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Driving while license suspended 1st degree (HTO)

A habitual traffic offender (HTO) is a driver who, within a 5-year period, has been:

The violation dates of all the offenses must have occurred within the 5-year period. However, if more than one of these offenses are committed within a 6-hour period, they are only counted as 1 offense on the first occasion.

Fighting the Crime Itself

In order for the Prosecutor to establish their case, they only need to prove three things:  1.  The Defendant drove a motor vehicle.  2.  In the State of Washington.  and 3.  On the day in question, the Defendant was suspended in the second degree. 

Inherent within these elements are two more requirements: First, was the Defendant stopped by law enforcement legally?  Second, did the Department of Licensing comply with the requirements of Due Process when it sent notice to the Defendant of his or her license suspension?

The first three items are factual questions.  If the Prosecutor cannot prove those facts in Court, then the case will either get dismissed or the Defendant will be acquitted at trial.  The last two items are legal questions.  Sit down and talk to a lawyer about the facts of what happened.  If there was a problem with the Probable Cause for the stop or a Due Process violation, your lawyer will find it.  These types of problems can be fatal to the Prosecutor's criminal case because the remedy for a violation like these is suppression of the evidence - which means the Defendant wins.

As an interesting side note, the law allows police officer's to basis their stop of someone's vehicle on information that the registered owner's license is suspended, rather than on any proof that the registered is actually driving the vehicle.  RCW 46.20.349 states "Any police officer who has received notice of the suspension or revocation of a driver's license from the department of licensing, may, during the reported period of such suspension or revocation, stop any motor vehicle identified by its vehicle license number as being registered to the person whose driver's license has been suspended or revoked. The driver of such vehicle shall display his driver's license upon request of the police officer.”

Mandatory Penalties

Conviction for DWLS 1 is a gross misdemeanor that carries with it mandatory imprisonment.  The first offense is 10 days then 90 days then 180 days for the third and subsequent convictions.  As discussed below, the Department of Licensing will also suspend your license.

Loss of driving privilege

If you are found to be a habitual traffic offender, your driver license will be revoked for 7 years or until reinstated.

If you meet requirements, you may request a hearing to stay (not impose) the revocation or to reinstate your driving privilege.  All hearing requests must be submitted in writing.

Stay hearings


If the offenses that led to the HTO were caused by drug or alcohol dependency, you may request a hearing to have your license revocation stayed (not imposed). A stay may be granted if:

How to request a stay hearing

To request a stay hearing, complete a Adobe PDF iconHabitual Traffic Offender Hearing Request and mail or fax it to us at:

Reinstatement hearings


You may qualify for a reinstatement hearing if:

You cannot reinstate your driving privilege if you are currently incarcerated in any correctional facility.  If you are incarcerated, please wait until you are close to your release date before requesting a reinstatement hearing.

Other issues may affect your driving privilege

Individuals with a habitual offender revocation often have other issues with their driving privilege.  All licensing issues must be resolved before DOL can issue a new license.

Copyright © 2010 The Cahoon Law Office - All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The criminal driving defense information presented at this site should not be considered formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results set forth here were dependent on the facts of that case and the results will differ from case to case. Please contact a Washington State drunk driving lawyer or attorney for a free initial consultation. This web site is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of Washington.

My defense law firm serves the following Western Washington communities, among others: Snohomish County, King County, Skagit County, Alderwood, Arlington, Bellingham, Bothell, Brier, Camino Island, Darrington, Edgewood, Edmonds, Everett, Gold Bar, Granite Falls, Index, Lake Stevens, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mill Creek, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, Tulalip, Mukilteo, Silvana, Smokey Point, Snohomish, Stanwood, Sultan, Woodway, Anacortes, Bow, Burlington, Clearlake, Concrete, Hamilton, La Conner, Lyman, Marbelmount, Mount Vernon, Sedro Wooley, Bellevue, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Mercer Island, Redmond, Seattle, Shoreline, Woodinville.

I also serve the following Zip Codes: 98011, 98012, 98020, 98021, 98026, 98033, 98034, 98036, 98037, 98043, 98046, 98052, 98072, 98082, 98087, 98201, 98203, 98204, 98205, 98206, 98207, 98208, 98213, 98223, 98241, 98251, 98252, 98256, 98258, 98259, 98270, 98271, 98272, 98273, 98274, 98275, 98287, 98290, 98291, 98292, 98293, 98294, 98296





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