Individuals are only legally allowed to operate motor vehicles in California if they have a valid driver’s license. Drivers who operate a vehicle without a valid license could be charged under California Vehicle Code Section 14601: Driving On A Suspended Or Revoked License.
You can get help understanding this complicated section of the vehicle code with the professionals at the Simmrin Law Group.
Defining California Vehicle Code Section 14601
VC 14601 makes it illegal for drivers to operate a motor vehicle if their license is suspended or revoked for specific reasons. Generally, drivers only face VC 14601 charges if they lost their license due to:
- Abuse of Alcohol or Drugs
- Reckless Driving
This charge also applies if a driver has their license suspended because they are considered a negligent – or incompetent – operator, or because they have a condition that does not allow them to safely operate a vehicle.
Note that this does not mean that drivers can operate a vehicle if their license was suspended or revoked for other reasons. California Vehicle Code Section 14601.1: Driving with a Suspended License can be used to prosecute other drivers that do not have valid licenses.
Intentionally Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License in California
Drivers in California should only face VC 14601 charges if they were aware that their license was revoked or suspended. Drivers cannot simply claim that they were unaware about the status of their license to avoid this charge.
The court can decide that a driver was aware that their license was invalid if:
- The Driver Was Mailed a Notice about the Status of Their License
- The Notice Was Mailed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- The DMV Sent the Notice to the Driver’s Most Recent Address
- The Notice Did Not Return as Unclaimed or Undeliverable
Drivers that operate motor vehicles while aware that their license is invalid can be prosecuted under VC 14601.
Penalties for Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License
The penalties for driving on a suspended or revoked license may vary depending on the initial causes for the license suspension or revocation. However, in general, drivers can expect to face:
- Fines: Up to $1,000
- Jail Time: Up to 6 Months
Drivers can also expect to face penalties if they were arrested for another driving violation while driving on a suspended or revoked license. Reach out to a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer if you need help handling charges for driving on an invalid license.
Driving on an Invalid License and Habitual Traffic Offender Charges
Some drivers in California may be labeled habitual traffic offenders. Per California Vehicle Code Section 14601.3, habitual traffic offenders are drivers who:
- Have a Suspended or Revoked License
- Continue to Operate a Motor Vehicle AND
- Accrue Points on Their License OR
- Are Involved in Motor Vehicle Accidents
Drivers who are deemed to be habitual traffic offenders will face additional penalties for any traffic violations. Even a first-time violation aa a habitual traffic offender can lead to a lengthier jail sentence and fines of up to $1,000.
Legal Defenses to Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License Charges
Drivers who operate a vehicle on an invalid license can get help from a criminal defense lawyer. A professional lawyer can investigate your situation and may be able to argue:
You Were Unaware Your License was Invalid
You should only be convicted under VC 14601 if you knew your license was suspended or revoked. If your lawyer can prove that you thought you had a valid license, you may be able to avoid a conviction.
You Were Only Driving Because it was an Emergency
Drivers who have a revoked or suspended license may be required to operate a motor vehicle in some circumstances. If there is a serious emergency and you must get behind the wheel, you may be able to avoid VC 14601 charges.
You Were Forced to Drive Against Your Will
Some drivers may be forced to operate a vehicle, even if they know their license is revoked or invalid. If someone threatens you with violence, you should not face criminal charges for driving while your license is suspended or revoked.
Get Help Handling Charges for Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License
The court system in California can harshly punish drivers for violating California Vehicle Code Section 14601: Driving On A Suspended Or Revoked License. You can get help building a defense against these charges by reaching out to the Simmrin Law Group today. Find out how we can help you by calling (310) 997-4688 or filling out our online contact form.
You can get immediate legal advice from professional criminal defense lawyers with a FREE consultation.