The criminal defense lawyers in our office routinely represent clients in the St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Pinellas county area who are charged with driving while their license is suspended, leaving the scene of an accident and violations of probation. Each of these offenses may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor offense. The elements of these offenses are fairly straight forward and clients typically have a good understanding of these types of charges. However, such is not the case with the criminal traffic offense referred to as “violation of driver’s license restriction.” Law enforcement officers typically have a superior knowledge when it comes to these offenses and they often use their experience and training in an effort to snare drivers for a violation of this offense.
How to Determine if You Have a Driver’s License “Restriction”
The front of your Florida driver’s license is filled with hidden data, important color designations and ghost images. The back of your license contains a PDF417 stacked linear 2D bar code. If you look closely, you may recognize that this barcode format as the same used by businesses to print postage and to provide delivery data on Fed Ex envelopes. It is also the industry standard for airline boarding passes. Most importantly, the PDF417 bar code is the technology approved by the Department of Homeland Security .
Examine your own driver’s license and look for the “Restriction” section, which is abbreviated as “REST.” You will note that in the yellow highlighted image, driver “Nick Sample” has both a “B” and an “F” restriction. (The “B” restriction requires him to only operate vehicles equipped with a left outside rearview mirror. The “F” restriction means that he is licensed to operate only automobiles that are equipped with an automatic transmission.) A comprehensive list of Restriction Codes appears at the bottom of this article.
The Most Common Violations
The most common type of charges for a violation of your driver’s license restrictions are:
“A” (Corrective Lenses): See Florida Statute 322.16(1)(a) (Moving traffic infraction)
“P” (Ignition Interlocks): See Florida Statute 322.2715 (Criminal offense)
“C” (Business Purposes Only): See Florida Statute 322.271(1)(c)1. (Criminal Offense)
“D” (Employment Purposes Only): See Florida Statute 322.271(1)(c)2. (Criminal Offense
A summary of these four restrictions can be found below in our list of “Florida Driver’s License Restriction Codes.”
Police Tactics in Arrests for Violation of Driver’s License Restrictions
Police officers will often use the following tactics in determining whether to arrest or charge a driver with a violation of their “business purposes only” or “employment purposes only” restrictions:
- Asking the driver where he was coming from and what was his intended destination;
- Ascertaining whether the motorist's general location and direction of travel is consistent with with his stated purpose for driving;
- Making note of the time of day and whether the time is inconsistent with the driver’s given reason for driving;
- Taking note of what type of clothing the driver is wearing and whether their attire is inconsistent with the driver’s given reason for driving;
- Taking note of the contents of the automobile and whether items observed in the vehicle are inconsistent with the driver’s given reason for driving;
- Ascertaining if there are any passengers in the vehicle and if the presence of passengers is inconsistent with the driver’s given reason for driving;
- Making an effort to determine if the driver has consumed alcoholic beverages or appears impaired from illegal drugs or prescription medication.
Can You “Beat the Charge?”
The legislature’s failure to provide greater specificity and a general lack of appellate case law interpreting these statutes is cause for concern. Because of the vagueness of the statutes and the limited clarification by Florida appellate courts, law enforcement officers possess an undue amount of discretion in concluding whether the driver is violating the law. There are a host of “grey areas” where an interpretation by one police officer might differ from that of another officer. More importantly, after hearing the facts, it is not uncommon for a judge to differ in opinion with that of a patrol officer by finding that the “restriction” did not prohibit the driving complained of. Although the motorist is vindicated, it is only after having suffered an arrest and prosecution. It is for this reason, that when criminal defense attorneys are asked to “speculate” on whether a certain basis for driving is prohibited under a restricted license, they often use the expression “You May Ultimately Beat the Rap, But You Probably Won’t Beat the Ride.” In other words, although a judge might later conclude you did nothing wrong, you may still be forced to suffer the indignation of ride to the Pinellas County Jail in a police cruiser.
