Suspension of one’s license is a temporary withdrawal of one’s ability to legally operate a motor vehicle.

Driving on a suspended license is a serious violation. It is not the same as a typical traffic ticket. Rather, it is a criminal offense and can carry severe penalties—including jail time. In its mildest form, this offense—which is officially referred to as ‘Driving While License Suspended’ (DWLS)—is generally a Class A misdemeanor. This means the judge has discretion to impose a sentence of up to 364 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,500.

While a judge exercising his discretion is very unlikely to sentence a first-time DWLS offender to the maximum penalty available, the Illinois legislature has implemented mandatory minimums for punishing DWLS offenses which have been committed under certain aggravating circumstances. Thus, even a first-time offender may find himself charged with a felony and/or facing jail time for a Will County DWLS citation.

“Aggravating circumstances” which make DWLS a more serious offense include having prior DWLS citations on your record, prior suspensions resulting from DUIs or other serious traffic offenses, and/or having an overall poor driving record. Yet one of the biggest factors courts look at in determining the severity of your DWLS offense is why your current license was suspended in the first place.

The reasons one’s license may be suspended are numerous and vary widely in severity. Suspension of driving privileges is a common consequence for failure to pay a traffic fine, failure to appear in court, failure to comply with emissions-test requirements, unpaid parking tickets, too many moving violations, and driving without insurance. On the other end of the spectrum, suspension or revocation of one’s license is frequently part of the penalty imposed upon conviction of reckless homicide, leaving the scene of a motor-vehicle accident involving personal injury or death, driving under the influence (DUI), or refusing to submit to a blood or breathalyzer test to determine the presence of intoxicants in your blood while driving in Will County. Separately, one’s license may even be suspended for reasons unrelated to driving (e.g., for failure to pay court-ordered child support).

Not surprisingly, the more severe the reason for the suspension, the more severe a DWLS offense will be. For example, if your license was suspended or revoked in connection with a conviction for reckless homicide, an ensuing DWLS offense may carry a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail or 300 hours of community service. If your license is suspended or revoked for certain other violations, including a DUI conviction, you may face a minimum sentence of 10 days in jail or 30 days of community service if cited for driving on a suspended license.

As mentioned above, the number of prior DWLS convictions on your record also has a significant bearing on the severity of a subsequent offense. And just as the reasons underlying your current suspension is relevant, the reasons for suspension or revocation which preceded each prior DWLS offense is also taken into consideration.

The many factors involved in the prosecution of a DWLS charge make it a particularly difficult charge to defend against. In light of its complexity and the serious repercussions a DWLS conviction can have on your life, it is a very good idea to consult an attorney if you have been cited for driving on a suspended license in Joliet or Will County. Hiring an attorney can mean the difference between spending time in jail and remaining home with your family.

To discuss your DWLS charges or other traffic violations with an experienced, Will County attorney, contact Hamilton & Antonsen at 815-729-9220.

Article written by Sarah Hanneken