California Suspended License
California Vehicle Code 14601 says it is against the law to drive when you know that your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked.
The reasons for the revocation or suspension may include (but are not limited to) mental or physical disabilities, Being declared a negligent operator for too many points on your license,
an/or a DUI conviction.
California driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor, whit can lead to large fines and time in jail.
Driving with a suspended or revoked license in California is punished differently depending on the reason why your license was originally suspended.
In any case, you are not guilty of driving on a suspended license under Vehicle Code 14601 VC unless the district attorney proves that you knew your license was suspended.
KNOWLEDGE is the key element in this offense, and that is the bbest way to challenge to prosecutor because it is difficult to prove. An experienced California criminal defense attorney may be able to help you get your charge of driving on a suspended license reduced or even thrown out by leveraging the defense of “lack of knowledge.”
Other defences are to prove that the original suspension was improper, or that you had a right to drive under a restricted license.
To help you understand California’s driving laws our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will address the following:
The two elements are:
(1) You operated a motor vehicle while your driver’s license was suspended or revoked
(2) You knew that at that time your California driving privileges were suspended or revoked
Since the first element is pretty basic, let’s focus on the second one.
Proving “knowledge” by California Vehicle Code 14601 VC
District Attorneys have many ways to prove that you “knew” your license was suspended or revoked. There are also many options available to a defense attorney who specializes in California driving laws to defend against this element.
The court can assume that you knew your license was suspended or revoked if ALL THREE of these are true:
1. DMV sent you a notice by mail stating that your license had been suspended or revoked
2. The notice was mailed to the latest address reported by you, a court, or a law enforcement agency to the DMV
3. The notice was not returned to the DMV by the post office due to being unclaimed or undeliverable.
Example: Martin is a sixty-year-old man with a mental condition that his sons fear affects his safe driving. His sons and his doctor arrange with DMV to have his driving privileges revoked.
DMV mails a notice of suspension to the address where Martin last registered his truck. But because he has since moved, the post office marks it as undeliverable and returns the notice to DMV. Martin is later arrested for driving with a revoked license. In this case, since the notice was returned as undeliverable, the court may NOT presume that Martin knew his license was revoked.
Another way the court can assume that you knew your driving privileges were revoked or suspended is if EITHER of the following is true:
1. A cop personally serves you with a notice of the revocation or suspension and takes your license. This can happen if you get arrested for a driving crime
2. A judge personally informed you of a revocation or suspension at the time you were sentenced for a violation that allows a suspension
Not that thought these ALLOW an assumption that you knew, it is still up to the jury to decide if you knew or not. The decision is not made for them by these rules. A California criminal defense attorney knows ways to create doubt about that assumption to get a desirable verdict.
Example: DMV sent Nora a notice of revocation of her license. Nora does not live there anymore and the new resident threw it away instead of returning it to the post office to be marked undeliverable. The jury is allowed to assume that you knew.
But Nora’s attorney shows evidence to the jury that Nora had moved and the post office was not properly forwarding her mail. Now the jury can take that into consideration in deciding if she knew or not. If the jury does not decide that she knew, the jury can not convict.
You may want to search for information on “knowledge” and “notice” requirements for California Vehicle Code 14601 VC (driving on a suspended license) for further details.
Reinstating your driving privilege after a suspension
You do not get automatically get your license back at the end of your suspension. You must take certain actions to be given the privelege back.
So, if your license was suspended for 4 months and you were stopped while driving on the 5th month you could still be arrested for driving without a license unless you took steps to re-establish your privilege. Those steps can include filling out the right DMV paperwork, or submitting proof to the court that you satisfied all of their requirements. The specifics depend on the circumstances of your suspension.
The first element in all charges of driving on a suspended license offenses is that your license was in fact suspended. Beyond that, there are differences among the different California statutes related to driving with a revoked or suspended license. The differences generally have to do with the reason why your license was suspended. The penalties will vary based on the reason as well.
