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Habitual Traffic Offender: A Look at HTO and the Legal Consequences

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You have just received a letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles informing you that you are deemed a “habitual traffic offender” and your license is being revoked for five years.

Huh? How did this occur? And what are the possible implications?

What it Means to Be an Habitual Traffic Offender

First, the law of an habitual traffic offender is very difficult and confusing to understand.

Many lawyers have difficulty understanding the law on habitual traffic offenders. As you can imagine, if lawyers who regularly deal with the law have difficulty grasping the subject matter, many people who are not involved with the law every day can easily become confused.

The law in South Carolina defines a habitual traffic offender (HTO) as having committed a certain number of traffic offenses in a three-year period. The precise number needed to trigger HTO status varies according to the nature of the offenses; it can take as few as three convictions for the most serious traffic crimes. For the purposes of measuring the three-year period, the dates that the offenses were committed are considered, not the dates the court convicted or sentenced the offender.

Once someone is deemed an habitual traffic offender, his driver’s license will be revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles for five years. In limited circumstances, an offender can apply to have the five-year revocation reduced to two years, but there is no certainty this request will be granted.

How HTO Status Affects the Rest of Your Life

If someone is convicted of operating a motor vehicle while the habitual traffic offender revocation is in effect, he will be judged guilty of a felony and may be incarcerated for up to five years. In order for the state to convict a driver under this law, the prosecutor must show the driver was operating a motor vehicle in South Carolina while under a department ruling that the driver is a habitual offender.

The law on habitual traffic offenders does not specifically address how notice of HTO status must be given to the driver. In other areas of the law dealing with suspensions and revocations of a license, regular mail to the address on file with the DMV is appropriate notice.

HTO status eventually ends, as long as the offender does not commit other traffic offenses while his license is revoked. Prior to getting the driver’s license back, he would have to get SR-22 insurance and meet all the financial responsibility requirements of the law.

HTO Law Is Nothing to Trifle With

As you can see, driving infractions should be taken very seriously. We know from experience that drivers who handle their own traffic cases without sufficient care can find themselves classified as habitual offenders. If you have been charged with operating a motor vehicle while considered an habitual traffic offender, you are facing grave criminal charges that carry serious penalties.

If you have been deemed an HTO or charged with an HTO offense and wish to talk to an attorney, please contact our office at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841. The criminal defense attorneys at Holland & Usry, P.A., regularly handle these types of cases.

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