Chapter 893 DL Suspensions
It’s bad enough being arrested for drug possession. Then comes the probation (or worse, community control). Then comes the fines, the court courts. And, the main money scheme–drug counseling, that can take six months to complete. So, you thought the government was done with you when you walked out the courtroom doors, right? Wrong. The DMV may send you a non-threatening white envelope entitled “Notice of Suspension”, specifically labeling this as a “Chapter 893-6 month DL suspension”. Hum.
Unfortunately, the Department of Motor Vehicles gets involved in punishing drug offenders, and that’s never a good thing. The more government agencies are involved in your life, the worse things are going to be. The DMV imposes it’s own “Chapter 893 Suspension”, a six (6) month driver’s license suspension for any drug possession conviction. For those of you who have already been convicted of a drug crime, but never received this suspension, consider yourself lucky, as many clerks of court fail to forward the drug conviction paperwork to the DMV (thus the DMV never finds out about the conviction). In this rare instance, government inefficiency may have worked in your favor! Enjoy. Other times, the clerk catches their mistake years later and you find yourself with a suspended license years after going to court. In such cases, the DMV may have a bit of mercy on you and “back date” the suspension to when the clerk “should have” submitted it to the DMV. But, don’t hold your breath.
So, must you wait out the entire six month suspension before driving again? No. The secret can be found in the statute’s wording, so let’s review the statute:
322.055(1): Notwithstanding the provision of s. 322.28, upon the conviction of a person 18 years of age or older for possession or sale of, … a controlled substance, the court shall direct the department to revoke the driver’s license or driving privilege of the person. The suspension shall be for six months or until the person is evaluated for and, if deemed necessary by the evaluating agency, completes a drug treatment and rehabilitation program approved or regulated by DCF.
Even though the statute doesn’t spell this out for you, the “drug treatment” they’re referring to any DCF approved substance abuse program in Florida, or sometimes, they’re referring to the DUI Counter Attack School. The problem is, Florida has 67 counties, many of which contain DMV offices known as the “Bureau of Administrative Reviews”. These folks are the ones to speak to when you have a question about how to get your license back, because the various offices are all over the map in terms of what sort of drug treatment permits them to remove the one year Chapter 893 DL suspension. Some offices claim you must take the DUI School, some offices claim you must complete treatment at a DCF approved substance abuse program. Either way, you should call the Bureau of Administrative Reviews nearest to you, and find out how to comply with the above statute.
To get your full license back before the six month suspension is completed, the statute requires the completion of both treatment and rehab. The amount of treatment recommended is a case-by-case determination. Some people get as little as 8-12 weeks of treatment, others get more that 6 months of treatment (rare). Back in the day, the Bureau of Administrative Reviews recommended the DUI School as an acceptable treatment program. However, if this is what they want, you must complete both the DUI school and the recommended treatment. Once that’s done, the DMV should return to you a full driver’s license–without the need to wait for the entire one year suspension to pass. The same goes for those of you who complete the DCF approved substance abuse program. Once the program is completed, the DMV should return your full license. That being said, they change the rules so often (even though the statute listed above is pretty clear) you need to check with the DMV before enrolling in any sort of program. DCF has a list of licensed drug program providers, listed by city, on their website. Consult that list–and the DMV–before making a move on this.
The best option here is to avoid the treatment situation above, and simply have your lawyer obtain a court order permitting you to drive with a Business Purposes Only license. These are not given out freely, as the law requires that the court find a “compelling reason” to grant a BPO. Not to worry, we defense attorneys can guide you thru this maze.
Yes, I know it’s odd that a possession of a controlled substance charge requires a DUI class and treatment to get your full license back before the six months is up, but that’s one option for “drug treatment” under 322.055(1). Also, please note that a judge may order the DMV to grant a business purposes only license before the driver has enrolled in the DUI school. And, as always, should you have any questions, feel free to give me a call, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.