Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License

 

Knowingly driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license is an misdemeanor offense under California Vehicle Code 14601(a).

driving suspended revoked license long beach traffic attorney don hammond
driving suspended revoked license long beach traffic attorney don hammond

To obtain a conviction for a charge under 14601(a), the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving on a public roadway and also knew that their driver’s license had been suspended or revoked. 

An individual who knowingly drives with a revoked or suspended driver’s license can be cited, convicted, and sentenced under California Vehicle Code 14601(a). There are several subsections under 14601 VC (14601.1, 14601.2, 14601.3, and 14601.5), each of which is a separate offense involving driving on a suspended or revoked license. These related offenses each carry their own penalties, which are based upon the reason why the defendant’s license was suspended or revoked in the first place.

A driver’s license can be revoked or suspended for several reasons:

  • A conviction for reckless or negligent driving.
  • A DUI conviction.
  • Failure to obtain automobile insurance.
  • Failure to pay child support.
  • Failure to appear in court as required.
  • Being determined as incompetent to drive because of a mental or physical limitation or disability.

Most license suspensions in California range from 30 days to one year. But if an individual has been determined to be mentally or physically unfit to drive, the suspension could be indefinite.

Elements of the crime of driving while suspended or revoked

To obtain a conviction for a charge under 14601(a), the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving on a public roadway and also knew that their driver’s license had been suspended or revoked.

Getting pulled over

Typically, police only become aware that a motorist’s license is not valid after pulling the individual over for a traffic stop. In California, a police officer must have probable cause to lawfully stop a motorist. This means police are not permitted to pull someone over without a good reason – for example, stopping a motorist just because it’s late at night and the officer thinks there’s  a chance they are up to no good is not good enough.

But in practice, it is pretty easy for a cop to find a valid reason to pull someone over. The unfortunate truth is that most people who get stopped have provided police with a convenient excuse for pulling them over. To learn more, read  Getting pulled over: 5 avoidable reasons.

Criminal penalties

Driving on a revoked or suspended license is considered to be a “priorable” offense in that criminal penalties increase automatically for each subsequent conviction, regardless of whether the later offense was the same as a previous one.

Violation of 14601 VC and all of its subsections are misdemeanors. For a first conviction of driving on a license which was suspended or revoked license due to reckless or negligent driving, the defendant can be sentenced to any or all of:

  • Five days to six months in county jail.
  • A fine between $300 and $1,000.
  • Up to three years of probation.

For these defendants, a second offense within five years of a prior 14601 VC conviction increases the potential penalties to:

  • 10 days to one year in county jail.
  • Fines between $500 and $2,000.

If the license was suspended or revoked for multiple prior DUI convictions, or vehicular manslaughter while DUI, or habitual traffic offenders (HTOs), a first conviction for violating 14601 VC carries either or both of the following penalties:

  • 180 days in county jail.
  • A fine not to exceed $2,000.

For the same defendants, a second 14601 VC violation within five years can result in any or all of the following penalties:

  • 30 days to one year in county jail.
  • Fines between $500 and $2,000.
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.

If the license was revoked or suspended for refusing to submit to a chemical blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test or for a DUI conviction, potential penalties for a first offense include any or all of the following:

  • Up to six months in county jail.
  • Fines between $300 and $1,000.
  • Probation for up to three years.
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.

Second and subsequent offenses by these defendants within five years can result in any of all of:

  • 10 days to one year in county jail.
  • Fines between $500 and $2,000.
  • Probation for up to three years.
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.

Legal defenses

The ability to drive is a virtual necessity in the Los Angeles area, so it’s not difficult to understand why some people cannot resist the temptation to get behind the wheel even when they know their driver’s license is suspended or revoked. But the consequences of doing so can be severe. Anyone charged with an offense under 14601(a) should seek the services of a qualified attorney. Only an attorney can provide sound legal advice and determine the appropriate defense strategy, which may include, but is not limited to the following.

Lack of knowledge

In order to secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove the defendant operated a motor vehicle even though they knew their driver’s license was suspended or revoked. In many cases, the defendant may have failed or forgotten to update their contact information with the DMV and would have had no way of knowing their license was not valid.

Invalid suspension

In some situations, a defendant may have had their license suspended as a result of a court or DMV error. If the defense can show the defendant’s license was in fact valid, no violation occurred.

Not actually operating the vehicle in question

In order to convict, the prosecutor must prove the defendant actually drove a given vehicle. If a police officer encountered a stopped or disabled vehicle with a person inside who did not have a valid driver’s license, it does not necessarily mean that person operated the vehicle. For example, the actual driver might have gone to get help, and the officer made a mistaken assumption that the passenger unlawfully drove the vehicle to the location where it was found.

Driving with a restricted license

Some individuals who have had their license suspended can qualify for a restricted license which allows them to drive to and from work or school, for example. As long as the defendant was operating within the limits of the restricted license, they are not guilty of violating 14601(a).