According to the Osceola County Clerk of Court Kelvin Soto, Esq., yes.
Mr. Soto recently said, “The ability to legally drive is not only a privilege to be promoted, but for many, it is a necessity, without which, the ability to maintain a household, participate in the community, and exercise basic freedoms would be jeopardized.”
His office participates with other state court clerk offices in “OPERATION GREEN LIGHT”, a program helping people whose licenses are suspended by waiving late fees and offering payment plans.
That puts Mr. Soto in a unique position to see people really hurting because their driving privileges are gone. He sees every day that a suspended license costs people their jobs, homes and their health.
Mr. Soto certainly seems sympathetic, but does the “necessity defense” stand up in court?
Unfortunately, the short answer is usually not.
Florida has very limited defenses to driving with license suspended or revoked. The legislature has created harsh penalties for this non-violent offense that don’t match up with its severity (more on that in another article).
If you want to argue the defense of necessity to driving with a suspended/revoked license, it’s more complicated than just showing that a drivers’ license is necessary to your livelihood/health.
The following elements are paraphrased for the sake of this blog, but you have to show all of them in court to defend yourself on necessity:
- You must reasonably believe that you had to drive on a suspended/revoked license to avoid immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to yourself or others;
- You didn’t purposely or foolishly put yourself in a situation where being forced to drive on the suspended license was a possibility;
- Driving on a suspended license was the only way to avoid harm;
- The harm you tried to avoid by driving on a suspended license was greater than the crime of DWLS; and
- You stopped driving as soon as you were safely away from the harm.
Driving to and from work usually doesn’t meet all these requirements for a necessity defense to DWLS.
It seems that the necessity defense works best when you have to get away from danger, or when you have to drive because of a medical emergency when you can’t call an ambulance.