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Some of the most common driving offences are driving on a suspended or revoked licence. The severity of the offence and the punishment varies depending on the reason for the suspension or revocation.
Types of Offences
VC 1401 – licence suspended or revoked for specific offences
Vehicle Code 14601 VC: “(a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at any time when that person’s driving privilege is suspended or revoked for reckless driving in violation of Section 23103, 23104 or 23015, any reason listed in subdivision (a) or (c) of Section 12806 authorizing the department to refuse to issue a license, negligent or incompetent operation of a motor vehicle as prescribed in subdivision (e) of Section 12809, or negligent operation as prescribed in Section 12810.5, if the person so driving has knowledge of the suspension or revocation. Knowledge shall be conclusively presumed if mailed notice has been given by the department to the person pursuant to Section 13106. The presumption established by this subdivision is a presumption affecting the burden of proof.”
California Vehicle Code 14601 makes it illegal for you to drive a car, motorcycle, or other vehicle when you know that the DMV has suspended or revoked your California driver’s license as a result of any of the following:
- reckless driving,
- alcohol and/or drug abuse,
- a physical or mental condition that prevents you from driving safely or,
- being declared a “negligent” operator or “incompetent” operator.
The most common reason for having a license suspended is reckless driving.
The punishment is set out below:
VC 14601 Punishment
License revoked/suspended for specific offenses (reckless driving, alcohol or drug addiction, negligent operator, physical or mental condition)
Prison Term: 5 days to 6 months
Fine: $300 to $1000
VC 14601.1 – License suspended or revoked for general offences
Vehicle Code 14601.1 VC reads: “(a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle when his or her driving privilege is suspended or revoked for any reason other than those listed in Section 14601, 14601.2, or 14601.5, if the person so driving has knowledge of the suspension or revocation. Knowledge shall be conclusively presumed if mailed notice has been given by the department to the person pursuant to Section 13106. The presumption established by this subdivision is a presumption affecting the burden of proof.”
This is a “Catch-all” provision that makes it illegal for you to drive when you know that the DMV has suspended or revoked your license for any reason–even one that isn’t mentioned in the other driving with a suspended license statutes.
VC 14601.1 Punishment
License revoked/suspended for general reasons (not listed in other statutes)
Prison Term: Up to 6 months, no minimum
Fine: $300 to $1000
VC 14601.2 – License suspended or revoked for a DUI
Vehicle Code 14601.2 VC reads: “(a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at any time when that person’s driving privilege is suspended or revoked for a conviction of a violation of Section 23152 or 23153 if the person so driving has knowledge of the suspension or revocation.”
This is the most serious offence. VC 14601.2 punishes you for driving if you knew your license was revoked or suspended because of a DUI conviction.
The crime of driving with a suspended/revoked privilege because of DUI covers the following situations:
- license suspensions under CA’s driving under the influence law – VC 23152(a)
- license suspensions for driving with blood alcohol of 0.08 or more – VC 23152(b)
- license suspensions under CA’s driving under the influence of drugs law, and
- license suspensions for DUI where injury is caused- VC 23153
VC 14601.2 Punishment
License revoked/suspended for DUI
Prison Term: 10 days to 6 months
Fine: $300 to $1000
VC 14601.3 – Habitual traffic offenders:
Vehicle Code 14601.3 VC reads: “(a) It is unlawful for a person whose driving privilege has been suspended or revoked to accumulate a driving record history which results from driving during the period of suspension or revocation. A person who violates this subdivision is designated an habitual traffic offender. For purposes of this section, a driving record history means any of the following, if the driving occurred during any period of suspension or revocation: (1) Two or more convictions within a 12-month period of an offense given a violation point count of two pursuant to Section 12810. (2) Three or more convictions within a 12-month period of an offense given a violation point count of one pursuant to Section 12810. (3) Three or more accidents within a 12-month period that are subject to the reporting requirements of Section 1600. (4) Any combination of convictions or accidents, as specified in paragraphs (1) to (3), inclusive, which results during any 12-month period in a violation point count of three or more pursuant to Section 12810.”
