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Driving Without a License in California

Driving without a license in California is a violation of CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 12500, Driver’s License, which lays out the requirements for age, endorsements, vehicles (including motor scooters), and the exceptions to the requirements of having a license to operate a motor vehicle on public roadways and even parking facilities in CA. “A person may not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license issued under this code, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code.”

There are basically three sequences that could lead to a ticket for driving without a license in CA:

1. You did not have your license with you. You were stopped by law enforcement (LE) officials for another reason and you realize you left your license at home. You will be issued a ticket for driving without a license and when you take you license into the court clerk, it will be dismissed or changed to CVC 12951 (a) not having a valid license in possession, which is an infraction that carries a base fine of $40.00 but will likely cost $150.00 with fees and penalties. However, if you refuse to show your license to an LE officer then it is a violation of CVC 12951 (b), which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to $1000.00 and up to six months in jail.

2. You never had a CA license or it expired. You were stopped by an LE officer for another reason and you only have a permit, you forgot to renew your license and it expired, or you recently moved to CA from another state and did not acquire a CA license, yet. In these events, you will be issued a ticket. The fine is $250.00 but could be as much as $1000.00. The charge can be as a misdemeanor or as an infraction, depending on how nice the office felt at the time.

3. Your license was revoked or suspended by the State of CA or another state. This is a violation of CVC 14601 driving with a revoked or suspended license is punishable upon conviction up to six months in jail, a fine of at least $300.00, but not more than $1000.00, for the first offense (with fees and assessments, this can turn into 1700). If your license had a Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) probation/suspension when you were ticketed, the suspension time of 6 months will become one year and the probation will be extended, as well.

A Misdemeanor Charge of Driving Without a License

So, how does a minor infraction such as driving without a license become a misdemeanor crime? Well technically, it is a misdemeanor crime, but plea deals and lenient District Attorneys (DA) and judges downgrade the offense to a non-criminal infraction depending on the history and demeanor of the defendant.

It is easy for the prosecution to prove a violation of CVC 12500, all that is required is that the DA prove you were driving on a public roadway and you did not have a valid license at that time. But, just like everything else, there are exceptions, technicalities, and mistakes made. Just as leaving your license at home is a mistake, an LE that doesn’t dot every “I” or cross every “t” can leave the door open for a professional traffic ticket attorney.

Bigger & Harman, APC

Although simply forgetting your license at home is not normally a reason to hire a traffic ticket attorney when you are ticketed, there are instances where knowledgeable local representation is essential. Driving with a suspended license is one of those times when you should not mess around with trying to represent yourself or just pay the fine and do the time.

Whenever you are charged with a misdemeanor crime, the DA or Assistant DA will likely prosecute the crime and you must be afforded every right guaranteed by our Constitution, including the right to remain silent and to have a lawyer represent you at trial. If you are charged with a misdemeanor driving without a license or driving with a suspended license in Mono, Kern, Tulare, Kings, or another south-central county in CA, contact the law office of Bigger & Harman, 661-349-9300 in Bakersfield. Or, send us an email: attorney@markbigger.com.

En español, llame al 661-349-9755.