California Suspended License Driving in violation of Vehicle Code Section 14601

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California Suspended License Attorney Mark A. GallagherCalifornia Suspended License Help.  California Vehicle Code Section 14601 sets forth the rules and penalties for driving on a suspended license.   The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office estimates that more than 15% of all criminal cases filed in the Los Angeles County Court system are based on charges of driving without a license or Driving on a Suspended License.     Vehicle Code Section 12500 aka VC 12500(a) is for driving without a valid license.   This a different and lesser charge than driving on a suspended license.   Vehicle Code Section 14061 aka VC 14601(a) is the more serious charge of driving on a suspended license.   The rationale behind the increased penalty for a California suspended license is that you have been specifically informed to stop driving, but you have continued to do so.    You have made the situation worse by disobeying the order to stop.   There are a wide variety of subsections of California suspended license offenses under VC 14601 which cover all different types of suspensions and the penalties can vary greatly as well.

Before going further it’s important to note an important issue that come up over and over again when dealing with a California suspended license.   It doesn’t matter if you actually have your license in your pocket or not.   I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people tell the judge “my license isn’t suspended I have it right here in my wallet”.   In the eyes of the California DMV and the California Court system, the physical license you carry around is meaningless.  The important thing is your “right to drive”.   This “privilege” or “license” from the DMV can be revoked or modified any time.  Your license status is always available to law enforcement, your insurance agent,  your employers, and countless others through an online database.   This status is subject to change at any time and has nothing to do with what it says on your license.  I know it says it expires in 2018, but that doesn’t matter.  If we pull your DMV sheet and it says you have a California suspended license, you got a problem.   Welcome to the the matrix.

VC 14601(a) – California suspended license for Specific Offenses

VC 14601(a) makes it illegal to drive any vehicle requiring a license when you have a California suspended license as a result of:

  • Reckless driving
  • Negligent or incompetent operation of a vehicle
  • Any mental or physical impairment that prevent you from driving safely,
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.

If the DMV has mailed you a letter notifying you of the revocation or suspension of your driving privileges, it is imperative that you consult with a Los Angeles criminal lawyer as soon as possible to represent you at your DMV hearing.

VC 14601.1(a) – The “Umbrella” statute

VC 14601.1(a) makes it a crime to drive any vehicle that requires a license to operate when your license has been suspended or revoked for any reason other than those listed in section 14601(a), 14601.2, or 14601.5.  This is one of the most commonly charged crimes in the State of California.   Thousands of people are charged with a crime every day in California for doing nothing more than trying to drive to the store to get gallon of milk for their children, or attempting to get to work and back.   This statute is most often charged in connection with a license that was suspended pursuant to a hold under VC 40509.5, triggering a suspension of driving privileges after failing to appear on a simple traffic citation.   Many people will face this charge without even understanding they needed to appear in the first place.  This charge can also apply when people attempt to resolve a traffic matter by mail unsuccessfully.   Simple misunderstandings can lead to jail.

VC 14601.2(a) – California Suspended License due to a DUI

VC 14601.2(a) is the most serious charge under VC 14601. If your California driving privilege are suspended or revoked due to a DUI conviction, you will be charged with a violation of VC 14601.2(a), carrying a minimum 10-day county jail sentence for a first offense, and a minimum 30-day county jail sentence for a second offense. If you are charged with this offense, it is in your best interest to immediately contact a Los Angeles criminal lawyer as the charge has serious, life-altering consequences.

VC 14601.5 – California Suspended License due to Refusal of BAC Test or DUI

You will be charged with a violation of VC 14601.5 if you drove knowing you had a suspended or revoked license due to any of the following:

  • Refusal to submit to a California blood or breath test
  • Conviction of a DUI under 21 years of age when refusing to submit to a PAS or “Breathalyzer” test or having a BAC of .01% or higher
  • Refusing to submit to a PAS or “Breathalyzer” when suspected of a DUI and on probation for a DUI conviction
  • Driving with a BAC of .01% or higher while on probation for a prior DUI conviction
  • Driving with a BAC of .01% or higher while on probation for a prior DUI conviction
  • Driving with a BAC of .08% or higher in violation of VC 23152(b)
  • Driving with a BAC of .04% r higher in a vehicle requiring a commercial driver’s license

As a California Criminal defense attorney, one of the things that really bothers me about California suspended license law is the lack of consistency from case to case and court to court.      In my mind, two people who get caught committing the same crime should receive the same punishment.   In fact this is one of the stated sentencing goals under the California Rules of Court,  See Rule 4.410(a)(7).   So in theory, if one client gets 10 days in jail for driving without a license, the next client should get the same thing.   Now I understand that every case is different and the judge needs to consider the particular facts of the case, any prior record of convictions, the circumstances facing the defendant, etc.   I’m ok with exceptions but that’s not what we are talking about here.

For driving without a license or driving on a California suspended license you could end up with no penalty at all, a small fine, a large fine, or you can end up in jail for 12 months.  I have literally seen thousands of these cases in the last 13 years of my practice and I have seen it all.   On the one hand you see the people with multiple tickets for a California suspended license using fake names and out of state licenses and  getting away with it.   Some of them have more than 10 tickets open at a time in courthouses throughout California.   They may have warrants, but somehow they just keep getting pulled over and avoiding arrest.   Maybe the officer doesn’t match up the fake name or ID to the priors.  Maybe the officer just knows the jail is too crowded to make space for a minor offender, or the officer doesn’t want to deal with a multiple county transfer.  For whatever reason, some people just keep sliding by with a California suspended license.   On the other hand I see the people who got arrested and had their vehicle impounded over this offense.  Worse yet I see thousands of people serving jail time for California suspended license.  Some of these people receive a jail sentence of 10 days, 30 days, even 6 months to a year.  Some of these people were simply trying to get to work or drop off their kids at school for the day.

If you are facing a charge for driving without a license or driving on a California suspended license, you should contact a California Traffic Law Firm immediately to discuss your case.    When you call, you can find out if there is a way to have your license reinstated or a way to get your charges reduced or dismissed in court.   You may have a valid defense if you never received notice that you had a California suspended license.  Even if you did have notice, it may be tough for the prosecutor to establish proof of notice beyond a reasonable doubt.   If you aren’t sure why you have a California suspended license, you can follow this link to get a copy of your unofficial driving record from the California DMV.   Once you  have the record, fax it over to me at 714-680-9982, or email it to me at   If you prefer, you can always call me at 800-797-8406.  I can translate the DMV codes into English and tell you what is going on and how to fix it.

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