Driving a motor vehicle in California is a privilege and not a right. In case you are pulled over driving on a revoked/suspended license, you can be arrested, and your vehicle might also be impounded. Driving on a revoked/suspended license is not a light offense. You may be subjected to jail time and hefty fines if you are charged with this offense. To try and prevent all the punishments, you will need help from a skilled criminal defense lawyer.
At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we have a team of attorneys who understand the best technique to a winning defense. If you are facing charges, call us as quickly as possible. We will assign you an attorney that may help you attain the best possible results for your case.
An Overview of California Law on Driving on A Suspended/Revoked License
California VC 14601 sets forth the crime of driving on a revoked or suspended license. According to this law, it’s an offense to operate an automobile when your driving privileges are revoked or suspended, and you know about it.
Note that there is a difference between a revoked driver’s license and a suspended driver’s license. The difference lies in the process a driver undergoes to regain their driving privileges. A license suspension means a temporary loss of your privilege to drive. The privilege can automatically be reinstated after you meet certain conditions. On the other hand, a license revocation is a more severe deprivation compared to a suspension. A revocation might be permanent and may need you to apply again for a driver’s license once you are eligible to drive again.
Elements of the Crime
Elements of an offense are factors that a prosecuting attorney has to prove for one to be convicted of a crime. For driving on a suspended license offense, a prosecutor has to prove two factors beyond any reasonable doubt for a conviction to happen. The factors include:
You operated an automobile at the time when your privileges to drive were revoked or suspended
This element is quite self-explanatory. It only needs the prosecuting attorney to show you were operating a vehicle, and at that time, you did not have an active driver’s license.
You were aware that your driver’s license had been revoked or suspended at that time
VC 14601 law on operating a vehicle on a revoked license presumes you were aware of your license’s suspension if the following is true:
- The DMV mailed a notice to you informing you about your driver’s license revocation or suspension
- The notice was sent to the recent address you reported to the California DMV, or another most recent address you, a peace enforcement agency, or a court reported.
- The notice wasn’t taken back to the department as unclaimed or undeliverable.
Additionally, the law presumes that you were aware you were driving on a suspended license if any of these is true:
- You were personally served by a peace officer, a notice informing you of the revocation or suspension of your driver’s license. Also, upon being served the notice, the officer confiscated the license after arresting you.
- A judge notified you about the license revocation/suspension when he or she was sentencing you for a crime that leads to a revocation/suspension.
Note that one of the above facts may be true, but it may not be enough to deduce that you were aware of the revocation/suspension for VC 14601 purposes. Instead, it creates the idea that you knew. If this idea is created, a judge can deduce right away that you were aware, but he/she is not allowed by the law. Therefore, it is your duty and your attorney to contest the judge’s presumption and establish that you are innocent.
Reinstating Your License After a Revocation/Suspension
For the avoidance of being charged under VC 14601, you must note that even when your license suspension ends, you still won't be allowed to drive. First, you have to reinstate the license (the license is not automatically reinstated; you have to take the right steps towards reinstating it). This means that if, for instance, your license was suspended for one year, then drove immediately the suspension ended, you may still be charged for violating VC 14601 unless:
- You followed the right procedure with the Department of Motor Vehicle to restore your driver’s license.
- You provided the court with proof that you fulfilled all your probation conditions.
The precise requirements and steps to follow to reinstate your driver’s license vary based on the crime or reason for which the license was suspended.
VC 14601 Statutes
As we mentioned before, possessing a revoked driver’s license is one of the two elements that legally define VC 14601 offenses. Generally, the different statutes of VC 14602 cover the various reasons why your license had to be revoked, to begin with. These reasons also determine the penalties you will be subjected to for driving on a suspended license. The statutes include:
VC 14601 License Revoked or Suspended for Specific Crimes
VC 14601 prohibits a person to drive a motorcycle, car, or any other automobile when they know the DMV revoked or suspended their driver’s license because of any of these reasons:
- Alcohol/drug abuse
- Reckless driving (VC 23103)
- After the DMV has declared him/her an incompetent or negligent operator
- Reckless driving causing injury (VC 23104)
- Failure to present him/herself in court on a traffic violation
Of the reasons mentioned above, reckless driving is the most known. Reckless driving can include a wet reckless or dry reckless offense. Both of these offenses are charge reductions from DUI charges.
VC 14601.1 License Suspended/Revoked for General Crimes
This VC 14601 statute makes it an offense for a person to operate a motor vehicle when their privilege to drive was suspended for any given reason apart from those mentioned in VC 14601 statutes. The reasons may include:
- Unpaid tickets
- A mental or physical condition which prevents him/her from safely operating a vehicle
- You got involved in a vehicle accident, and you have no car insurance proof
- The judge has issued an arrest warrant against you
- A medical condition, for instance, epilepsy or vision problems
- Failure to pay child support
- Failure to file a report with the DMV after being involved in an accident
- Failure to pay a civil judgment that is related to a vehicle accident.
