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Beginning in January 2015, California will be the first state to make undocumented immigrants eligible to receive a drivers' license.

The two biggest tasks facing the DMV between now and January 2015, when the new law is scheduled to take effect, is to determine the physical design of the new drivers' licenses and determine what identifying documents will be needed, in lieu of a Social Security card or a birth certificate.

Preliminary plans are for the cards to contain DP for "driving privilege" instead of DL for "drivers' license" and to accept foreign passports and school records as supporting documents. Over one million initial applicants are expected; the new licenses may be available sooner if the state is ready sooner.

Currently, undocumented immigrants in California are very vulnerable to Vehicle Code 12500(a), or driving without a license. While many of these citations are issued to people whose license has been suspended but or unaware of the suspension, a large portion of 12500(a) violators are undocumented immigrants who cannot legally obtain a drivers' license. Driving without a license is usually not be basis for an initial traffic stop in Kern County but can often be an expensive enhancement to an already-expensive traffic ticket.

Until the new law takes effect, a person charged with driving without a license should consult an attorney. An attorney practicing in Bakersfield can challenge the basis for the officer's initial stop, or have these enhancement penalties reduced or eliminated entirely. An experienced attorney will also know other potential consequences, such as the possibility of faster impound release and immigration consequences.

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