Definition of Violating a License Restriction
A violation of a restricted driver’s license is defined as driving in a manner that is inconsistent with a restriction imposed by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).
The basis for this criminal charge is Section 322.16, Florida Statutes, which empowers the DHSMV to impose a variety of restrictions on a person’s driving privileges, including how that person may drive, the conditions under which they may drive, and the purposes for which they may drive. Section 322.16(1)(c) provides as follows:
The department may . . . at any time, impose . . . restrictions on the use of the license with respect to time and purpose of use or may impose any other condition or restriction upon recommendation of any court, of the Parole Commission, or of the Department of Corrections with respect to any individual who is under the jurisdiction, supervision, or control of the entity that made the recommendation.
Penalties for Violating License Restriction
If a driver is found to be operating a motor vehicle in violation of a driver’s license restriction imposed under Section 322.16(1)(c), he or she commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, which carries penalties of up to 60 days in jail, and a $500 fine.
The offense will also lead to an automatic revocation of the restricted license for the remainder of the driver’s original suspension or revocation term. See Fla. Admin. Code R. 15A-1.019 (2013).
Types of License Restrictions
The Florida DHSMV may impose a multitude of restrictions on a person’s driver’s license. The most common restrictions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Requirements relating to outside rearview mirrors on the left side of vehicles (applicable to persons blind in one eye or deaf or hard of hearing);
- Requirements relating to the wearing of corrective lenses (persons with vision impairments);
- Steering wheel knobs or grips (persons with missing or disabled arms or hands);
- Hand dimmer switches and automatic transmissions (missing or disable feet or legs);
- “Business Purpose Only” and “Employment Purpose Only” licensing (persons who have limited driving privileges due to a demonstrated hardship, even though their licenses were previously suspended or revoked);
Business Purpose or Hardship License
As referenced above, the Florida DHSMV may, in cases where a driver demonstrates a hardship, restricted driving privileges for Business Purposes or Employment Purposes, even though the license was previously suspended or revoked. This frequently occurs in DUI cases or in cases involving Habitual Traffic Offenders where, pursuant to statute, the convicted person’s driving privileges are taken away automatically.
The terms “Business Purpose” and “Employment Purpose” are defined in Section 322.271(1)(c), Florida Statutes. Under the statute, “business purposes only” means “a driving privilege that is limited to any driving necessary to maintain livelihood, including driving to and from work, necessary on-the-job driving, driving for educational purposes, and driving for church and for medical purposes.”
“Employment purposes only” means a driving privilege that is limited to driving to and from work and any necessary on-the-job driving required by an employer or occupation.
“Business” or “employment purpose” driving privileges will be noted on the physical license issued to the restricted driver. Certain persons, however, are not eligible for these limited privileges, even if an extreme hardship is demonstrated. These persons include:
- Persons who have been convicted of two or more violations of DUI, which does not result in a five or ten year revocation;
- Persons suspended two or more times for refusal to submit to lawful breath, blood or urine tests;
- Persons revoked for five years for two convictions of driving under the influence or driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level within five years, must serve twelve months of the revocation period, complete a Department approved substance abuse course, be under the supervision of a DUI school, abstain from drinking, and abstain from driving for a 1 year period prior to applying for reinstatement on a restricted basis;
- Persons revoked for ten years for three convictions of driving under the influence or driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level within a ten year period, must serve twenty-four (24) months of the revocation period, complete a substance abuse course, be under the supervision of a DUI school, and abstain from drinking, and abstain from driving for a 1 year period prior to application for a restricted driver’s license;
- Persons permanently revoked for four or more convictions of driving under the influence or DUI manslaughter, or because of a conviction of manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle or vehicular homicide and has been convicted of driving under the influence, or DUI manslaughter may, upon the expiration of 5 years after the date of such revocation, petition the Department for reinstatement of driving privilege. It must be demonstrated to the Department that the petitioner has not been arrested for a drug-related offense during the revocation period, not have driven a motor vehicle without a license for at least five years, been drug free for at least five years prior to the hearing, and has completed a court approved substance abuse driver training course. The person must be supervised under a court-approved DUI program conducting substance abuse education, and report to the program for counseling evaluation and education at least four times a year, or as required by the program, for the remainder of the revocation period;
- Habitual traffic offenders who have not served the first year of their five year revocation;
- Persons suspended under the financial responsibility law are prohibited from any reinstatement until they comply with the requirements of the law in Chapter 324, F.S.
Defenses to the Charge
Most criminal prosecutions brought under Section 322.16, Florida Statutes, derive from alleged violations of business purpose or employment purpose licenses. Due to the broad definition of these terms used in Section 322.271, the charges are often defendable for lack of proof.
Although a police officer may strongly suspect that a person was not driving for the purposes allowed by their license, the State of Florida must present evidence that this was in fact the case. This is often difficult where the suspect remains silent, denies driving for an inappropriate purpose, or offers an explanation of a legitimate purpose.
Even where the accused admits to driving for an inappropriate purpose, he or she will be entitled to a judgment of acquittal unless the State of Florida can present evidence independent of the admission that a violation of the restriction had occurred. This principle is known as ‘corpus delicti,’ which requires proof of all elements of a criminal offense before a defendant’s confession can be admitted into evidence.
Other defenses to Violation of a Restricted Driver’s License can include the following:
- Restriction not noted on license;
- Defendant not operating the vehicle;
- Restriction had not taken effect;
- The alleged driving did not occur on a “highway,” as defined in Section 322.01(39), Florida Statutes;
- Unlawful traffic stop conducted without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
Case Example- License Restriction
State vs. T.F. (Fourth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Florida) (2014)– our client was charged with Violation of a Driver’s License Restriction after allegedly joyriding with his wife and daughter, a violation of the restrictions imposed on his Business Purpose Only License. In actuality, our client repaired and sold older vehicles for his livelihood, and was merely test-driving a vehicle that he was in the process of fixing.
The prosecution insisted that our client enter a plea to the charge. This would have resulted in our client losing his driving privileges for years until his status as a Habitual Traffic Offender was lifted.
Upon being retained in the case, our attorneys immediately set the matter for trial. We disclosed our client’s wife, daughter, and neighbor as witnesses, and acquired the investigating police officer’s supplemental narrative. The narrative was exculpatory in nature and had not been disclosed by the prosecution.
On the day of trial, the prosecutor requested a continuance, citing the unavailability of the police officer as a witness. On the second trial date, the State announced a dismissal of all charges.
Outcome: Case dismissed.
Importance of an Attorney
Violation of a Driver’s License Restriction is a serious offense, not only because of its criminal nature, but because any plea to such a charge will result in an automatic loss of driving privileges. There are numerous defenses to avoid this type of outcome, and an attorney is critical to protect your rights and interests.
If you have been accused of violating a driver’s license restriction, including a ‘business purpose only’ license, in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Broward County, Martin County, St. Lucie County, or Baker County, Florida, contact attorney Steven Sessa for a free consultation.