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What Is the Difference Between a Criminal Charge and a Loss of License With the DMV? 

Gutin & Wolverton: Harley I. Gutin  Nov. 3, 2023

In Florida, criminal charges and loss of driving privileges ( administrative license suspension) are among the common penalties for committing a driving-related offense. However, whether you’ll be facing a criminal charge or an administrative action by the DMV often depends on the nature of the traffic offense in question and other surrounding circumstances. 

Furthermore, a driving-related offense, such as DUI, vehicular homicide, reckless driving, or hit-and-run, may result in a criminal charge. Conversely, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) may suspend your driver’s license administratively for minor traffic infractions or non-criminal issues such as speeding, seat belt violation, or failure to use turn signals. 

At Gutin & Wolverton: Harley I. Gutin, we’re committed to offering reliable advocacy and representation to clients in their traffic violation cases. Our highly-skilled Florida criminal defense attorneys can enlighten you about the differences between a criminal charge and loss of license with the DMV. 

In addition, we will strategize an effective defense to fight your charges and help restore your driving privileges. Our firm proudly serves clients across Cocoa, Florida, and surrounding areas throughout Brevard County, including Palm Bay, Melbourne, and Titusville. 

The Differences Between Criminal Charges and Losing Your License With the DMV

Here are some of the differences between facing criminal charges and losing your license with the DMV: 

Nature of the Issue 

The loss of license with the DMV is an administrative action taken by the FLHSMV to suspend, cancel, or revoke a person’s driver’s license for committing a non-criminal traffic violation or infraction that is prohibited by law. For instance, speeding, running a red light, failure to wear a seatbelt, unpaid traffic tickets, or parking violations. 

Conversely, a criminal charge involves a formal accusation by law enforcement that a person has committed a driving-related offense. Examples of traffic-related offenses that may result in criminal charges include driving while under the influence (DUI), hit-and-run accidents, vehicular homicide, and driving with a suspended license. 

Legal Processes 

Additionally, the legal process after a loss of license with the DMV is quite straightforward. It usually involves an administrative hearing. You may need to reach out to the court or the FLHSMV to satisfy the requirements set forth for reinstating your driver’s license. For instance, if your license was suspended for failing to pay traffic tickets, you need to pay the required amount and reinstatement fee to restore your license. 

Conversely, if you’re facing a criminal charge for committing a driving-related offense, you must go through the Florida criminal justice system to determine whether you’re guilty or not guilty. The different stages include arrest, investigation, first appearance, preliminary hearing, plea bargaining, arraignment, trial, and sentencing. 


In most cases, there are no further penalties after a loss of license with the DMV. However, if you will face serious difficulty when your license is suspended, you can apply for a hardship license. This is a limited license that can allow you to drive to work, school, hospital, and other necessary places. 

In contrast, the penalties for a criminal charge can be far-reaching. If convicted, you may be subject to huge fines, lengthy incarceration, probation, license revocation, a criminal record, and other life-altering consequences. 


After a loss of license with the DMV (or license suspension), you can request an administrative hearing to retain your driving privileges. The administrative hearing is a separate proceeding from criminal court. Conversely, if you’re convicted of a driving-related criminal offense, you can appeal the guilty verdict. In addition, you must file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the court’s final judgment. 

Where They Overlap

However, there are specific circumstances where administrative license suspension may overlap with a criminal charge. Examples include: 

  • DUI/DWI arrest or conviction 

  • Traffic violations that result in a criminal charge 

  • Refusing a chemical test after a lawful arrest 

  • Probation or license restrictions  

If your license has been suspended administratively and you’re facing criminal charges, you need to reach out to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney immediately. Your legal counsel can investigate every aspect of your case and determine the best course of action. 

Helping You Understand Your Situation 

Having effective representation is crucial when fighting your administrative license suspension or traffic-related charges. With over 50 years of combined legal experience, we have the diligence to defend and represent clients in their traffic violations and criminal cases. Our reliable legal team can investigate every last detail of your unique situation and help build a solid defense for your case. Also, we will fight aggressively to uphold your rights, help reinstate your driver’s license, and keep your record clean. 

Contact us at Gutin & Wolverton: Harley I. Gutin today to schedule a simple case assessment with experienced criminal defense lawyers. Our strategic attorneys can represent you intelligently at the administrative hearing or criminal court process and help you achieve the most favorable outcome. We proudly serve clients across Cocoa, Florida, and surrounding areas throughout Brevard County, including Palm Bay, Melbourne, and Titusville.