One of the ways of complying with California's driving laws is by driving on a valid license. If you are found driving on a suspended license, you face a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or jail sentence depending on the reason behind the license suspension and circumstances of the case. The Long Beach Criminal Attorney Law Firm understands the frustration that a driver can have after being arrested for driving offenses in Long Beach, California. This is why we are here to help ensure your rights are protected and the potential penalties are possibly reduced.
Laws on Driving on a Suspended License
The crime of driving on a suspended driver's license comprises two elements. The first element is based on the fact that you drove a car while your DL (driver's license) was suspended. The second one largely depends on the fact that you were aware that your driving privileges had been suspended at that time. California prosecutors must prove these two facts before imposing criminal liability for violating Vehicle Code 14601 on you.
Pursuant to VC 14601, the factors that may lead to a license suspension or revocation include reckless driving and drug/alcohol abuse. The same may occur if you were declared an incompetent or negligent operator or had a mental/physical condition preventing you from safe driving. One of the common causes of license suspension is reckless driving.
To avoid charges of driving on a suspended license, you need to have the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) reinstate your driving privilege. Within the timeframe of your license, you should follow the correct DMV-approved steps to regain your driving privileges. Keep in mind that the specific requirements and steps for reinstating a DL vary depending on the suspension reasons. You also have to prove to the court that you completed all of the conditions of your probation to avoid any charges.
Can You Have Your Driver’s License Suspended for General Offenses?
Vehicle Code 14601.1 warns motorists against operating motor vehicles when their driving privileges are revoked or suspended. You may be guilty of this crime if you knew about the revocation or suspension. VC 14601.1 also suggests that the DMV is supposed to mail you a notice indicating the suspension.
License Suspension for a DUI Charge
While a DUI conviction can lead to a license suspension, knowingly driving a car with a revoked or suspended license is a crime pursuant to VC 14601.2. DUI charges that may contribute to your license getting revoked or suspended are as follows:
- Driving under the influence pursuant to Vehicle Code 23152(a)
- DUI causing injury pursuant to Vehicle Code 23153
- Driving under the influence of drugs
- Operating a motor vehicle with a cumulative blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher (pursuant to VC 23152(b))
License Suspension for Habitual Traffic Offenders
You may be referred to as a “habitual traffic offender" if you had your license revoked or suspended within 12 months for committing a driving offense. Driving-related charges such as DUI, reckless driving or speeding may also make you a habitual traffic offender. It also applies to your case if you contributed to three or more accidents that ended with people getting injured or led to over $750 worth of property damage. Vehicle Code 14601.3 warns against committing simultaneous driving offenses with a suspended or revoked driver’s license.
Penalties for Driving on a Suspended License in California
The driving on a suspended license crime qualifies as a misdemeanor in California. The potential penalties include a county jail sentence, a fine or both. The possible punishment, penalties or sentencing are based on the following factors:
- Your driving history (inclusive of your out-of-state convictions for driving offenses)
- Prior convictions for operating a motor vehicle on a suspended license
- The actual reason for having your license suspended
The potential consequences for driving on a suspended license are as follows:
- Five days to six months in county jail or fine (ranging from $300 to $1,000) for a license revoked or suspended due to negligent operations, alcohol/drug addiction or reckless driving
- 10 days to 6 months in county jail, a fine ($300-$1,000) and installation of an IID if your license was revoked or suspended for a DUI offense
- A maximum of six months in county jail or a fine ($300-$1,000) for a license revoked or suspended due to general reasons
- A $300-$1,000 fine or a maximum of 6 months in a county jail for a license revoked or suspended because you refused to take chemical tests or committed DUI-related crimes
- A $1,000 fine or 30 days in county jail if you are a habitual traffic offender caught driving on a suspended license
IID (ignition interlock devices) were introduced to help reduce cases of DUI crimes. Once the California DMV suspends your license for committing a DUI, you have to install an IID on your vehicle. The IID acts as a mini-breathalyzer programmed to prevent you from driving your car until you submit an alcohol-free breath sample.
What the Prosecutor has to Prove to Charge You with Driving on a Suspended License
Pursuant to VC 14601, knowledge is one of the elements needed to prove that you are guilty of operating a car on a revoked or suspended license. The prosecution will prove that you were aware of the license suspension if you got a notice from the DMV stating that your license was revoked or suspended. Failing to return the notice to the DMV may prove that you received it and that you were aware of the license revocation or suspension.
The prosecution will assume that you knew the DMV revoked or suspended your license privilege if a judge informed you about it. California judges usually disclose this information during proceedings for a VC 14601 violation. A police officer serving you a notice of the revocation or suspension is also a clear indication that your driving privileges have been suspended. You may have the driving privileges suspended when you are arrested for a DUI offense or an offense leading to a DL suspension.
