Last Sunday, Governor Brown signed into law AB 2189. This bill would permit undocumented individuals who are given relief under the UCIS’ Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Process to receive a valid driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles. For a person to be granted deferred action, the individual must meet the following requirements:
1) Was under 31 years old on June 15, 2012;
2) Came to the United States before his or her 16th birthday;
3) Has continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007;
4) Had no valid immigration status on June 15, 2012;
5) Currently enrolled in school, have graduated or acquired a certificate of completion from high school, has obtained a GED certificate, or has been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
6) Has not been convicted of a felony, a “significant misdemeanor”, three or more other “non-significant” misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
If you qualify and receive relief under this process, the next step would be to apply for a driver’s license. Then if you meet all other criteria for licensure, you will be given a California Driver License.
Why is it important to get a driver’s license for traffic matters?
As you may notice, a person who has received too many misdemeanors will not be eligible for deferred action. Although a “minor traffic offense” such as “driving without a license” will not count as a “non-significant misdemeanor”, a person’s entire offense history can still be considered in determining whether relief should be granted under the totality of the circumstances. The UCIS doesn’t make it clear if “driving without a license” is the same as “driving on a suspended license.”  In California, “driving without a license” (codified as CVC 12500) is different than “driving on a suspended license” (codified as CVC 14601.) Both violations can be charged as misdemeanors but CVC 14601 is the more serious violation. It’s important to note that a person can be charged for violating CVC 14601 even when they had no license on the date of their citation. This suspension happens because the DMV is suspending your privilege to drive and not necessarily the actual license. The license just reflects that privilege. A person can be charged with CVC 14601 for a variety of grounds, but the most common reason is a Failure To Appear.  If you were charged with a Failure To Appear, your ticket is most likely in collections because you never showed up to court. A Failure To Appear is listed as a misdemeanor and if you pay collections the whole amount, a misdemeanor will be reflected on your record. Moreover, a valid driver’s license will also help cut fines for other infractions such as showing no proof of automobile insurance.
What if you have already been convicted of violating CVC 12500 or CVC 14601?
The good news is that under California Penal Code Section 19.8, a motion can be filed with the court to reduce these convictions from a misdemeanor to an infraction. Be aware a 1203.4 motion (commonly known as an expungement) does not work for immigration purposes, however a 19.8 motion does achieve results under federal review.  Overall, getting relief for deferred action and obtaining a driver’s license is symbiotic. You need to be granted relief in order to get a driver’s license while you need a driver’s license to help you stay clean in order to get relief. Possessing a valid driver’s license can only benefit you.
If you’re seeking legal advice, feel free to contact me here at the Law Offices of Mark A. Gallagher: (800) 797-8406 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q5: If I have a minor traffic offense, such as driving without a license, will it be considered a non-significant misdemeanor that counts towards the “three or more non-significant misdemeanors” making me unable to receive consideration for an exercise of prosecutorial discretion under this new process?
A5: A minor traffic offense will not be considered a misdemeanor for purposes of this process. However, your entire offense history can be considered along with other facts to determine whether, under the totality of the circumstances, you warrant an exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
It is important to emphasize that driving under the influence is a significant misdemeanor regardless of the sentence imposed.
 Many courts will reduce fines as long as you have current valid insurance.