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5-Serious Misdemeanor Offenses In CAIn California, as in most states, traffic offenses can be minor infractions, major felonies, or in the middle are misdemeanor offenses. Some can be classified as serious misdemeanor offenses, which include these five: driving with a suspended license; driving without a license; reckless driving; a “street race” or race contest, officially known as an exhibition of speed; and a hit and run with property damage.

If the traffic violation occurs in Kern County, California it is important to hire a local traffic ticket attorney to either get your ticket dismissed or plead to a lesser charge to avoid jail time, huge fines, and the stigma of a misdemeanor offense on your record. Kern County drivers, as well as any CA drivers, can also plead not guilty and ask for a trial, guilty and pay the fine, or no contest. Drivers usually plead no contest when there is an upcoming or ongoing civil trial for misdemeanor offenses and pleading guilty would jeopardize the outcome of the civil trial.

#1 Driving with a Suspended Driver’s License (DL)

CVC 14601, Driving with a suspended license. If you are caught driving after your license has been suspended by the court or the DMV, you could be guilty of misdemeanor offenses such as this one. When you are pulled over and subsequently convicted, this can result in a minimum fine of $300 with fees, surcharges, and penalties that equal $680 or a maximum $1000 depending on why your DL was suspended, with fees, surcharges, and penalties that equal close to $3000, a longer period for your DL suspension, impounding of your vehicle, and five days up to six months in a County jail.

#2 Driving without a Driver’s License

CVC 12500, Driving without a DL is another of the serious traffic misdemeanor offenses. Driving without a DL can be either an infraction or a misdemeanor. An infraction is the least severe and can result in a $234.00 fine. Oftentimes, driving without a DL in possession is a “fix it” ticket with a minimal fine if you bring your DL to the court clerk, while other infractions of this section of the code, are usually failure to sign the DL, permit or endorsement violations.

If it is considered a misdemeanor offense and you are convicted, it could lead to a maximum of 6 months in County jail, as well as having to pay $394 up to $1000.00 in fines, plus the surcharges, penalties, and fees which will bring the total over $2000.

#3 Reckless Driving

CVC 23103, Reckless driving. This is a misdemeanor. Reckless driving involves “…willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property…” If convicted you can serve 5 to 90 days in jail as well as a fine of anywhere from $145-$1000, plus surcharges, fees, and penalties that could bring the total to around $2000. You cannot hide this conviction from your insurance company. It will stay on your record for 7-10 years, and your premium will go up a minimum of 22%, in most cases 50% or more for the first offense if the insurance company decides to continue insuring you. You need an attorney.

#4 Hit and Run

A hit and run occurs when a driver hits another vehicle or damages property and then flees the scene of the accident. It is a misdemeanor (CVC 20002 (a)) to flee the scene without notifying the owner of the damaged property no matter how insignificant it may appear. A convicted hit and run misdemeanor driver can be sentenced to up to six months in a County jail a fine of $1000 or both, plus fees, surcharges, and penalties, which will bring the cost before the rise in insurance premiums to over $2000. Likewise, it is a felony (CVC 20001 (a)) to flee the scene when there are injuries, not matter how slight and the driver’s knowledge of the injuries is also irrelevant. A felony conviction could lead to a prison term of at least one year and a fine up to $10,000, or both, and compensation.

The court has many discretions in the imposition of penalties in either a misdemeanor or felony hit and run, particularly if the injured party agrees they have been justly compensated, therefore the sooner you have an attorney contact the owner of the damaged property the better.

#5 Speed Contest Are Misdemeanor Offenses

You may think it’s cute to squawk your tires or spin out to impress someone with the power under your hood, but a California law enforcement officer (LEO) might see that as a violation of CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 23109, an Exhibition of Speed or speed contest; in fact, most judges would too. Many CA judges will convict a vehicle driver of an Exhibition of Speed, for squealing tires, motorcycle wheelies, or any burst of speed from a traffic light or stop sign, particularly when there are two vehicles involved.

There is a possibility of jail time, from one to ninety days, base fines of $355 to $1000 for a conviction for the first offense, your vehicle will likely be impounded for 30 days, your license automatically suspended at the discretion of the judge, and/or assessed two Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) points on your DL.

Hire a Central Valley Traffic Attorney

All of the above examples are serious misdemeanor offenses that may even qualify as a felony charge in some scenarios. If you are cited or given a traffic ticket there are ways to handle them. Contacting legal counsel will help you to determine what the correct course of action is and help you to avoid the maximum penalties. in Mono, Kern, Tulare, Fresno, Kings, or another Central Valley county in CA, contact the law office of Bigger & Harman, 661-349-9300 for a free phone consultation about traffic court in Bishop, Bakersfield, Fresno, or Hanford. Or, send us an email:

En español, llame al 661-349-9755.

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