Traffic Infractions – What Is An HTO Letter?

In Criminal Defense Lawyers in Spokane WA by Jeremy Friedland

Traffic offenses can add up; when they do, a driver is at risk of having their driver’s license revoked. In the State of Washington, drivers who receive multiple traffic infractions may be viewed as habitual offenders and can be sent a letter from the Department of Licensing (DOL) advising that they are now classified as an HTO (habitual traffic offender) and their license may be revoked in the near future. Anyone who receives this type of letter should seek the assistance of experienced criminal defense lawyers to fight their HTO status as soon as possible and retain their driving privileges.

What Is HTO Status?

An Habitual Traffic Offender status is noted when a driver incurs multiple traffic convictions and is deemed an unsafe driver risk based on such convictions. An HTO driver is one who has received one of the following:

  • Three or more criminal traffic convictions.
  • Twenty or more traffic infraction
  • Twenty or more traffic infractions combined with criminal traffic convictions within a period of five years.

The Importance of HTO Status

In Washington state, drivers who receive an HTO letter could lose their driving privileges for a minimum of seven years. While some traffic infractions may cause a license suspension, this HTO status involves revoking a person’s driver’s license. License revocations last much longer than suspensions; in most cases, four years is the soonest someone can apply for reinstatement of a revoked license, depending on the infraction. In most cases, drivers will be without their license for seven years and could be longer than an actual prison sentence for certain criminal traffic infractions.

Fighting HTO Status

When a driver receives an HTO letter, it is important to discuss involved issues with an attorney as quickly as possible. Sometimes letters are erroneously mailed to people who do not actually qualify for HTO status. While the initial report of drivers with high numbers of infractions is computer-generated, driver records are actually reviewed by people who determine if someone’s driving record meets the qualifications to receive such a letter. On top of that, many people simply accept guilt and pay a fine, when their citation may have technically been arguable.

In Washington State, anyone who has received an HTO letter is permitted a hearing before their license is revoked; however, this hearing must be requested by the defendant, as they are not automatically set. The importance of retaining experienced criminal defense lawyers cannot be overemphasized when a person receives such a letter. Most people do not understand the possible consequences of an HTO letter or that they can challenge the HTO status and fight to retain driving privileges. Unless a driver takes some kind of action right away, they could lose their license shortly thereafter.

Since a driver who receives an HTO letter could potentially be without their driver’s license for up to seven years, it is imperative that they discuss the situation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who handles traffic infractions and criminal traffic offenses. There are ways to challenge some infractions and retain driving privileges. Above all, an HTO letter should never be ignored; that won’t make the letter go away. What will most likely happens is that person will lose their license – possibly for as long as seven years!

Maurer Law

505 West Riversite Suite 400

Spokane WA 99201

(509) 319-2209

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