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by David Cmelik
I sometimes get calls from clients to my Cedar Rapids Iowa criminal defense practice about being “suspended” to drive. Nearly no one, unless they are repeatedly the victim of proceedings initiated by the Iowa Department of Transportation, will distinguish that they are “revoked” or that they are “barred.” But each of those three carries a special meaning and should not be confused with one another. Driving while suspended in violation of Iowa Code § 321.218 is a simple misdemeanor punishable by not less than two hundred fifty dollars nor more than one thousand five hundred dollars and an optional jail sentence of no more than 30 days.
Driving While Barred in violation of Iowa Code § 321.560 is an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by a fine ranging from $625 to $6,250 and incarceration up to two years in prison. This is typically a charge for someone who has been deemed by the Iowa Department of Transportation to be an “habitual” violator, for example, for racking up multiple moving violations in a very short period of time. It is the most serious driving restriction. For whatever reason, I field few inquiries where someone says they are “revoked” or “barred” when they are suspended. It’s almost universally described to me that drivers are “suspended” when they may be “revoked” or “barred,” instead. It’s not on purpose. It’s confusing to even lawyers. For example, this confusion is fueled by the Iowa Code itself. For example, Iowa Code § 321.218 states that “denied, canceled, suspended, or revoked as provided in this chapter” and by prosecutors who themselves confuse revocation with suspension by alleging in indictments that the Defendant is guilty of driving while suspended in violation of the alcohol revocation statute. I have seen it done that very way. Whether a defendant is facing a charge of driving while suspended, revoked, or barred, it might pay to have an Iowa criminal defense attorney review the charge, the official criminal lawsuit (“Trial Information”), and the police reports to determine if any defense exists to the formal charge. Such an attorney must do his or her due diligence in discovering any Constitutional law violations in the interaction among law enforcement and the defendant, as well as determine whether the defendant was properly notified of the suspension, revocation, and/or barrment.
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