You can be convicted of driving on a suspended/revoked license under California Vehicle Code 14601.3 VC and declared a “habitual traffic offender” if your California license was suspended or revoked during a twelve – month period when you were convicted of or involved in any combination of two or more of the following serious driving related crimes:
- Vehicle Code 23103 VC reckless driving,
- Vehicle Code 23152 driving under the influence “DUI”,
- VC 23109 exhibition of speed OR
- another California Vehicle Code14601 violation,
- three (3) or more “general” moving violations (speeding, for example), or
- three (3) or more accidents where someone was injured and/or the property damage totalled at least seven hundred fifty dollars ($750)
VC 14601.3 Punishment
Habitual traffic offenders while license suspended/revoked
Prison Term: 30 days
VC 14601.5 – Driver’s license suspension or revocation for chemical test refusal and other DUI offenses
Vehicle Code 14601.5 VC reads: “(a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at any time when that person’s driving privilege is suspended or revoked pursuant to Section 13353, 13353.1, or 13353.2 and that person has knowledge of the suspension or revocation.”
California Vehicle Code 14601.5 VC makes it a crime to drive when you know your California driver’s license has been suspended or revoked due to any of the following:
- A chemical test refusal after a DUI arrest (ie you refuse to submit to a DUI chemical blood, breath, or urine test),
- Committing a DUI when under 21 in circumstances where you either refuse to submit to a Preliminary Alcohol Screening test (PAS) , or had a DUI blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01% or greater,
- Refusing to submit to a PAS (or other chemical test if a preliminary alcohol screening device was unavailable) when you were suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol while on probation for drunk driving,
- Driving with a BAC of 0.01% or greater while on probation for a Californian DUI,
- Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or greater, or
- Driving with a BAC of 0.04% or greater while you were driving a commercial vehicle.
VC 14601.5 Punishment
License revoked/suspended for chemical test refusals and other DUI-related offenses
Prison term: Up to 6 months, no minimum
Fine: $300 to $1000
To prove guilty the DA must be able to prove the following for VC 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2 and 14601.5
- Driving a motor vehicle while your California driver’s license was suspended or revoked, and
- You knew your California driving privileges were suspended or revoked at the time.
Lack of Knowledge
The DA must be able to prove not only that your license was suspended, but that you knew it was suspended. Consequently, Vehicle Code 14601 VC cases often revolve around “knowledge”.
By way of example; the notice of the suspension / revocation was sent to an old address or was never received. Pehaps you were never actually told of your suspension by a judge or other law enforcement officer.
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
- to and from work and/or school,
- to and from a California court-ordered DUI school, and/or
- anywhere else the court permits.
If you were stopped whilst driving within the terms of your restricted CA driver’s license, this can be used as a defense in a case where you are charged with driving on a suspended license for DUI or driving on a suspended license for other offense charges.
Your California driver’s license suspension / revocation was invalid
Your driver’s license suspension or revocation was unlawful. For example, evidential errors from your previous convictions which led to your license being revoked or suspended.
Plea bargains and dismissals
DAs are sometimes willing to reduce driving on suspended license charges to lesser offenses e.g. VC 12500- driving without a valid license.
Other Vehicle Offences
Driving without a license (VC 12500)
This offence is less serious than driving with a suspended or revoked license under Vehicle Code 14601 VC. All the DA needs to prove is that you drove without a valid license. It makes no difference about whether you had knowledge that you knew you were unlicensed or why you lacked a license. The offence of driving without a license can be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction. It is down to the DA. Oftentimes, if it is a first offense and you have a fairly clean driving record, odds are that it will be charged as (or ultimately reduced to) an infraction.
Failure to show a driver’s license- VC 12951
It is an offense to have a valid driver’s license and either:
1. Not have it in your possession whilst driving; or
2. Refuse to show it to a police officer who is enforcing the Vehicle Code upon his/her request.
It is a misdemeanor offencs to refuse to show your license to an officer upon request. It is an infraction to not have your licence on your possession whilst driving. In most cases this charge will be dismissed upon showing that you did have a valid license when you were arrested.
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