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A Tampa woman received letter in the mail on December 24, 2008, which notified her that her driving privilege was revoked by the State of Florida effective January 13, 2009 for a period of 5 years based on the fact that she was a habitual traffic offender under Florida Statutes Section 322.27(5). The Tampa woman had been represented by another attorney when she entered a plea to driving while license suspended with knowledge in Hillsborough County before Judge Rice. When she entered the plea, the Tampa woman did not understand that regardless of whether Judge Rice withheld adjudication or not, this offense would cause a five year habitual traffic offender (HTO) suspension.
Recent cases in Florida have found that the attorney's failure to tell the client that the plea to a driving while license suspended cases (even if adjudication is withheld) constitute ineffective assistance of counsel because the five year revocation is considered a "collateral consequence" of the plea. However, in many of these cases other reasons exist for vacating or setting aside the plea. The fact that the client was not told by the attorney or the court about the five year revocation goes to the point that the client was prejudiced by plea, which is one factor in determining whether the client is entitled to vacate or set aside the plea.
The Tampa woman hired an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to file a "Motion for New Hearing, Motion in Arrest of Judgment and/or Motion Under Rule 3.850 to Vacate Judgment and Sentence." At the hearing on January 28, 2009, the State did not object to the court vacating the prior sentence. The State agreed that after the sentence was vacated, the Tampa woman would then be eligible to get her driver license reinstated.
Within a few days of the sentence being vacated or set aside, the DMV lifting the HTO revocation. The Tampa woman was then able to obtain a valid driver's license. A few weeks later the woman returned to court with the valid driver's license and the State agreed to reduce the offense to "no valid" driver's license with the same fines and costs originally imposed.
Entering a plea to the offense of "no valid" driver's license does not count toward one of the three offenses that cause a habitual traffic offender revocation. Therefore, once the case was resolved with a plea to "no valid" driver's license (a second degree misdemeanor), the Tampa woman was able to avoid another HTO revocation.
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Many people in Florida suffer with a five year habitual traffic offender suspension not knowing that they can hire an attorney to file a post-conviction motion to attack one of the underlying offenses that caused the HTO status. If you have been declared a habitual traffic offender in Florida, contact the Sammis Law to discuss ways to remove the five (5) year HTO revocation. We represent clients in fighting to remove the HTO designation in Central Florida, including Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Polk County, Pinellas County, Lake County, Hernando County, Manatee County and Sarasota County.