This California driving with a suspended license statute makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle if you know it was suspended and it was suspended for one of the following reasons:
1. Drug or alcohol abuse
2. Reckless driving
3. Being declared an “incompetent” or “negligent” driver
4. A medical condition that prevents you from driving safely
Among these reasons, reckless driving is the most common. A reckless driving conviction usually results from negotiations after being charged with DUI. This includes “wet reckless” and “dry reckless” convictions.
Example: Oscar is arrested for DUI after a Memorial Day bar-b-q. He has no prior convictions on his criminal record and he hires a lawyer. The lawyer is able to negotiate the charge down to a “dry reckless.” Oscar pleads guilty to this charge as agreed. This results in a driver’s license suspension. Oscar has to rely on friends to drive him to work while his license is suspended but one day his friend cancels at the last second. Oscar drives his car and is pulled over for a broken tail light. He can be charged with driving on a suspended license under Vehicle Code 14601 VC.
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This statute is a “catch-all” law that makes it against the law to drive knowing that the license has been suspended by the DMV for any reason. Whether metioned in other vehicle codes or not.
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California Vehicle Code section 14601.2 (a) makes it illegal to drive if you knew your license was suspended or revoked due to a DUI conviction. This is one of the most severe Vehicle Code 14601 violations.
If you face a DUI charge, getting a DUI defense attorney to fight for you is usually your best option. If you were to plead guilty instead (or be found guilty), you can get a court-ordered license suspension. Then, if you are caught driving during the time of that suspension the punishment would be steep. This is true for any suspension of your license due to a conviction of California’s “driving under the influence” law (Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC), or for driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater (Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC),or for California’s “driving under the influence of drugs” laws, or for DUI causing an injury (Vehicle Code 23153 VC).
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A conviction of California Vehicle Code 14601.3(a) VC would declare you a “habitual traffic offender” if your license was revoked or suspended and during a 12-month period you cause or are cconvicted of any of the following:
1. Two or more serious driving-related crimes such as DUI (Vehicle Code 23152), reckless driving (Vehicle Code 23103 VC), exhibition of speed (Vehicle Code 23109 VC), or other California Vehicle Code14601 violation
2. Three or more injury accidents and/or the accidents where property damage exceeded $749
3. Three or more moving violations (for example, running a stop sign)
In essence, California Vehicle Code 14601.3(a) VC is designed to prevent people from continuing to break driving laws while their license is suspended.
California Vehicle Code 14601.5 (a) VC makes it illegal to drive when you know your California driver’s license has been revoked or suspended and it was for any of the following reasons:
1. Refusing to take a “chemical test” after a being arrested for DUI in California. In other words, refusing to take a DUI blood, breath, or urine test
2. Being DUI under 21 and refusing to take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test
3. refusing to submit to a PAS or other chemical test when there was reason to suspect you were DUI and while you were on probation for drunk driving
4. Driving with a BAC of 0.01% or greater while on probation for a California DUI,
5. Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or greater
6. Driving a motor vehicle that requires a commercial license with a BAC of 0.04% or greater
Operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license in California is a misdemeanor. The potential penalties for this offense always include time in jail, a fine, or both. However, it can vary based on the reason for suspension, if you have prior convictions for driving on a suspended license, and your driving record (including out-of-state). If you have prior Vehicle Code 14601 VC convictions you can expect the penalties to be more severe. This is the case for all “priorable” misdemeanors, such as this one. “Priorable” offenses usually take account convictions from the past five to seven years.
Vehicle Code 14601.2 (driving on a suspended license for DUI) has a special punishment. If you are convicted for it you may be required to have a California “ignition interlock device” (also known as an “IID”) installed on your car. This is a mini-breathalyzer that prevents the car ignition from starting without a breath-sample that shows no alcohol.
Lack of Knowledge
Whent trying to prove a California Vehicle Code violation for driving on a suspended or revoked license it is not enough for the state to prove that your license was suspended, it must also prove that you KNEW it was suspended. This means that the district attorney will put time and energy proving that you knew, and you need an attorney who knows how to show that you didn’t know.
