Driving with a Suspended/Revoked License



In the State of Washington, an invalid license is typically one that has been suspended or revoked. Under RCW 46.20.342, driving with a suspended license (or one that has been revoked) is a criminal offense. This offense is often called by its acronym, DWLS.

There are three degrees of this criminal offense. In Washington, driving with a suspended license is the most charged criminal violation. Thousands of drivers are stopped and later charged with DWLS in the third degree. Driving with a suspended license in the third degree is usually a result of a person’s driving when he or she has ignored a traffic ticket, not filed proof of insurance with the Department of Licensing when required to do so, or violated certain terms of an intermediate driver license. While not a finite list, the above circumstances are a few of the reasons that will result in a criminal charge of DWLS-3.

Because DWLS in any degree is a criminal offense, there is great value to trying to keep the ticket from affecting criminal and traffic records.

DWLS in the second degree is even more serious. Unlike DWLS-3, a misdemeanor, DWLS-2 is a gross misdemeanor (for the difference between the two, see below). DWLS-2 usually occurs when a driver license is suspended or revoked, but the driver’s license is not eligible to be reinstated.

Driving with a suspended license in the first degree is the most serious of DWLS offenses, and typically occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle while under an order of revocation under the Habitual Traffic Offenders Act, RCW 46.65. DWLS-1 is also a gross misdemeanor, but the penalties are higher than DWLS-2 and DWLS-3.


The penalties associated with driving on a suspended license include jail, monetary fines, and, in some cases, further suspension and revocation of a driver’s license.

DWLS-3 is punishable by up to 90 days imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

DWLS-2 is punishable by up to 364 days imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

DWLS-1 is punishable by up to 364 days imprisonment and a $5000 fine; however, a first offense conviction carries a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail; a second conviction carries a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail; a third conviction imprisonment of not less than 180 days. Also, if the conviction occurred as part of the same event giving rise to a DUI or physical control conviction, the mandatory minimum is 180 days imprisonment, even for a first offense DWLS-1.

While these penalties are what the government imposes, convictions for DWLS can have occupational and social ramifications, resulting in the loss of employment and other benefits.


An attorney experienced in dealing with driving while license suspended offenses can help drivers avoid jail, fines, and other problems. An attorney experienced in dealing with courts that hear these types of offenses can help drivers to challenge charges of DWLS.

Do not wait until the last minute and hope that the case will go away or that a judge will be lenient. While judges can sometimes be lenient, the Washington Legislature has decided to create mandatory minimum penalties for certain offenses, which results in less discretion for judges. Before a judge must sentence you to jail, it is critical to seek the advice of a qualified and experienced attorney who can help in coming up with a game plan to meet your goals of staying out of jail and keeping your money.

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