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Driving while suspended is easier to prove in Virginia than Maryland. Beware such charges

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People usually only hire me, as a private practitioner, for suspended driving defense when related to such a more serious charge as drunk driving or possessing contraband in the vehicle.

When I was a Maryland public defender lawyer in the early 1990’s, I defended scores of such charges, never losing them at trial, and only advising clients to plead guilty to suspended driving when that was a compromise to dismiss more serious charges. In Maryland, an acquittal can be in the makings on a charge of suspended driving so long as the driver does not tell the police officer that the driver knows his or her license is suspended, and so long as the prosecutor is unable to show admissible evidence that the defendant received (rather than merely was mailed) notice of his or her suspension from the relevant state driver license authority. Rice v. Md., 133 Md. App. 593, 766 A.2d 663 (2001).

Beware the different situation in Virginia, where a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle driving record showing delivery of a suspension notice, can be sufficient to convict for suspended driving without requiring proof that the defendant received the notice. However, if the DMV notice shows that the notice was not picked up or otherwise received or was not deliverable, then the DMV record has not proven delivery. Carew v. Va., ___ Va. App. ___ (Nov. 26, 2013).

A conviction for suspended driving in Virginia and Maryland brings all sorts of headaches, including points off one’s license further suspended driving.

At a more serious level, because suspended driving is a jailable offense in Virginia and Maryland, if the police wish to search the driver’s person for contraband, having probable cause for suspended driving greenlights such a police search.

Consequently, I recommend assuring that you periodically check your state driving record for accuracy and for any suspension notices, and that you avoid any circumstances that might suspend your license, including but not limited to missing challenging or paying moving violation tickets and fighting moving violation charges so as to reduce the risk of accumulating enough points so as to trigger a suspension. Also, beware of circumstances, including ignoring out-of-state moving violation tickets, that might get your driving privileges suspended in states where your driving license was not even issued.