Defenses For Driving While Suspended in DC

In DC driving while on a suspended license is a serious charge that often results in a longer license suspension and even fines and jail time. Due to these consequences, it is important that those accused develop the strongest defense possible to protect themselves. With this in mind, the following are possible defenses for those accused of driving on a suspended license.

To learn more about these defenses or for assistance developing a defense based on your specific circumstance schedule a free consultation with a DC driving while suspended lawyer today.

Evidence in Driving While Suspended Cases

The first evidence that they will need to produce is evidence that you were the one who was operating your vehicle. They do not need to show that you were actually driving the car but they do need to show that you had some kind of operational control of your vehicle.

Simply sitting in the back of your car may not be enough to be able to show that you were in operational control. Sitting in the front seat of a car with the keys in your pocket may also not be enough to show that you are in operational control because the car cannot be moved unless the keys are in the ignition.

Typically, prosecutors would use the officer who claims to have first seen you in the car as a witness to prove operation.

The second thing that they would need to show is that your license was suspended at the time that you were driving. They would need to have documents from the DMV and they would need to have a representative from the DMV that suspended your license to be able to show the day on which your driver’s license was suspended and they need to be able to produce the appropriate documentation to prove that.

What The Prosecution Must Prove

Recently the DC court of appeals ruled that the prosecutors do not need to show that you intended to drive on a suspended license or that you even had to know that your license was suspended. This is what is called a strict liability offense.

What this means is that all the prosecutors need to be able to prove is that you were the one operating your vehicle and that at the time your license was suspended. They do not need to show any intent or even knowledge.

Specific Driving While Suspended Defenses

Because you are not required to know that your license was suspended there is not a defense of inadequate notice. However, if a person’s license was wrongly suspended and the person did not receive notice of that, then you may have a defense to argue that you would have had no way of knowing that your license is suspended because the DMV incorrectly suspended you in the first place.

Other defenses might be that you were not in operational control of your car at the time that the police alleged you were operating it; for example, you were not inside your car at the time or you were in the passenger seat as opposed to the driver’s seat. Or when you were in the driver’s seat you had no way of putting the car in motion.

Challenging The Initial Suspension of Your License

The initial suspension of your license is usually not an issue in most driving on a suspended license cases because suspensions are handled by the Department of Motor Vehicles while your criminal charges are filed by the Office of the Attorney General for DC and handled in DC Superior Court.

However, if your license was erroneously suspended due to, as an example, an administrative error you had no knowledge of, this can be a possible defense to your charges.

Constitutional Issues in Driving While Suspended Cases

If a police officer pulls you over claiming you committed some kind of traffic violation and subsequently arrests you because your license was suspended at the time, there may be a constitutional issue on the underlying reason why you were pulled over in the first place.

If the police cannot establish some kind of reasonable suspicion that you were committing a traffic offense to justify stopping you, then the stop may have violated your rights under the Fourth Amendment.