how and when the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) notified you of this suspension and any evidence that you knew or should have known your license was suspended. Mr. Mueller has years of experience dealing with the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney.
For this type of case, it is essential that you have a lawyer who knows how to interpret MVD records and understands the subtle issues and how to defend these cases. Mr. Mueller has interviewed, called to the stand, and cross-examined the experts MVD employs countless times. He has logged many, many hours arguing and defending cases that involve suspension issues. Deciding to put Mr. Mueller's extended experience to work for you may mean the difference between being convicted or acquitted.
Was questioning legal? — The questions that police officers ask are used to support their case against you. Driving on a suspended license is a criminal case, and police officers are expected to follow the laws that govern questioning. If not, the answers to those questions may not be admissible against you.
Be Aware Of The Potential Consequences
Depending on the facts of your case and your driving history, being found guilty of driving on a suspended license can have many potential consequences, including:
- Jail time
- Mandatory time
- Points accessed to your driving record
- Re-suspension or revocation of your license
- Higher insurance, cancellation of insurance, or denial of insurance
- Conviction of a crime resulting in a criminal record
- Effects on immigration status, visas, and passports
- Community service
If you have been charged with driving on a suspended license, contact us now to schedule a free initial consultation.