While ignorance of the law is generally not a valid defense, in many criminal matters, the State must nonetheless prove that the defendant meant to engage in criminal activity. Thus, if the State cannot establish intent beyond a reasonable doubt, it may be grounds for a non-guilty verdict or reversal of a conviction. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant’s conviction for driving with a suspended license was reversed due to the State’s failure to prove he knowingly committed a crime. If you are charged with driving with a suspended license or any other offense, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to assess your rights.
Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant was stopped by a police officer, after which he was charged with driving with a suspended license and possessing marijuana in excess of 20 grams. Prior to trial, he moved for acquittal, but his motion was denied. Following the trial, he was found guilty as charged. He appealed his conviction for driving with a suspended license, arguing that the State failed to meet its burden of proof. Upon review, the appellate court agreed, reversing his conviction.
Proving the Offense of Driving with a Suspended License
Under Florida Statutes section 322.34(2), it is a crime for a person to drive with a suspended license. To convict a person of this offense, the State must establish each element as set forth under the law. Specifically, it must show that the defendant’s driver’s license was suspended at the time the crime was allegedly committed and that the defendant knew his or her license was suspended but drove a vehicle regardless.
As to the knowledge element of the offense, the law states that knowledge is proven if the person admits to being aware that his or her license was suspended, if the person has previously been cited for driving with a suspended license, or if the person received notice of the suspension. In cases in which a judgment or order was entered against the person, it is presumed that he or she knows of the license suspension, but the presumption is rebuttable.
In the subject case, the State’s sole evidence with regards to knowledge was the video of the defendant’s arrest and the testimony from the arresting officers regarding their personal knowledge of the license suspension. The State failed to introduce the defendant’s driving record or any evidence that would indicate that the defendant was aware that his license had been suspended. As the State failed to present competent evidence to establish the element of knowledge, the appellate court found that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion for acquittal and reversed his conviction.
Meet with a Dedicated Attorney in Florida
Driving with a suspended license can result in significant penalties, and it is important for anyone charged with this offense to speak to an attorney to discuss what defenses may be available. Genine Ann Mejia is a dedicated traffic violation defense attorney, and she can advise you of your options for seeking the best result available under the facts of your case. You can contact Ms. Mejia via the form online or by calling (386) 463-0849 to set up a confidential meeting.