Driving With a Suspended License
California Vehicle Code (VC) sections 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, or 14601.5 

California Vehicle Code (VC) section 14601 and its related sections make it a crime to drive when you know that your driver's license has been suspended or revoked. 

The suspension or revocation is usually, but not always, based on one of the following reasons:

1. Being declared a negligent driver because you have too many 'points' on your license (VC 14601). Points are obtained by your having infractions (tickets) or for being found or pleading guilty for other, moving, (driving) offenses, i.e., for negligent driving.

2. Suffering from a mental or physical disability. For example, if a person is injured in a way that affects their ability to drive in an auto accident or at work. If the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) learns of the disability, they may suspend your driver's license until you are well. 

3. A conviction for Driving Under the Influence, (DUI) (VC 14601.2). It is mandatory for the DMV to suspend or revoke a person's license to drive if they are charged with a DUI under California's Admin Per Se system.

A conviction in court is not required for a driver's license to be suspended under the admin per se system because the license to drive is a 'privilege' not a 'right' under our justice system. As a consequence, all that is required for an admin per se suspension is for the driver to be found, by substantial evidence, to have been, (a) driving; and (b) under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time they were driving. It will be sufficient evidence if law testifies that the driver was driving; and they have a blood alcohol content (B.A.C.) test reading of (a) .08 or more if you are over 21 years of age, (b) .01 if you are under the age of 21 years, and (c) .04 if you possess a commercial driving license. The commercial license holder does not have to be driving a commercial vehicle when arrested for DUI to have his/her commercial license suspended.

In addition, a police's testimony of a driver's intoxication, augmented by the driver failing the standard field sobriety test (SFST) may be sufficient evidence for the DMV to suspend a person's driver's license.


Penalties:

California driving on suspended license offenses are always misdemeanor crimes, subjecting you to possible county jail time and substantial fines. In addition, a misdemeanor conviction will appear on your criminal record. California Vehicle Code sections 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, 14601.3, and 14601.5 are all separate offenses that punish you for driving when you know that your California driver's license has been suspended or revoked. Even though each of these Vehicle Code sections is a misdemeanor, the actual penalty or sentence that you face will depend on the following factors:

1. the reason your license was suspended, and the seriousness of the underlying offense that led to the suspended license charge
2. whether you suffered prior convictions for driving with a suspended license, and
3. your driving history (which includes out-of-state convictions for driving-related offenses).

Driving on a suspended or revoked license is a "priorable" offense which means that the penalties automatically increase with each subsequent conviction. This sentencing rule applies across the board to all of the VC section 14601 offenses. In addition, the subsequent violation doesn't need to be for the exact same offense. It can be for any of the above mentioned violations that prohibit you from driving when you know your California driver's license has been revoked or suspended.

Below are the applicable penalties for violations of each one of the Vehicle Code section 14601 offenses:

1. Reckless, Negligent or Incompetent Driving -- California Vehicle Code 14601

If you are convicted for driving on a suspended or revoked California driver's license due to reckless, negligent or incompetent driving under VC section 14601, you face the following sentencing and penalty:

1st offense
- Informal probation for up to three years,
- Five days to six months in the county jail, and
- Between $300-$1,000 in fines

2nd offense (within five years of another VC 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, or 14601.5 conviction)
- Informal probation for up to three years,
- Ten days to one year in the county jail, and
- Between $500-$2,000 in fines
- If you were originally charged with violating VC section 14601.2, due to a drunk driving conviction, and you are now pleading guilty or "no contest" to VC section 14601, you will most likely be ordered to install a certified ignition interlock device (IID) for up to three years in any car that you own or drive.

2. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs -- California Vehicle Code 14601.2

If you are convicted for knowingly driving on a suspended or revoked California driver's license due to a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction under VC section 14601.2, you face the following penalties and sentencing:

1st offense
- Informal probation for up to three years,
- Ten days to six months in the county jail,
- Between $300-$1,000 in fines, and
- Installation of a certified ignition interlock device, (an IID). An IID is a mini-breathalyzer instrument that prevents you from operating your car until you provide an alcohol-free breath sample.

If, you suffered (1) prior multiple DUI convictions, or (2) a conviction for vehicular manslaughter while you were driving under the influence, and (3) you were subsequently declared a Habitual Traffic Offender under VC section 14601.3, you additionally and consecutively face:

- 180 days in the county jail, and
- a $2,000 fine if you are convicted of this section

2nd offense (within five years of another VC sections 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, or 14601.5 conviction)
- Informal probation for up to three years,
- Thirty days to one year in the county jail,
- Between $500-$2,000 in fines, and
- Installation of an IID

As noted above, if you were previously declared a Habitual Traffic Offender, you face the same additional and consecutive sentence of 180 days in the county jail, and a $2,000 fine

3. Habitual Traffic Offenders -- California Vehicle Code 14601.3

If you are declared a Habitual Traffic Offender under VC section 14601.3, you face the following sentencing and punishment:

