One important point I convey to my clients who are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol ("DUI") is the severity of the penalties they face if they are caught driving while their licenses are suspended. The penalties include substantial fines ($500-$1,000), jail time (60-90 days) and a 12 month extension of the suspension. Many clients are surprised to hear these are possible consequences and some have even admitted that they may have risked driving during the suspension had I not made them aware.
In a prior post, I wrote about the advantages of an Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition ("ARD") for someone facing DUI charges. One of the advantages is that ARD typically results in a shorter driver’s license suspension (typically 0-90 days depending on the circumstances) than a DUI conviction (typically 12-18 months). This is important to note because an ARD participant with a mere 60 day license suspension can find themselves with a 12 month extension of their suspended license if they are caught driving during the suspension.
There are some ways to defend charges of driving while your license is suspended. For example, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver received the appropriate notice that their license was suspended. This is not as simple as it sounds, because the Commonwealth cannot merely show that they sent a notice to the driver’s address. Additionally, the Commonwealth must establish that the police had "probable cause" to pull over the driver. In other words, they must have a valid reason for initiating the traffic stop.
Although it is certainly better to refrain from driving on a suspended license, it is clear that those charged with driving while their licenses are suspended for DUI should consult with an attorney to ensure their understanding of the consequences they face and any options that might be available to them.