ARS 28-3473 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of driving on a suspended license. People commit this offense when they drive or operate a motor vehicle with a suspended, revoked, canceled, or refused driver’s license. A violation of this law is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail time.
The language of ARS 28-3473 states that: “a person may not operate a motor vehicle on a public highway if the person’s privilege to drive a motor vehicle is suspended, revoked, canceled or refused or if the person is disqualified from driving.”
- driving a truck after a license suspension for driving under the influence.
- operating a motor vehicle after a license revocation.
- driving a car after the MVD canceled the driver’s driving privileges.
People facing a suspended license charge under this statute can challenge it with a legal defense. A few common defenses include an accused showing that he/she:
- did not have a suspended license,
- was not driving or operating a motor vehicle, and/or
- acted out of necessity.
- a jail sentence of up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $2,500.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “driving on a suspended license”?
People are guilty of driving on a suspended license if they:
- drive or operate a motor vehicle, and
- do so after their privilege to drive was suspended, revoked, canceled, or refused.i
Also, for prosecutors to secure a conviction under this statute, they must prove that the defendant knew or should have known that his/her license was:
- canceled, or
- refused. ii
Note that for purposes of this statute:
- “drive” means to operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle,iii
- “person” means a natural person as well as a corporation, company, partnership, firm, association, and society,iv and
- “highway” means the entire width between the boundary lines of every way if a part of the way is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.v
Note too that in Arizona the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) is the state agency responsible for issuing a driver’s license. The MVD can also suspend, revoke, cancel, and refuse a license.vi
Sometimes people refer to driving with a suspended license as “DWLS.”
2. What are the best defenses to ARS 28-3473?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies/disclaimers to challenge criminal charges under this statute. Three of these include showing that defendants:
- did not have a license suspension.
- were not driving or in control of a motor vehicle.
- acted out of necessity.
2.1 No driver’s license suspension
People are only guilty of this criminal offense if they drove while their license was actually suspended. This means it is always a defense for a driver to show that his/her license was never suspended. For example, maybe the law enforcement officer/police officer that pulled the driver over for a traffic offense made a mistake by thinking a license was suspended or revoked.
2.2 Not driving or in control
A person is only guilty under ARS 28-3473 if he/she was actually driving a car, or in physical control of one, while on a suspended license. A defense, then, is for a defendant to assert that he/she was not driving a car or in control of one.
Under a necessity defense, defendants essentially try to avoid guilt by showing that they had a sufficiently good reason to commit the crime. In the context of driving on a suspended license, an accused could attempt to show that he committed the crime since he had no other choice (e.g., because of an emergency).
3. What are the penalties?
Arizona law treats driving on a suspended license as a serious offense.
A violation of ARS 28-3473 is a Class 1 misdemeanor.vii The maximum penalty for a Class 1 misdemeanor (for a first offense) is:
- up to six months in jail, and/or
- a maximum fine of $2,500.
A second or subsequent offense could lead to:
- a jail sentence of up to two years, and/or
- a maximum fine of $150,000.
In addition to the above, a notice of the offense gets placed on the person’s driving record. One possible result is that the driver’s insurance company will increase his/her auto insurance rates.
Further, people guilty of violating this statute must pay a reinstatement fee once their period of suspension or revocation period expires. Once the fee is paid, the person can regain his/her driving privileges and get a new license.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to driving on a suspended license. These are:
- driving without a valid license – ARS 28-3151,
- DUI – ARS 28-1381A1, and
- reckless driving – ARS 28-693.
4.1 Driving without a valid license – ARS 28-3151
ARS 28-3151 is the Arizona statute that says it is an offense when people drive or operate a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license.
Unlike with driving on a suspended license, driving with no license typically results in a traffic ticket and a $120 fine.
Note that under Arizona’s traffic laws, most moving violations or traffic violations are charged as infractions.
4.2 DUI – ARS 28-1381A1
Under ARS 28-1381A1, a driver commits DUI if he/she drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of:
- a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or
- any combination of liquor, drugs, or vapor.
In addition to standard DUI penalties, a driver guilty of this offense may have to:
- install an ignition interlock device in their car, and/or
- pay to get his/her vehicle out of an impoundment lot.
4.3 Reckless driving – ARS 28-693
Per ARS 28-693, people commit the crime of reckless driving when they drive a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property.
The crime is different from the offense of hit and run, per ARS 28-662.
If a person commits reckless driving while driving on a suspended license, then he/she could be charged with both:
- reckless driving, per ARS 28-693, and
- driving on a suspended license, per ARS 28-3473.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both a free initial consultation and legal advice you can trust.
- ARS 28-3473A.
- State v. Yazzie, 232 Ariz. 615 (2013).
- ARS 28-101.
- ARS 1-215.
- ARS 28-101.
- In other states, a Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, is an agency like Arizona’s MVD.
- ARS 28-3473B.