By far, the most common crime charged in Mason County is Driving with License Suspended in the Third Degree.  This is a misdemeanor charge for driving while one’s license has been suspended because of unpaid traffic tickets/court fines.  Standard advice for anyone charged with a DWLS 3rd follows.
  1. DWLS 3 is a misdemeanor.  The maximum penalty is 90 days jail and $1,000 fine.
  2. If you have your license back, the court will usually accept an agreement to a reduced charge of Driving with No Valid Operator’s License (NVOL) with Identification.  This reduction results in a civil infraction on your record which does not include the possibility of jail time or probation.  It does carry a standard fine amount of $150.  The judge will allow you to make payments on the ticket if you cannot pay the fine all at once.  The minimum payment depends upon your monthly income with the lowest possible amount set at $25 per month.  Mason County District Court does not offer the opportunity to work fines off through community service.  It is always okay to pay off your fines early, but do not miss a payment.  If you miss a payment on your fine, your fine will be sent to collections and your license will be re-suspended.  So make sure you make your payments on time on or before the 15th of every month.  
  3. If you do not have your license back, you need to take the following steps immediately to try to get your license:
    • Contact the Department of Licensing and ask them what you need to do to get your license back.  They will give you a list of one or more things that are holding up your license.
    • Take the items on the list one by one and contact each court or other entity that has a hold on your license.  Most often, these issues relate to unpaid traffic tickets or other court fines.  Some other common issues can be unpaid child support or unpaid monetary claims on a traffic accident that was found to be your fault when you did not have insurance.
    • Usually, when you contact the court, you will learn that your fines have been turned over to a collection agency.  The court will give you the contact information for the collection agency.  If you can pay off these fines, the collection agency will release their hold on your license.  If you cannot pay off the fines in total, the collection agency may enter into a payment agreement with you if they believe you have employment or other income that makes you a good risk for them.  If you make this kind of arrangement with a collection agency, make sure to make your payments on time.  These payments for past issues are in addition to your current court fines.  Once you pay off your obligation to the collection agency or make payment arrangements, and they release you license, you still need to return to the Department of Licensing and pay a re-issue fee before you get your license back. Once you have your license again, section 2 above will apply to you. 
  4.  If you also have some other kind of moving violation on your ticket, you can admit that violation, request a separate hearing on that violation, or ask for mitigation.  Mitigation means that you admit you committed the violation, but you want to offer an explanation.  If the judge finds that you have committed one or more other infractions, the fine for each of those infractions can be added together with your fine for the DWLS 3 violation so that you have only one payment to make.
  5. If you are unable to get your license back, you may choose to take your case to trial or to plead guilty to the DWLS 3 charge.  The most common penalty for this type of conviction is probation, a $150 fine, plus another $50 for each prior DWLS 3 conviction, plus court costs of approximately another $200, plus any warrant fees that you might have.  You will be placed on court probation for approximately 4 months which means you do not have a probation officer, but the court will monitor you for any new violations.  You may also be sentenced to jail or electronic home monitoring if you are a repeat offender.
  6. It is your absolute right to contest this charge in a jury trial, but be aware that if you lose at trial, you may also be assessed several hundred dollars more in costs to pay for your trial.