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Habitual Traffic Offender in California

If you have been convicted of a third DUI offense within 10 years in California, not only could you face harsh criminal penalties (e.g., a lengthy jail sentence, costly fines, driver’s license suspension, etc.), but you could also be designated a “habitual traffic offender” (HTO) for at least three years. Additionally, a driver gets HTO status by driving on a suspended or revoked license and accumulates a driving record history.

To show that a person is a habitual traffic offender, the prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • The driver operated a motor vehicle
  • The driver’s driving privileges had been previously suspended or revoked
  • The driver was aware of the license suspension or revocation (i.e., DMV mailed notice to the driver)
  • Within a year of the suspension or revocation period, the defendant incurred (1) two or more convictions within a 12-month period that resulted in two points on his/her DMV record, (2) three or more convictions within a 12-month period that led to one point on his/her DMV record, or (3) three or more accidents within a 12-month period.

Being a habitual traffic offender is both a crime and a status you carry for a specific period. If you have HTO status and you are caught driving on a suspended license, you could face additional criminal penalties.

For example, if you receive notice in the mail from the DMV regarding your HTO status after being convicted of a third DUI offense, you continue to drive despite receiving the notice, and then you get pulled over, you could be charged as a habitual traffic offender.

A first offense is punishable by a jail sentence of up to 30 days and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. A second or subsequent offense within seven years of a prior conviction carries a maximum jail term of 180 days and/or a fine of up to $2,000.

The following are other related offenses involving habitual traffic offenders:

  • Driving with a suspended license – Knowingly driving a vehicle with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor. However, the exact penalties depend on the reason behind the license suspension or revocation.
  • Driving without a license – Operating a vehicle without a valid driver’s license is a “wobblette,” which means the offense is either a misdemeanor or a non-criminal infraction. An infraction carries a maximum $250 fine, while a misdemeanor is punishable by a jail sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of no more than $1,000.
  • Failing to present a driver’s license – You can violate this law by either driving on a highway without carrying a valid driver’s license or refusing to present a license to an officer upon request. Driving without carrying a valid license is an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $250. Refusing to present a license to law enforcement officials is a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum jail term of six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Santa Rosa, CA, call the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. at (707) 418-5352 or fill out our online contact form today to request a free case evaluation. Our firm has successfully represented thousands of clients!