Can you be punished for illegally using something you no longer have? That bizarre question was recently decided by a Maryland Appellate Court in deciding whether a defendant could be convicted for driving on a suspended license that had already expired.
Specifics of the Case
Robert White was accused of driving on a revoked or suspended license. His license was suspended for failure to pay child support. His defense was that he couldn’t be punished for driving on a suspended license, because it had already previously expired. Because his license was expired at the time of his arrest, White argued, it was as if he didn’t have a license, and thus the state can’t punish someone for driving on a suspended license that no longer exists due to its expiration.
It’s established law that someone never issued a license can’t be convicted of driving on a suspended or revoked one. White argued that having a license that had expired was functionally the same as never having one–in both cases, the license is non-existent, a renewal application has to be made to obtain one, and one would not have a privilege to drive. If someone who never had a license couldn’t be convicted of driving with a suspended license, neither could someone who had one but it had expired, he argued.
But a Maryland appeals court has rejected that argument, making a distinction between one who never had a license, and thus never had a privilege to drive, and one who at one point had a valid license and privilege to drive, but lost it, as White did.
The court rationalized that if it accepted White’s argument, it would actually provide an incentive for someone to allow their license to expire.
For example, was your license suspended because of failure to pay child support? Simply allow the license to expire, if it expires sooner than the time period your license is suspended, then the legislative punishment of driving on a suspended license would cease to exist.
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Problems with your license or any charges or arrests relating to it? The criminal defense attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience with the rights of criminal defendants. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.