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California: Driving on a Suspended License

Driving on a Suspended License

Driving on a suspended license seems like a very petty offense, but people can be very surprised at how severe the consequences can sometimes be, especially for multiple offenses. On a first offense, your vehicle can be impounded for up to 30 days. On a second or greater offense, your vehicle can be forfeited. In addition, Vehicle Code sections 14601-14601.5 provide for various punishments for driving when your license is suspended for various reasons. To be convicted of driving with a suspended license, it has to be proven that you knew that your license was suspended. If you didn’t know that your license was suspended, then you can only be convicted of the much lesser offence of Vehicle Code section 12500, driving without a valid license. This is another reason why it is important to say absolutely nothing to the police so that you don’t make any admissions that you knew your license was suspended. Many times charges of driving on a suspended license can be reduced if a valid license can be obtained while the case is pending or shortly thereafter.

Vehicle Code section 14601

Vehicle Code section 14601 applies when your license has been suspended for any one of the many specified reasons, including reckless driving, negligent or incompetent operation, drug/alcohol abuse (Not DUI), disability. The punishment for a first offense is punishable by up to six months in jail (although people usually get probation) and a fine of up to $1000. A second offense within five years comes with a mandatory minimum jail term of ten days and a maximum of one year as well as a $500-$2000 fine.

Vehicle Code section 14601.2

Vehicle Code section 14601.2 applies when your license has been suspended because of a DUI conviction. The punishments under this section are especially harsh. A first offense carries a mandatory minimum of ten days in jail and a maximum of 6 months and a $1000 fine. A second offense within five years carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail and a maximum of 1 year and a $500-$2000 fine. Any conviction under this section requires you to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle if you want to get your license back.

Vehicle Code section 14601.3

Vehicle Code section 14601.3 punishes habitual traffic offenders who drive and rack up a bunch of traffic offenses and/or accidents while their license is suspended or revoked. A first offense under this section is punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1000 fine. A second offense within seven years is punishable by 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine.

Vehicle Code section 14601.5

Vehicle Code section 14601.5 applies when your license has been suspended for refusing to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test, driving with any amount of alcohol in your system when you are either under 21 or on probation, driving with a blood alcohol concentration greater than .08% or greater than .04% in a commercial vehicle. The punishment for a first offense is punishable by up to six months in jail (although people usually get probation) and a fine of up to $1000. A second offense within five years comes with a mandatory minimum jail term of ten days and a maximum of one year as well as a $500-$2000 fine.

Vehicle Code section 14601.1

Vehicle Code section 14601.1 applies when your license has been suspended for any reason other than those reasons listed above. The punishment for a first offense is punishable by up to six months in jail (although people usually get probation) and a fine of up to $1000. A second offense within five years comes with a mandatory minimum jail term of ten days and a maximum of one year as well as a $500-$2000 fine.

Defenses

Not Driving – Sometimes the circumstances are such that the prosecution cannot prove that you were the one driving the vehicle. In such cases, you can’t be convicted.

No Knowledge – In order to be found guilty, you must have known that your driver’s license was suspended. It is presumed that you knew if the DMV, the court, or the police gave you notice. But, it can often be argued that you did not actually receive and understand any notification that your license was suspended.

Restricted License – If you had a restricted license, it may be possible to argue that you were driving for work-related purposes or some other permitted reason.

Invalid Suspension– It can sometimes be shown that your license suspension or revocation was not valid in the first place and your charge can be beaten that way.

Illegal Traffic Stop – If the police didn’t have a reasonable suspicion that you had violated the vehicle code or committed a crime, then the stop is illegal and the driving on a suspension charge can be thrown out.

Because driving on a suspension charges carry such serious consequences, possibly even resulting in your car being permanently seized on a subsequent offense, it is very important to fight these charges and avoid conviction if at all possible. I always look first for any possible way to beat these cases outright. If not, I look for any way to plead it down to a 12500 and possibly to an infraction. I take these charges very seriously because they can really have an impact on your life.

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