Dismissals and Plea Bargains
A prosecutor may reduce your VC 14601 charge to a lesser offense such as driving without a valid license (under VC 12500) or an infraction. Prosecutors may also prefer dismissing your VC 14601 charge to save the resources and time needed for more severe crimes. They may take this approach if you have little to no criminal history.
What Should You Expect When you are Charged with Driving on a Suspended License?
The DMV-set timeline for gaining your driving privileges ranges from one month to twelve months. Apart from being prohibited from driving, you will be asked to take driver education courses as part of the DMV suspension. Consider hiring a lawyer to help you fight the VC 14601 charges. The lawyer can also help you increase the possibilities of reinstating your driving privileges.
You should expect to be in and out of the court as your lawyer is helping solve your case. Keep in mind that the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) oversees the reinstatement of motorists' drivings privileges in the state. The basic requirements for reinstatement include paying the relevant court fees, paying the reinstatement fee and providing proof of insurance. Visiting your local DMV office with the required documents and completing a mandated suspension, prison or program sentence may also help.
With the legal assistance of a knowledgable attorney, you can know your options regarding a VC 14601 charge. Do not hesitate to share with your lawyer about your prior convictions even if they were sealed or were handled in a juvenile court. Prosecutors tend to be cunning when it comes to using your past offenses to incriminate you further. Your attorney will prepare you throughout all the steps involved in fighting a driving on a suspended license charge.
Possible Defenses for Driving on a Suspended License Charges
The probability of gaining your driving privileges after a license suspension depends on your lawyer's defense strategies. Our Long Beach lawyers can prepare suitable legal defenses in favor of your case depending on the information you provide us. Discussed below are the defense strategies an attorney can use to fight your VC 14601 charges.
- The license revocation or suspension was invalid
Your license revocation or suspension may be invalid if there were errors in the evidence used to convict you previously. The suspension can be lifted if your lawyer gives sufficient evidence proving the previous discrepancies. The goal here is to have your VC 14601 charges dismissed and regain your driving privileges.
- You drove on a restricted driver’s license
The California DMV may give you restricted driving privileges if you prove your critical need to operate a motor vehicle when your DL is suspended. With the restricted driving privileges, you will only drive through permitted routes. The routes include to and from a court-approved DUI school or to and from school/work. This defense may help fight your VC 14601 charges if the suspension was imposed due to a DUI conviction.
- Lack of knowledge
The prosecutor's task in a VC 14601 case is to prove that you knew about your license getting suspended. Since one of the elements of a VC 14601 crime is knowledge, your defense attorney can argue that you were not aware of the license suspension. This defense strategy may suffice in a court if the revocation or suspension notice was mailed, but it got lost or went to an old address that is not yours. You may also argue that a California judge or law enforcement officer did not inform you about the suspension.
- Lack of probable cause
A police officer should highlight an underlying offense for stopping your car before you are arrested and charged. The underlying offense, in this context, may be driving under the influence or speeding. If a law enforcement officer stopped you for no apparent reason, your attorney may use this defense in your favor. This defense strategy may work in a scenario in which you drove on a valid license.
Offenses Related to the Crime of Driving on a Suspended License
A VC 14601 may attract other driving-related charges depending on the circumstances that led to your arrest. The California Vehicle Codes also lists various crimes with elements that are quite similar to a VC 14601 violation. Discussed below are these offenses in brief:
Failure to Display Your Driver’s License
Vehicle Code 12951 makes it unlawful to fail to display your license when asked to do so by a law enforcement officer. Prosecutors will also build a case against you under VC 12951 for driving without a license in your possession and refusing to display it upon request. Since this offense is considered as an infraction, its consequences are less severe when compared to those of a VC 14601 violation.
Driving Without a License
Pursuant to VC 12500, driving without a license is either an infraction or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor may charge this violation as an infraction if you have a reasonably clean driving record and you lack prior VC 12500 convictions. To be accused of this offense, the prerequisite is getting caught driving a car without a legitimate driver's license. You will still face this charge whether you were unlicensed or you forgot your license at home.
Fight Driving on a Suspended License Charges With the Help of a Lawyer Near Me
Suspensions or revocations on driver's licenses may help put motorists on the right track when they are trying to violate traffic laws among other California laws. When your license is suspended or revoked, you are not expected to operate a motor vehicle on the suspended or revoked license; otherwise, you would be violating Vehicle Code 14601.
The Long Beach Criminal Attorney has a history of helping clients across Long Beach, CA to gain favorable outcomes on criminal charges including those involving driving offenses. Our pleasure is to ensure that justice prevails and that our clients are happy about every piece of legal advice we offer. Call our Long Beach Criminal Attorney at 562-308-7807 to have us assess your charge and communicate with you promptly through every step taken to resolve your case.