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Do You Need to Know Your Driving Privilege Has Been Suspended in Order to be Convicted of Driving While Suspended?

DFields@fishbeinpa.com,   Criminal Law   Leave a Comment

Frequently clients contact our office with regard to traffic offenses in which they have been charged with driving while suspended in which they contend that they did not know that their driving privilege was suspended. This may arise in a variety of contexts. One context is where the defendant failed to appear in Court for an underlying ticket and their driving privilege was suspended. The second context is where they were convicted and accumulated sufficient points to have their driving privilege suspended. The third context is where the party forgot to pay a traffic citation and their driving privilege was suspended.

Often clients want to defend a subsequent driving while suspended charge on the basis that they did not know their driver’s license had been suspended. A recent case Stewart v. State of Maryland, held that if a person had actual knowledge or should have know of the suspension, that the charge of driving while suspended will result in a conviction. The Court of Appeals reasoned that a driver is presumed to know the law regardless of whether they had conscious knowledge or lack thereof and a driver is presumed to intend the necessary or legitimate consequences of his or her actions. The Court of Special Appeals in Stewart held that there is a deliberate ignorance rule that exists when a person believes that something is probable but deliberately shut his or her eyes or avoids making reasonable inquiry to learn the truth for the purpose of learning whether the defendant’s driver’s license was suspended. In Stewart the defendant had not notified the Motor Vehicle Administration of a new address and the Court of Special Appeals held that the defendant’s actions barred him from contending that he did not have knowledge that his driver’s license was suspended. Thus it is incumbent on all Maryland drivers to notify the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration when they move so that they will receive proper notice from the Motor Vehicle Administration and the failure to do so will likely result in an adverse action against the licensee on a subsequent driving while suspended charge.

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