What Is a Habitual Traffic Offender?
A habitual traffic offender (HTO) is someone who drives on a suspended or revoked license and commits repeated traffic violations, accumulating excess points on their driving record. Habitual traffic offenders can be a serious danger on the road, and as such, the penalties for HTO status can be quite harsh. Under California Vehicle Code Section 14601.3, you can be charged if the following elements are met:
- Your license was previously suspended or revoked
- You knew of this suspension or revocation
- Within a 12 month period, you had:
- Two or more convictions that resulted in two points on your DMV record (these are generally more serious crimes like DUI, reckless driving, or hit and run); OR
- Three or more convictions that resulted in one point on your DMV record (these are generally minor traffic violations like speeding or running a stop sign); OR
- Three or more accidents that were subject to the reporting requirements of VC 16000 (you caused over $750 in property damage or bodily injury)
Penalties for Habitual Traffic Offender Status
The penalties for habitual traffic offender status depend on how many convictions the defendant has. For a first conviction, HTO status is punishable by:
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to 30 days in county jail
For a second conviction, or any subsequent offense within seven years of a prior conviction, this is punishable by:
- Up to $2,000 in fines
- Up to 180 days in county jail
How Can I Fight a Habitual Traffic Offender Status?
If you have been accused of violating VC Section 14601.3, not all hope is lost. You may be able to challenge this accusation with a good defense and get your charges reduced or even dismissed. Reach out to an experienced traffic attorney as soon as possible to go over your case and see if any of the following defenses apply to you.
First, you can only be convicted for being a habitual traffic offender if you had knowledge that your license was suspended or revoked. Typically, the DMV will send you a notice if your license has been suspended or revoked stating that you are unable to drive a vehicle. If you did not receive this letter, your attorney may be able to assert the defense that you did not have notice or knowledge and thus cannot be convicted of this crime.
Another valid legal defense may be driving out of necessity. There could be several instances where you have no choice but to drive. For example, if your passenger is experiencing a medical emergency, you can show that you had sufficiently good reason to commit a traffic violation. In such cases, the necessity defense may work for you.
One final defense may be if you were the victim of a false arrest or misidentification. Traffic violations often happen quickly, and mistakes can occur. Furthermore, it may be difficult to find eyewitnesses to confirm what happened. If the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the person who committed the violation, then the charges can be dismissed.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are accused of being a habitual traffic offender, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is the best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of traffic violations, and we have the skills and resources to secure the best outcome for you.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you.
Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.