CA Vehicle Code 12500, Issuance of Licenses, Expiration, and Renewal, is a complicated law and violators issued a citation for driving without a license could face an infraction or a misdemeanor, depending on how the law enforcement officer (LEO) wrote it up. The first thing you must look for on the traffic ticket is if the “I” or “M” is circled. When the LEO circles the “I” that means you have an infraction that could be a “fix-it” ticket correctable at the County Court in Mojave or Bakersfield, or by paying the fine and fees. When the LEO circled “M” you have a misdemeanor charge that must get resolved in court. With either ticket, unless you failed to carry it with you but have a license, you should consult a traffic ticket lawyer.
The CVC dictates that no one can drive any motor vehicle on California’s roadways without a valid driver’s license (DL) unless exempted by law. Further, a person may not drive a motor vehicle they are not licensed for, such as those who have a regular DL cannot operate a motorcycle without an M1 or M2 endorsement added after passing skill and law tests.
The “Fix-it” Ticket
A correctable ticket for broken lights or other vehicle malfunctions, damaged parts, or failure to produce required documentation upon request by law enforcement, license, registration, or insurance, is called a “Fix-it” ticket. The judge can allow you to pay a $25 fee and have the case go away if you show proof that you have fixed the problem.
In the case of driving without a license because you left it in your wallet or purse at home, you must bring your DL to the law enforcement agent or police station that ticketed you. Get the LEO to sign off on the "Certificate of Correction" portion of the ticket, take the citation to the court clerk before the court date, and pay the fine or dismissal fee, which in Kern County is usually $25, but might vary. The same is true for a broken light or any other vehicle malfunction; but, in that case, you would take the repair receipt to law enforcement.
If You Don’t Have One, Get One!
The first thing you should do after you receive a ticket for driving without a license and you do not have one is get one. You will have two or three months before a traffic court date, so get started right away. Going to court with a DL will at least show the judge you cared enough to take care of it, albeit a little late. And, although it won’t help you win your case, it could lessen the fine.
Three Scenarios Why You Get Ticketed for Driving Without a License
The first scenario where you left your DL at home, we discussed above, but the court does not always dismiss your ticket. CVC 12951,Signature and Display of Licenses, states you must have a valid DL in your “…immediate possession at all times when driving…” When you bring a temporary DL, the court might dismiss the charge if the DMV verifies you had a valid DL at that time of the citation. If not, the charge is an infraction with a $40 base fine, which with added state and county penalties, surcharges, and fees is around $230-250. Or, under subparagraph (b) when you refuse to show the LEO your license, it could be a misdemeanor with a fine up to $1000.
In a second scenario, you have an expired DL or no CA DL at all. This could also have two or three situations: you got stopped for a broken taillight or another reason, and you only had a permit, with no instructor over 21 in the car with you; you moved to CA more than ten days ago, and never changed your DL; or you failed to renew your DL. In this case, your charge could be an infraction or a misdemeanor, and your fine could be up to $1000, plus fees and surcharges.
In the final scenario, you were driving without a license because your DL was suspended or revoked. Once again, there are several circumstances depending on why your DL was suspended. If your DL was suspended due to a Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) probation and suspension, your suspension and probation time would double. You will receive an additional six months suspension and one-year probation, plus a fine of at least $300, or up to $1000, plus penalties and surcharges. CVC 14601.1 does not generally include jail time for a first offense, but 14601.5, customarily includes a ten-day minimum sentence.
When ticketed due to the second or third circumstances, you need to consult with a traffic lawyer, as you should always do when ticketed.
Hire a Traffic Lawyer Who Regularly Appears in Inyo County
When you or a family member received a traffic ticket for driving without a license, contact Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Bigger & Harman’s office is in Bakersfield, but they frequently appear in Mojave and other Central Valley traffic courts representing clients. Send Bigger & Harman an email: firstname.lastname@example.org with the particulars and a scanned copy of your citation.
For information on Kern Traffic Law, go to Bigger & Harman’s Facebook page. If you’re already a client, leave a review or comment about their service.
Considering Bigger & Harman, APC for your traffic issues is the wise move. We can’t always get you a reduced fine or dismissal, but we will always give you our best.
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CVC Sections 12500, 12951, 14601, 14601.1, and 14601.5