Driving Without a License
California Vehicle Code (VC) section 12500 (a)

California Vehicle Code (VC) section 12500 (a) prohibits people from driving in California without a valid driver's license. Primarily, the police may charge you with a violation of Vehicle Code 12500, driving without a valid driver's license, if you are stopped while driving when,

  1. you have never obtained a driver's license,
  2. you failed to renew your driver's license after it expired,
  3. you established residency in California but failed to obtain a California driver's license, or
  4. you are ineligible for a driver’s license in this state (for example, you are an undocumented immigrant).
To be valid, a driver’s license doesn't necessarily have to be issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). It just must be a valid driver's license from the state in which you live, and for the type of vehicle (car, motorcycle, commercial truck, etc.) that you are driving.

Important Note: If the police give you a citation for 'driving without a license', then you must go to court on the scheduled court date or retain an attorney to represent you for the infraction. If neither you nor your lawyer show up, the judge will issue a California bench warrant for your arrest.


Although driving without a license is a relatively minor offense, it still can be charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction. The main factor the prosecution will consider when deciding whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or an infraction is your driving history. If this is your first offense, they may charge you only with the infraction. And even if the prosecutor initially charges you with a misdemeanor, he/she, or the judge, may be willing to reduce or even dismiss the charges if you subsequently obtain a valid driver's license.

Infraction If charged as a non-criminal infraction you will not suffer a conviction on your criminal record and you will most likely be assessed a fine, which may be hundreds of dollars. California Vehicle Code 12500(a)...which prohibits driving a car without a valid driver's license...is the only possible VC section 12500 misdemeanor offense, although as stated, 12500(a) may also be charged as a non-criminal infraction. The other subsections of Vehicle Code 12500 are infractions...such as driving a motorcycle without a license.

Misdemeanor If charged as a misdemeanor, a conviction, if you suffer one, will appear on your criminal record. In addition, you will most likely be assessed a heavy fine and will have an adverse effect on your driver's license.

If convicted for misdemeanor Vehicle Code 12500 (a) Driving without a valid driver's license in California a judge may impose any or all of the following:

• Informal (otherwise known as "summary") probation for up to three years,
• Up to six months in the county jail, a maximum $1,000 fine, and a possible 30-day impound of your car Infraction -Vehicle Code 12500 (a).
• Usually, the penalty is a fine.

Contact the Lee Law Group for additional information on penalties for this offense.

Possible Defenses

Contact the Lee Law Group to fight your driving without a license charges. If you are charged as an infraction or misdemeanor, possible defenses include obtaining a postponement of your case so that you can obtain a license. Unless you are a repeat offender, most prosecution and or the courts will allow you this courtesy and will thus dismiss the case. If you are unable to obtain a valid driver's license, possible defenses include reducing the charge to an infraction or getting the case dismissed altogether through negotiating with the prosecution. While dismissal is less likely when you cannot obtain a valid license, a skilled attorney can often get this done. We at the Lee Law Group are skilled at negotiating with prosecuting attorneys for our client's best interests.


Contact the Lee Law Group if you are charged with VC section 12500 Driving without a license so we can fight for you.


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