VC 14601.2 License Revoked for DUI
VC 14601.2 makes it a criminal offense for you to drive when you know your driver’s license was suspended due to a DUI sentence. Of all the VC 14601 statutes, this one is the severest. The offense of driving on a suspended license due to DUI covers the following:
- License revocation under DUI law (VC 23152a)
- License revocation for operating a vehicle with 0.08% or more BAC (VC 23152b)
- License suspension under DUI of drugs (VC 23152f)
- License suspensions under VC 23153 DUI causing bodily injury
VC 14601.3 Habitual Traffic Offenders (HTO)
A person can be sentenced under VC 14601.3 for operating a motor vehicle on a revoked license and also be declared an HTO. Being declared an HTO happens if your driver’s license was revoked/suspended for a one-year period when you were sentenced for a combination of these crimes:
- At least two serious crimes related to driving like VC 23103 reckless driving, VC 23109 exhibition of speed, VC 23152 DUI, or any other VC 14601 violation.
- At least three general moving offenses, for instance, speeding.
- At least three accidents where a person was injured or property damaged, and the total damage was worth at least $750.
Thus, VC 14601.3 forbids you from two offenses. One is operating a motor vehicle on a revoked license. Another is cumulating a record of driving crimes while your driver’s license is revoked or suspended.
VC 14601.5 License Suspensions for Refusing to Take Chemical Tests/Other DUI Crimes
VC 14601.5 makes it an offense to operate a motor vehicle if you are aware your license is revoked because of the reasons below:
- Refusing to agree to a chemical test after being arrested for DUI
- DUI when you are under the age of 21 years where you had a BAC of .01% or more or declined to take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test
- Refusing to take a PAS after being suspected of DUI of alcohol when on a drunk-driving probation
- Operating a vehicle with a .01% or more BAC when on a DUI probation
- Operating a vehicle with .08% BAC or more, violating VC 23152b
- Operating a vehicle with .04% BAC or higher while driving a commercial vehicle.
Penalties for Violating VC 14601 Offenses
In California, driving on a suspended/revoked license is always charged as a misdemeanor. This means the potential penalties include time in jail (no prison time), a fine, or both. However, the precise penalties and sentence for VC 14601 vary based on:
- Why your driver’s license was revoked
- Whether you have been convicted before of driving on a revoked license
- Your driving record (including out of California convictions for offenses related to driving)
The following are the possible punishments for first-time offenders under each VC 14601 statutes. The punishments for subsequent VC 14601 offenses within a period of five to seven years are more severe compared to those of first offenses.
If your license was revoked for specific crimes like alcohol/drug addiction, reckless driving, etc., the penalties would be up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
In case your license is revoked for general reasons under Vehicle Code 14601.1, the punishments would be up to six months in jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000.
If your license is revoked for a DUI offense, the penalties would include up to six months in jail. You would also face up to $1,000 in fines, and you would be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car.
Vehicle Code 14601.3 punishments include thirty days in jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000.
The punishments for Vehicle Code 14601.5 driver’s license suspended for refusing to take chemical tests and other offenses related to DUI include up to six months in jail and up to 1,000 in fines.
If it is your second or subsequent offense within a five to seven-year period, the penalties would include at least ten days and up to one year in county jail. You would also pay a fine of least $500 and up to $2,000 in fines.
In case the offense took place within a five to seven-year period, and the punishment includes probation, the judge will compel you to be incarcerated in jail for ten days at the minimum. This will be part of probation terms and conditions.
Legal Defenses to Vehicle Code 14601 Charges
If charged with any of VC 14601 offenses, there are different legal defenses your attorney can apply to prove your innocence. The defenses include:
You didn’t know
For a prosecutor to prove that you violated VC 14601, he/she has to show that the license was revoked, and you were aware it was revoked. Thus, generally, VC 14601 offenses emphasize knowledge as the main factor for defense and prosecuting attorneys.
Your attorney could argue that the DMV mailed your license suspension notice, but it got lost, or it was mailed to your first address. Alternatively, a police officer or judge did not inform you about your license suspension. If your attorney is experienced enough, he/she would know how to argue these points effectively, and you may be vindicated.
Also, you can claim that you did not know about the revocation by presenting, as evidence the exact date the current address became operational. This will help prove that you weren’t residing at that old address anymore when the notice was mailed.
You had a restricted driver’s license
Sometimes, restricted driver’s licenses are available to people who have a critical reason to drive. This means that even if their licenses have been suspended, they will still drive if they are given restricted licenses. A restricted driver’s license allows one to drive to or from work, school, a court-approved DUI school, or any other place permitted by the court.
