I don’t get calls for people that are facing a habitual traffic offender classification very often. I think it’s probably because, as a traffic lawyer, I do a pretty good job of keeping my clients’ driving record clean. But it’s an important enough topic that I thought you should know about it, so I’m writing about it.

What Does it Mean to be a Habitual Traffic Offender?

There is really only one downside to being a habitual traffic offender (HTO for short) – your driver’s license is suspended for 7 years. That’s right, I said 7 years!

Now, if you’re thinking that’s a long time, you’re right, it’s a very long time. Now, there are ways to try to get your driving privileges back before the 7 years is up, but why take the chance? Why not just avoid an HTO designation all together? We’re going to talk about how to do that next.

How Does One Become an HTO?

If you must know, there are two primary ways you can receive the coveted habitual traffic offender status. I’ve listed them both below (via RCW 46.65.020) for your viewing pleasure:

As used in this chapter, unless a different meaning is plainly required by the context, an habitual offender means any person, resident or nonresident, who has accumulated convictions or findings that the person committed a traffic infraction as defined in RCW 46.20.270, or, if a minor, has violations recorded with the department of licensing, for separate and distinct offenses as described in either subsection (1) or (2) below committed within a five-year period, as evidenced by the records maintained in the department of licensing:

PROVIDED, That where more than one described offense is committed within a six-hour period such multiple offenses shall, on the first such occasion, be treated as one offense for the purposes of this chapter:

(1) Three or more convictions, singularly or in combination, of the following offenses:

  1. Vehicular homicide as defined in RCW 46.61.520;
  2. Vehicular assault as defined in RCW 46.61.522;
  3. Driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs (DUI);
  4. Driving while license suspended as defined in RCW 46.20.342(1)(b);
  5. Failure of the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury or death of any person or damage to any vehicle which is driven or attended by any person to immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible and to forthwith return to and in every event remain at, the scene of such accident until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of RCW 46.52.020;
  6. Reckless driving as defined in RCW 46.61.500;
  7. Being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug as defined in RCW 46.61.504; or
  8. Attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle as defined in RCW 46.61.024;

(2) Twenty or more convictions or findings that the person committed a traffic infraction for separate and distinct offenses, singularly or in combination, in the operation of a motor vehicle that are required to be reported to the department of licensing other than the offenses of driving with an expired driver’s license and not having a driver’s license in the operator’s immediate possession. Such convictions or findings shall include those for offenses enumerated in subsection (1) of this section when taken with and added to those offenses described herein but shall not include convictions or findings for any non-moving violation. No person may be considered an habitual offender under this subsection unless at least three convictions have occurred within the three hundred sixty-five days immediately preceding the last conviction.

The offenses included in subsections (1) and (2) of this section are deemed to include offenses under any valid town, city, or county ordinance substantially conforming to the provisions cited in subsections (1) and (2) [of this section] or amendments thereto, and any federal law, or any law of another state, including subdivisions thereof, substantially conforming to the aforesaid state statutory provisions.

Bottom line – do three extremely dumb things in a five year period or rack up 20 tickets in a five year period and you’re an HTO.

How a Traffic Lawyer Can Help You Avoid HTO Status

There are actually a couple of ways. The first is, if you find yourself charged with one of the more serious offenses you give us a call and we help you out.

The second, is, if you find yourself getting a bunch (or even one) of speeding tickets you give us a call and we help you out. When it comes to speeding tickets and similar offenses, we are extremely helpful, because about 95% of the time we’re able to keep your record clean – that means the ticket doesn’t count against you. That what traffic lawyers do – that’s what we do.

Questions, Thoughts, Comments?

We want to hear from you!