There are three (3) kinds of Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) charges in Washington. Each is based on your prior driving history, and each "step up" has a correspondingly severe punishment.
DWLS in the Third Degree
Driving While License Suspended in the Third Degree (DWLS-3) is the most common crime of driving while your license is suspended. This is misdemeanor in Washington, meaning it is punishable up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, though it rarely results in jail time. DWLS-3 is most frequently charged when a person is eligible to have their license reinstated but has not done so. The most common ways to have your license suspended this way include:
1. Administrative suspension (i.e. DUI);
2. Unpaid traffic tickets;
3. Failure to property reinstate a license (i.e. not paying the reinstatement fee);
4. Auto accident without insurance.
You can be charged with this crime even if you did not know your license was suspended. The prosecutor merely has to prove that you drove your car while your license was suspended in this or any other state.
If you have been charged with DWLS-3, the best thing you can do is get your license back. If you cannot pay off old traffic tickets, some counties have relicensing programs that will take your case out of collections and work with you to satisfy your monetary obligations. In most cases, the prosecuting attorney will drop the charge or amend it to an infraction. However, some prosecutors are less understanding and will insist on a trial or jail time. If you have been charged with Driving While License Suspended in the Third Degree, contact an experienced attorney today to help guide you through the process.
DWLS in the Second Degree
Driving While License Suspended in the Second Degree (DWLS-2) is much more serious that DWLS-3. This crime is a gross misdemeanor, meaning it is punishable up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine (274 days and $4,000 more than DWLS-3). While you are still unlikely to face jail time, the consequences can still be severe.
DWLS-2 is most frequently charged when the person's license has been suspended due to criminal convictions. Some examples are:
A conviction for DWLS-2 does carry an additional year license suspension beyond the license suspension you already have. In some cases, you may be eligible for a restricted license that will allow you to drive in limited situations. The only way to avoid the suspension is to 1) have your license back at the time of the sentencing and 2) the judge recommend against re-suspension.
A DWLS-2 charge could also be a violation of probation conditions. If you are on probation for DUI or Physical Control, contact an attorney immediately. In addition to the additional license suspension, you could be looking at possible mandatory jail time for the probation violation.
DWLS in the First Degree
Driving While License Suspended in the First Degree (DWLS-1) requires a determination from the DOL that you are a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO). In addition to being a gross misdemeanor (364 days in jail and/or $5,000 fine), DWLS-1 has the following mandatory minimums:
1. 10 days for a first offense;
3. 90 days for a second offense;
3. 180 days for a third or subsequent offense.
Some judges will allow you to serve the time on Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM), while others will make you serve the time in jail. If you have been charged with DWLS-1, it is important to find an attorney who is familiar with the judge(s) and prosecutors in that jurisdiction so you know what consequences you will likely face if convicted.
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