Getting convicted of a driver’s license restriction could not only subject you to a jail sentence and substantial fine, but it will likely cause your restricted privilege to drive to be outright suspended. In other words, you could be left with no driver’s license at all. That is because Florida Statute 322.16(4) empowers the DHSMV to suspend your privilege to drive when they receive notice from the courts that you have violated the restrictive terms of your driving privilege.
How We Can Help Protect Your Freedom and Privilege to Drive
Although the facts and circumstance of every case are different, there are a number of strategies we can evaluate in defending your charge and protecting your continued privilege to drive. At times, the prosecutor can be convinced that withdrawing the charge is in the “best interests of justice.” There is also the possibility of filing a motion to dismiss with the court and seeking the judge’s intervention in righting a wrong. If a non-jury or jury trial is deemed inappropriate, we can negotiate a “plea bargain” in our effort to secure you a withholding of adjudication. This final outcome would subject you to penalties, but at the same time would avoid a formal conviction and save your driving privilege.
Florida Driver’s License Restriction Codes:
A = CORRECTIVE LENSES: A driver is required to wear corrective lenses (eye glasses or contact lenses) at all times when operating a vehicle.
B = OUTSIDE REARVIEW MIRROR: (Left Side) The driver must only operate vehicles outfitted with a left outside rearview mirror on the car.
C = BUSINESS PURPOSES ONLY: Driving is limited for essential purposes - driving to and from work and on-the-job driving, for educational purposes, to church & synagogue and for medical purposes - (Recreational use driving is strictly prohibited)
D = EMPLOYMENT PURPOSES ONLY: Driving is strictly limited to driving to and from work and on-the-job.
E = DAYLIGHT DRIVING ONLY: The operator of a motor vehicle can only drive during daylight hours.
F = AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION: The driver may only operate a vehicle that is equipped with an automatic transmission.
G = POWER STEERING: The driver may only operate a vehicle equipped with power steering.
I = DIRECTIONAL SIGNALS: The driver may only operate a vehicle equipped with mechanical directional signals.
J = GRIP ON STEERING WHEEL: Requires that the driver only operate a vehicle equipped with a knob or grip attached to the steering wheel.
K = HEARING AID: Requires the driver to wear a hearing aid at all times while operating the vehicle.
L = SEAT CUSHION: Requires the operator of a vehicle to implement the use of a seat cushion at all times while he or she is driving.
M = HAND CONTROLS OR PEDAL EXTENSION: Requires the vehicle to be equipped with hand controls or an attached pedal extension.
N = LEFT FOOT ACCELERATOR: The driver can only operate a vehicle that has been mechanically altered to a left foot accelerator.
P = PROBATION-INTERLOCK DEVICE: These drivers may only operate a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock at times specified by the court or DHSMV who imposed the restriction.
S = OTHER RESTRICTIONS: Signifies that other restrictions are imposed on this license.
T = NO PASSENGERS ON MOTORCYCLE: The driver when operating a motorcycle is prohibited from having passengers.
X = MEDICAL ALERT BRACELET: The driver must wear a medical alert bracelet at any and all times he or she is operating the vehicle.
Y = EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY: The driver is limited to operating a vehicle solely for educational purposes.
Attorneys You Can Count On
You are invited to meet with us for a free consultation. Let’s discuss a strategy that is designed on achieving the best possible outcome.
At Russo & Russo, we are experienced Attorneys who handle cases arising out of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and the Pinellas County area.
Former State Prosecutors
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For Lawyers – Circuit Appellate Decisions
Britt v. State, 50 Fla. Supp. 2d 16, 17 (9th Jud. Cir., 1991) Orange and Osceola
State v. Quiroli, 9 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 780b (15th Jud. Cir., Sep 12 2002) Palm Beach
Vilches v. State, 12 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 530a (11th Jud. Cir., Mar 29 2005) Dade
Allart v. State, 9 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 499c (6th Jud. Cir., 2001) Pinellas and Pasco