Suspension or revocation of a driver's license in the state of California is dealt with in the California Vehicle Code under sections 13100 through 13376 and involves the temporary termination of driving privileges by court-order or the DMV. After the suspension period ends, a new license must be obtained or the old one reinstated in order to legally drive.
One-sixth of Californians have a suspended license, and many of these are people too poor to afford to pay tickets, fines, and fees that are quite steep at $100 to $500. Other causes that can lead to a license suspension include: reckless driving, negligent driving, a physical or mental disability that impairs driving ability, chronic drug/alcohol abuse, getting a DUI, and refusing to give a breathalyzer sample to police.
If a person gives in to the temptation to drive with a suspended license, he/she has engaged in a criminal activity, which in California is generally a misdemeanor. This crime is distinct from the violation that led to the suspension, and it is also distinct from “driving without a license,” which is a lesser offense covered under VC Sections 14601 through 14611.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove?
There are only two elements that must be prove a charge of driving with a suspended license:
● The defendant did, in fact, drive while his/her license was suspended. ● The defendant was aware at the time that the license was suspended.
Unlike most charges, the defendant must prove that he had a valid license once accused of driving with a suspended one. It is usually easy, however, to prove one way or the other the status of the license by simply checking with DMV records.
More difficult to prove is the second element element, that the defendant was aware he was driving on a suspended license. If he received written or verbal notice or acted in a way that demonstrated knowledge of the status of the license, the prosecutor may well be able to prove his case.
Possible Legal Defenses for Driving on a Suspended License
Some of the most common defense strategies used against charges of driving with a suspended license include:
● The license was actually valid. It was erroneously put on a list of suspended/revoked licenses. ● The defendant was unaware of the revocation, perhaps because the DMV neglected to mail him a notification. ● It was a case of mistaken identity. Someone else was actually driving the vehicle. ● It was an emergency such that driving on the suspended license was justified in order to save life or limb.
Possible Penalties Driving on a Suspended License
The penalties for driving with a suspended license are listed in VC Section 14601. For a first-time offense, the sentence may include:
● A fine between $300 and $1,000 ● Five days to 6 months in the county jail
Since licenses are not automatically reinstated in California, it often happens that past violators fail to go through the process to get a new or reinstated license and become guilty of a repeat offense. The sentence for a second offense can include:
● A fine between $500 and $2,000 ● Ten days to 12 months in the county jail
When suspension or revocation of a driver's license results from a DUI violation, the punishment is the same as above except for the following additional elements:
● A minimum of 30 days in jail ● An interlock device must be installed in the offender's vehicle to monitor his driving activities
Similar and Associated Offenses
Some offenses similar to or often occurring in conjunction with the charge of driving with a suspended license include:
1. Driving without a license: This is a criminal misdemeanor rather than a mere traffic violation and is covered under VC Section 125000. First-time offenders are often able to get the charges reduced, however, if they manage to obtain a license before their hearing. The punishments for a conviction include: a maximum $1,000 fine plus court fees, a probationary period or (rarely) a jail term, and towing/impoundment of the vehicle involved. 2. Driving without a license present with you: This is only an infraction not a criminal violation. It is addressed in VC Section 12591, and you simply need to prove you had a valid license though it was not with you in the vehicle at the time. 3. Reckless driving: VC 23103 defines “reckless driving” as driving a vehicle with willful disregard for the safety of others or their property. A first-time offense can result in heavy fines, a 90-day jail term, a 30-day vehicle impoundment, and loss of driving privileges for a month. A repeat offense or one in which someone was actually injured can lead to a six-month jail term and a twelve-month license suspension. 4. DUI: When you fail to pass or refuse to take a BAC test, you receive a temporary license to use while an “admin per se suspension” applies to your confiscated license. If later convicted of the DUI, your sentence could include: a six-month jail term, as much as $1,000 in fines and fees, mandatory use of an ignition interlock machine, and attendance at a DUI-prevention program.
How We Can Help
At the Law Offices of Jeff Voll, we understand the severe penalties you could face for a driving with suspended license conviction, and we also understand how to best defend you in court against this charge. We have deep experience in the Los Angeles area in successfully dismissing or reducing these charges and in obtaining lighter sentencing for our clients. We fight tenaciously for the best possible outcome to each and every case, and our reputation in southern California is widely and highly regarded.
Contact us today, anytime, for a free case evaluation and legal consultation by calling 323-467-6400. Our agents are standing by and will be happy to assist you.