In case you drove within the limit that your restricted driver’s license permits, your attorney may present this as a defense for challenging VC 14601 allegations. If this defense is argued accordingly, it may result in your charges being dismissed.
Though this defense can only apply in two instances, one is if you are charged with VC 14601.2, driving with a revoked license for a DUI offense. The other is VC 14601.5 driving with a revoked license for any other crime.
Your license suspension was invalid
It’s not uncommon for one’s driver’s license to be unlawfully suspended. An unlawful suspension could be as a result of errors in proof from a person’s past convictions. If this is what happened to your case, your attorney can present this defense and have your charges dismissed.
VC 14601 Plea Bargains & Dismissals
In certain cases, prosecuting attorneys can reduce a VC 14601 charge to a lesser offense like VC 12500 driving without a valid driver’s license or an infraction like a moving violation. Most prosecutors would rather save their resources and time for more severe offenses. Thus, if they won’t reduce your VC 14601 charge, they will dismiss it altogether.
A charge reduction mostly happens in case you have zero or little criminal record. Also, if you take steps to have your license restored before your case is resolved; your charges may be reduced or dismissed. An experienced attorney would try to delay your case proceedings and advise you to try and reinstate your license so that you can have a strong defense.
DMV Hearings to Fight License Suspension
A better option rather than fighting Vehicle Code 14601-related charges is to avoid them in the first place. You can prevent the charges by challenging the license revocation or suspension. If the DMV recently notified you that it has the intent to suspend your license, it would be worth to contact a lawyer with experience about California DMV hearings. This is because any person has the right to a DMV hearing before having their licenses suspended.
However, you have to act as soon as possible. You have only ten days from the date the DMV informs you of the suspension within which you can request the DMV hearing.
Related Offenses to VC 14601
Related offenses to VC 14601 refer to closely related but separate offenses to VC 14601. In certain cases, instead of a prosecutor charging you with VC 24601, he/she may charge you with one of these offenses. They include:
VC 12500 Driving Without a Driver’s License
VC 12500 is closely related to driving on a suspended license, but it is charged as a different offense. Additionally, this crime is less severe compared to VC 14601. For you to face charges of driving without a license, you have to be arrested for operating a vehicle with no possession of a valid driver’s license. It doesn’t count whether or not you were aware that you didn’t have a valid license. Also, the reason as to why you did not have a license does not matter.
Note that it isn’t a must that the driver’s license you possess is issued to you by the California DMV for it to be recognized as valid. In case you possess a valid license from outside California, or the license is of another country, you can drive in California without obtaining a California license. However, this is true provided your out-of-California or out-of-country license is still valid. Not having any of these valid licenses will subject you to VC 12500 charges.
VC 12500 can be prosecuted either as an infraction or a misdemeanor. How you will be charged is at the prosecutor’s discretion. In case you are a first-time offender, and your driving record is relatively clean, chances are the prosecutor will charge you with an infraction. Alternatively, if it’s charged as a misdemeanor, your attorney can ultimately have it lowered to an infraction.
A misdemeanor conviction may lead to a county jail time for a period of not more than six months, or a maximum of $1,000 in fines, or both.
VC 12951 Failure to Present a Valid Driver’s License
As per VC 12951 law, failure to present a valid license is another one of the offenses that are less serious compared to VC 14601. A person can be charged with this offense in case they acquired a valid California license, but they drove without it in their possession. They can also be charged with this offense if they refused to show it to a police officer upon request.
Not having your driver’s license in your immediate possession when driving is charged as an infraction. Usually, you can have the charge dismissed if you prove that you had a valid driver’s license at the time of your arrest. However, declining to display your driver’s license to a law enforcement officer is charged as a misdemeanor.
Violation of VC 23152a or VC23152f is another way that leads to the suspension or revocation of your license. If your license is suspended after a DUI offense, it’s usually because you lost at your DMV hearing for driving under the influence. California lawmakers have drawn up penalties that severely punish individuals who drive with a revoked license and are under the influence.
In case you are convicted of driving under the influence, penalties include compulsory IID installation in your vehicle, compulsory jail time, and high fines. In certain cases, you may be needed to enroll in a DUI school program or an alcohol/drug prevention program.
Find a Driving on a Suspended License Attorney Near Me
Apart from criminal penalties of jail time and fines, driving on a revoked/suspended license may cost you your job. This is especially so if your job involves driving. In case your employer requires you to have a valid license; it may be hard for you to maintain your job. What is even worse is that the court won’t consider the demands of your employer when suspending/revoking your license. Thus, if facing these charges, you need the best legal representation to stand a chance of avoiding these repercussions. Call The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney at 310-564-2605, and we will provide the best legal defense to your charges.