Driving While License Suspended (DWLS)
Washington State recognizes three levels of suspension: First, Second and Third. RCW 46.20.342
Driving while license suspended in the third degree is the least serious of the three levels. It is punishable by up to 90 days in jail. The prosecutor merely has to prove that you drove your car while your license was suspended in this or any other state and that the DOL complied with required notice and due process. These cases are often frustrating because many people unknowingly commit this offense. For example, if a person forgets to pay a ticket then the Department of License (DOL) will suspend his/ her privilege to drive and send the suspension notification to their last known address. The person may never receive the DOL suspension notification if they move residences or if their mail is misplaced. Unfortunately, the first time it is brought to his/ her attention is when they are stopped for a minor traffic infraction and the officer cites them for a criminal offense. Often, you must pay a heavy fine to get your license reinstated. Some cases can be negotiated to a traffic infraction if your license is reinstated.
Second degree charges generally comes about as the result of being convicted of a crime (like DUI or Felony Eluding) or an Administrative Action (DUI). Conviction for DWLS 2nd carries with it the likelihood of jail time and one year license suspension in addition to existing suspensions. It is punishable up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. If you are convicted of this crime your license will be revoked for an additional year. If your license is revoked it means you will have to take the driver's test again before you can get your license back.
Those suspended in the 1st degree are labeled Habitual Traffic Offenders. Conviction for DWLS 1st degree carries with it mandatory minimum sentences: 10 days, 90 days, and 180 days for the first, second, third convictions. There is also an additional 12 months of license suspension for each conviction. This is the most serious driving while suspended offense. If convicted, your license will be revoked for years. People at this suspension level tend to “stack” these charges by continuing to drive and getting caught. This means that when they are finally taken into custody, they can be looking at significant time behind bars. It is punishable up to a 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. If you find yourself in a situation like this, talk to your attorney immediately, the longer you wait – the more trouble you will get yourself into.