If you accumulate three or more serious traffic violations in SC or ten or more violations that carry four points or more, within three years, you will be declared a habitual traffic offender in SC.
That means your license will be “revoked,” although the revocation is not permanent, and you may be able to get your license reinstated early. It also means that, if you are caught driving, you can be charged with a felony that carries up to five years in prison instead of a misdemeanor driving under suspension charge…
How can a criminal defense attorney help you if you’ve been declared a habitual traffic offender?
- If you have been declared a habitual traffic offender in SC, the attorneys at Coastal Law may be able to help you get your license reinstated;
- If the DMV made a mistake in declaring you a habitual traffic offender, we may be able to challenge your status in an administrative proceeding; and
- If you are charged with driving while you are a habitual traffic offender, our criminal defense attorneys are ready to fight for you to get your charges dismissed, try your case to a jury, or negotiate the best possible outcome depending on the facts of your case and your goals.
Habitual Traffic Offender in SC Means Your License is “Revoked”
If the SC DMV declares you a habitual traffic offender, your license is revoked for five years, although you may be able to get your license reinstated sooner.
How does that happen?
What is a Habitual Traffic Offender in SC?
SC Code Section 56-1-1020 says that if you accumulate three or more serious traffic offenses within a three-year period, the DMV will declare that you are a habitual traffic offender and revoke your license. These offenses include:
- Voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or reckless homicide if the offense involved a motor vehicle;
- DUI, DUAC, or felony DUI;
- Reckless driving;
- Driving under suspension (DUS);
- Any traffic offense that is a felony or any felony that involved a motor vehicle; and
- Leaving the scene of an accident where there was death or injury.
You can also be declared a habitual traffic offender in SC if you have ten or more traffic offenses that carry four or more points or a combination of violations that are four points or greater with offenses that are listed above.
Can I Challenge Habitual Traffic Offender Status in SC?
If you are declared a habitual traffic offender, the DMV must notify you of their determination. That “notice must provide that a person aggrieved by the department determination may file a request for a contested case hearing with the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings in accordance with its rules of procedure.”
If we challenge your habitual traffic offender status, there will be an administrative hearing with a DMV hearing officer.
Can you win an administrative hearing with the DMV?
If they got it wrong, we should be able to prove it at the hearing and they will return your license. For example, in SCDMV v. Dover, the SC Court of Appeals affirmed the administrative court’s decision to return Dover’s license because the DMV got it wrong.
The DMV had wrongly counted a reckless driving from the State of Virginia as one of Dover’s three serious traffic offenses although the Virginia conviction was based solely on speeding – conduct that would not have qualified as reckless driving in SC.
How Can a Habitual Traffic Offender Get Their License Back?
So, how do you get your license back if you have been declared a habitual offender?
SC Code Section 56-1-1090 says that your license will be returned five years after the date the DMV determined you were a habitual traffic offender.
But we may be able to help you get your license restored after only two years “for good cause shown” if:
- This was the first time that you were declared a habitual traffic offender in any state;
- You have not driven any motor vehicle for the two years;
- You have not been convicted of any alcohol or drug offenses during the two years and no alcohol or drug offenses are pending when you request reinstatement;
- You have not been convicted of or have charges pending for any of the traffic violations listed in 56-1-1020 during the two years; and
- You do not have any other license suspensions that would prevent you from regaining your license.
If you meet these requirements, it is worthwhile to request early reinstatement of your driver’s license and cut your revocation from five years to just two.
Habitual Traffic Offender in SC is a Criminal Offense
Everything we’ve discussed so far is administrative – decisions made by the DMV and hearings requested before the administrative courts, but habitual traffic offender status can also result in felony criminal charges.
SC Code Section 56-1-1100 makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison if you are convicted of driving while you are a habitual traffic offender.
- If you have been declared a habitual traffic offender and you believe the DMV has made a mistake, contact your attorney asap and challenge the DMV’s determination;
- If you are eligible, get your license reinstated after two years or as early as possible;
- Don’t drive while you are a habitual traffic offender; and
- Do not plead guilty to either a habitual traffic offender violation, driving under suspension (which results in another consecutive license suspension), or any traffic offense that could result in a habitual traffic offender determination without first consulting with your attorney.
Habitual Traffic Offender Status and DUS Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you have been charged with a serious traffic violation in SC, do not plead guilty without first talking to an experienced SC criminal defense lawyer.
If the court, officer, or prosecutor may tell you that the consequences are only a fine, they are not telling you the whole truth – a conviction for reckless driving, driving under suspension (DUS), driving under the influence (DUI), or any serious traffic offense may also result in a license revocation.
The Myrtle Beach traffic violation attorneys at Coastal Law may be able to help you avoid the negative consequences of a traffic violation, fight habitual traffic offender status, or get your license reinstated after a revocation. Schedule a free consultation by completing our online form or by calling us at (843) 488-5000.