Definition of Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO)

Under Section 322.264, Florida Statutes, a “habitual traffic offender” is defined as any person whose driving record, as maintained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, shows that such person has, within a five-year period, accumulated:

(1) Three or more convictions of any or all of the following offenses:

  • Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;
  • Any violation of Section 316.193 [DUI];
  • Any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;
  • Driving a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked;
  • Failing to stop and render aid as required under the laws of this state in the event of a motor vehicle crash resulting in the death or personal injury of another; or
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle while his or her privilege is disqualified; or

(2) Fifteen convictions for moving traffic offenses for which points may be assessed as set forth in Section 322.27, Florida Statutes, including those offenses set forth above.

Consequences of HTO Status

Under Section 322.27(5), Florida Statutes, a designation as a habitual traffic offender requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to revoke that person’s Florida driver’s license for a minimum of five years. Unless the designation occurs in error and a hearing is requested to establish the error, the affected driver will not be eligible for a regular driver’s license. The minimum five-year revocation is mandatory, as there is no provision in the law for mitigating or exceptional circumstances. See Chaitkin v. Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, 294 So. 2d 352, 354 (Fla. 1st DCA 1974).

Getting a Hardship License

Under Section 322.271, Florida Statutes, a person whose driving privileges have been revoked due to designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender may, 12 months after the date of revocation, petition the Department of Motor Vehicles for reinstatement of driving privileges in the form of a Hardship or “Business Purpose Only” license.

If not eligible for a hardship or business purpose license, the driver must wait the full five years before petitioning again for restoration of his or her driving privileges. Even then, restoration and reinstatement do not occur automatically. A petition must be filed at the end of the five-year period. State v. Green, 747 So. 2d 1007 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999).

How to Restore Driving Privileges

In appropriate cases, there are steps that can be taken to restore your driving privileges without waiting the full year for a hardship license, or the full five years for a regular license. With an attorney, you may be able to contest the legality of the decision to classify you as a habitual traffic offender in the first place. If you have received a notice of a Florida Habitual Traffic Offender designation, you have thirty days from the date you receive the notice to bring any legal challenges you may have.

Even where there are no legal grounds to challenge the HTO designation based on your driving record, you may have options for vacating prior convictions that counted towards your HTO status. This is done through a Motion to Vacate, which challenges the validity of a prior plea and/or conviction. There are many grounds for challenging a plea and, if the challenge is successful, it may result in a technical conviction being lifted from your driving record. If the vacated conviction was causing your HTO designation, then you may be able to lift the five-year habitual traffic offender revocation.

If you have received a letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles notifying you of a Habitual Traffic Offender revocation, you may have options to save your license. Contact the attorneys at Hussein & Webber, PL. We offer free consultations to all prospective clients in Jacksonville and the surrounding counties of Northeast Florida.