1st offense
- Informal probation for up to three years,
- Thirty days in the county jail, and
- a $1,000 fine

2nd or subsequent offense (within seven years of another VC section 14601.3 conviction)
- Informal probation for up to three years,
- 180 days in the county jail, and
- a $2,000 fine

4. Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Test or Driving with an Unlawful Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) -- California Vehicle Code 14601.5

If you are convicted of knowingly driving on a revoked or suspended California driver's license due to refusing to submit to a chemical test or driving with an unlawful Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) under VC section 14601.5, you face the following penalties and punishment:

1st offense
- Informal probation for up to three years, and
- A maximum of six months in the county jail, and/or
- Between $300-$1,000 in fines

2nd offense (within five years of another VC sections 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, 14601.3, or 14601.5 conviction)
- Informal probation for up to three years,
- Ten days to one year in the county jail, and
- Between $500-$2,000 in fines
- As with California VC section 14601 above, if you were originally charged with violating VC section 14601.2 and you are now pleading guilty or "no contest" to this offense, you will most likely be ordered to install an IID for up to three years in any car that you own or drive.

5. License Suspensions or Revocations for Other Reasons -- California Vehicle Code 14601.1

14601.1 is a "catch-all" and prohibits you from knowingly driving on a revoked or suspended license for any reason that wasn't previously mentioned. If convicted under VC section 14601.1 of the California Vehicle Code, you face the following sentencing:

1st offense
- Informal probation for up to three years, and
- A maximum of six months in the county jail, and/or
- Between $300-$1,000 in fines

2nd offense (within five years of another VC sections 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, or 14601.5 conviction)
- Informal probation for up to three years,
- Five days to one year in the county jail, and
- Between $500-$2,000 in fines
- As with California Vehicle Code section 14601 (reckless, negligent or incompetent driving) and VC 14601.5 (regarding refusals to submit to B.A.C. test), if you were originally charged with driving on a suspended or revoked California driver's license following a DUI conviction under VC section 14601.2, and you are now pleading guilty or "no contest" to this offense...you will most likely be ordered to install an IID for up to three years in any car that you own or drive.

 

The penalty for driving on a suspended license in California varies based on the initial reason for the suspension. Contact the Lee Law Group for additional information on penalties for this offense.


Possible Defenses

Contact the Lee Law Group to fight your driving on a suspended license charges. We may be able to help you get this charge reduced to an infraction or dismissed altogether. Here are some of the applicable defenses we may be able to use on your behalf.

1. Lack of Knowledge

In order to prove a California vehicle code violation for driving on a revoked or suspended license, the state must prove not just that your license was suspended...but also that you knew it was suspended. Therefore, vehicle code section 14601 cases often revolve around the key fact of knowledge . . . for both prosecutors and defense attorneys. That means, no matter why your driver's license was initially suspended or revoked, you are not guilty of driving on a suspended license under vehicle code section 14601 and its related sections unless a prosecutor can prove that you knew your license was suspended or revoked.

This is not easy for the prosecutor to prove. As the facts allow, we help you prove you did not know your driving license was suspended and thereby you had no intent to drive on a suspended license. Maybe you never received you notice of the suspension / revocation in the mail. Maybe you were never actually told of your suspension by a judge or other law enforcement officer. These are the types of defenses that the Lee Law Group attorneys know how to assert.

2. You were driving on a "restricted" California driver's license

"Restricted" driving privileges are sometimes available to those who present a "critical need" to drive....even when their license has been suspended. If a restricted license is granted, you will be able to drive (a) to and from work and/or school, (b) to and from a California court-ordered DUI school, and/or (c) anywhere else the court permits. IF you were driving within the scope of your restricted California driver's license, that may be raised as a valid defense to driving on a suspended license charges and may lead to a dismissal of those charges.

However, this defense may only apply to certain VC section 14601 offenses. Contact the Lee Law group for an explanation of the VC section 14601 offenses where a restricted driver's license is available and why.

3. Your California driver's license suspension / revocation was invalid

It could be the case that your driver's license suspension or revocation was unlawful to begin with. There could have been errors in evidence from your previous convictions which led to your license being revoked or suspended. If this is the case, the Lee Law Group will fight to get the law on your side and to get your driving privileges reinstated.

4. Plea bargains and dismissals

In practice, prosecutors are often willing to reduce California VC section 14601 driving on suspended license cases to either lesser offenses (such as VC section 12500 driving without a valid license), or infractions in California law (such as moving violations). This is because prosecutors, like all of us, only have 24 hours in a day that they would rather use to catch felons or, if they are stuck in the traffic prosecutions unit, at least to prosecute DUIs or more serious traffic offenders. Often, they are willing to allow a minor driving on a suspended license charge to be reduced or dismissed.



 

SUSPECTED OR CHARGED WITH THIS OFFENSE? CONTACT THE LEE LAW GROUP AND WE WILL FIGHT FOR YOU

 

 

   
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