Anything that can suggest the notice was mailed to an old address, or got lost in the mail, or that you were never actually told of your suspension by law enforcement or the court, are things that can potentially provide a defense. An experienced California criminal defense lawyer knows the evidence you need to show such defenses.
You were driving on a “restricted” California driver’s license
“Restricted” driver’s licenses can be available if you have a “critical need” to drive. Even if a suspensions has been ordered you may have an option to apply for a restricted license. If granted, a restricted license allowe you to drive to work, school, DUI school, and any other exceptions made by the court.
IF you are charged with driving with a suspended license, but you have a restricted license, you may be able to show that you actually were driving at the time to a place permitted by that restricted license. This usually only applies to California Vehicle Code 14601.2 VC (driving on a suspended license for DUI) and 14601.5 VC (driving on a suspended license for other offenses) charges.
Your California driver’s license suspension / revocation was invalid
It is possible that the revocation or suspension of your driver’s license was unlawful to begin with. If your attorney finds errors in evidence from the conviction where your license was suspended, that could lead to a valid defense. Your attorney can fight to have your California Vehicle Code 14601 driving with a license revocation (or suspension) charges dismissed.
Plea bargains and dismissals
In reality, district attorneys are often open to reducing California Vehicle Code 14601 driving on suspended license cases to lesser offenses, or asking for lesser penalties in exchange for a guilty plea.
The elements for a charge of Code 12500 VC is simply to be caught driving a vehicle without a valid license. No other factors matter, even if you did not know your license was invalid or why it was invalid.
Example: Paul is from Arizona but attends college in California. His Arizona driver’s license expired because his parents did not forward him the renewal forms. While driving in California, Paul is pulled over for speeding. When he gives his license to the cop he notices that it is expired. Paul may be charged under Vehicle Code 12500 VC with driving without a license.
Driving without a license in California may be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor. The district attorney chooses which way to charge it. If your driving record is mostly clean, there’s a good chance it will be charged as an infraction. If it is charged as a misdemeanor, your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor and seek a lesser charge.
If you receive a notification from the DMV that it intends to revoke or suspend your license for allegations of medical issues, negligent operation, or a DUI conviction, it is worth your while to consult with an attorney who has experience with California DMV hearings. Everyone is entitled to a hearing with the DMV before driving privileges are taken away.
But you MUST act quickly. You only have TEN DAYS to request a hearing once you are notified of the intention to revoke or suspend your license.
If you have additional questions we invite you to contact the Law Offices of Marc Grossman for a free consultation.
You may also find helpful information by searching for related articles on Drivers License Suspensions Due to Physical or Mental Conditions; The “Knowledge” and “Notice” Requirements for California Vehicle Code 14601 VC Driving on a Suspended License; California “Wet Reckless” As a Plea Bargain in DUI Cases; California Negligent Operator Defense; California DUI Defense Attorneys; California “Wet Reckless” As a Plea Bargain in DUI Cases; Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or Greater (Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC); California “Driving Under the Influence” Laws (Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC); Vehicle Code 23109 VC Exhibition of Speed; California’s “Driving Under the Influence of Drugs” Laws; California DUIs While Under 21; “Chemical Test Refusals” in California DUI Cases; Penalties, Punishment & Sentencing for California Vehicle Code 14601 (Driving with a Suspended License); Legal Definition of a Misdemeanor in California Law; Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) Under California DUI Law; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; Legal Definition of an Infraction in California Law; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; California Court-Ordered DUI School; California DMV Hearings; and California Law on Driving Without a License Under Vehicle Code 12500 VC.
Call Us for Help…
If you or a loved one is charged with Vehicle Code 14601 driving on a suspended license and you want to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman. We provide a free consultations in office or by phone. We have local offices in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena, Ventura, Orange County, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside, and throughout California.