California’s VEH 14601 makes it a criminal offense for a person to drive with the knowledge that their driver’s license is suspended. The State prohibits drivers from operating a vehicle until the Department of Motor Vehicles lifts their license suspension. A violation of this law will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor charge. Contact us at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm if you are facing charges for driving with a suspended license in Los Angeles so that we can help you fight the charges.
Understanding Driving with a Suspended License According to the Law
The law defines various elements that make it a crime to drive with a suspended license. It is unlawful for drivers to:
- Drive when their driver’s license has been revoked or suspended
- Drive with the knowledge that their privileges to drive in California have been revoked or suspended
For an individual to be convicted of the crime, the prosecutor must prove the above elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
Proving That a License has been Revoked or Suspended
If a person had a prior conviction that led to a suspension or revocation of their driver’s license, the record is normally available to law enforcement officers or at the DMV database. The prosecutor can retrieve and provide the record in court for one to be guilty of this crime.
How to Prove Knowledge Under VEH 14601
The law prohibiting one from driving with a license that is suspended in California takes the assumption that a person is aware that their license is revoked or suspended when:
- The person received a letter from the DMV in California informing them of the revocation or suspension of their driver’s license
- The notice was forwarded to the address that you gave to the DMV most recently or the court
- There was no return of the notice indicating it was not delivered to the said address
For instance, an older adult suffering from a mental challenge may have their children and doctors worried about their capacity to drive. As a result, their children may write to the DMV requesting suspension of their license. The DMV goes ahead and sends the notice to suspend to the last registered address of the person. Should the person have moved, they may not receive the notice, and it gets returned back to the DMV. If this person is found driving, his or her license may be suspended, but they are not aware of the fact, meaning they are not guilty of violating VEH 14601.
Additionally, under VEH 14601, it is assumed a person is aware that their driving license or privileges are revoked or suspended when one of these is true:
- You were personally served by a law enforcement officer the notice for revocation or suspension. The officer may have confiscated your driver’s license, possibly when you got a DUI arrest.
- At the point of sentencing, you were informed by the judge that your license was revoked or suspended.
However, it is important to note that regardless of any of these facts being true, the facts cannot conclusively prove your knowledge regarding the revocation or suspension. This means that with your lawyer, you can challenge this presumption. This helps to show your innocence.
For instance, with the previous example, it is possible that the notice was sent to the listed address, but the person had since moved. The new occupants of the house may have thrown away the mail instead of returning it to the DMV. In such a case, it is assumed the person was aware of the suspension when in true fact, they were not aware because the notice never got to them. One can present evidence that they have not received any forwarded mail to their new address. With this argument, the person cannot be found guilty of violating VEH 14601.
How to Get Your Driving Privileges Back Following a Suspension
You need to avoid being charged with driving while your license is on suspension. You must know that even when the suspension period for your license has expired, you are prohibited from driving until you take steps to reinstate your driving privileges.
For instance, if your suspension was for a year, once the suspension period is over, you cannot move straight to driving. Driving before reinstating your driving privileges will result in charges for driving with a license that is suspended. Should you be found driving under these circumstances, to avoid a conviction, you must show that:
- You underwent the required process of getting your driving privileges back, or
- You gave the court proof that you had completed all the requirements for your probation.
Based on the reasons your license was suspended, the requirements and steps followed to reinstate your privileges vary.
Statutes for Driving with a Revoked or Suspended License
The various laws in California for driving with a revoked or suspended license are based on the multiple reasons for having the license suspended. Equally, the penalties for this offense also depend on the various reasons for the suspension or revocation. Below, we will discuss the various statutes and the punishments or penalties for committing the offense under them.
VEH 14601 - Revoked or Suspended License for Particular Offenses
Under this statute, it is unlawful for a person to drive a car, other vehicles, or ride a motorcycle when one is aware that their license has been revoked or suspended by the DMV because of the following reasons:
- You were found to be a reckless driver
- You were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- You suffer from a mental challenge that makes it difficult for you to drive in a safe manner
- You have been declared an incompetent or negligent operator.
VEH 14601 states that a person is not allowed to drive any motor vehicle as long as their driving privileges have been revoked or suspended because of reckless driving. This is in violation of section 23103, 23105, or 23104. A license is also denied for incompetent or negligent drivers under section 1280-9 and 12810.5.
Of the listed reasons above, reckless driving is the most common cause of having a license suspended. This may be called wet or dry reckless in California.
VEH 14601.1 – Suspension or Revocation of License due to General Offenses
Under this statute, it is illegal for a person to drive when their license is suspended for whatever reason by the DMV. This means, as long as your license has been revoked or suspended, it does not matter the reason. However, it is unlawful to drive under these circumstances. This is usually on the presumption that you are aware of your license has been revoked or suspended.
VEH 14601.2 – Suspension or Revocation due to a DUI
This statute makes it punishable by law for a person to drive while their license is on suspension or has been revoked due to a previous DUI conviction. This violation is the most severe of the VEH 14601 violations.
The offense of one driving while their license is suspended or revoked due to a DUI conviction covers suspensions under:
- License suspensions according to VEH 23152(a) for driving under the influence of alcohol
- License suspensions according to VEH 23152(b) driving while your blood alcohol content BAC is over 0.08
- License suspension because of driving when under the influence of drugs
- License suspensions according to VEH 23153 DUI with bodily injury.
VEH 14601.3 – Habitual Traffic Offender
One can also be prosecuted for driving with a suspended license under this statute and branded a Habitual traffic offender when:
- Your driver’s license was revoked or suspended
- In 12 months’ time when
- You got convicted or were involved in various accidents or offenses such as VEH 23103 reckless driving, VEH 23152 DUI, VEH 23109 Exhibiting speed, or VEH 14601 violation.
- You have been found in at least three times of speed violations
- You have been involved in at least three accidents that have resulted in bodily injuries or property damage of not less than $750.
In summary, VEH 14601.3 prohibits a person from driving if their license is revoked or suspended. Additionally, accumulating a record of driving violations when your license is on suspension or has been revoked is prohibited.
VEH 14601.5 – Revocation or Suspension of a Driver’s License Because of Refusing to Take a Chemical Test or Other Offenses on DUI
According to this statute, it is an offense for a person to drive when their license is revoked or suspended due to:
- Refusal to take a chemical test after getting arrested for a DUI offense. This is a refusal to agree to any test submitted to establish the alcohol content in your blood.
- Having a DUI when under the age of 21 and you refused to take a chemical test, or your BAC was over 0.01%
- Refusal to agree to take a PAS when a preliminary device for screening alcohol was unavailable because of suspicion that you are driving drunk while under a DUI probation
- Having a blood alcohol content of over 0.01% as you drive and are under a DUI probation
- Having a blood alcohol content of over 0.08% and driving in clear violation of VEH 23152(b)
- Driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol content of over 0.04%
Penalties for VEH 14601 Violations
When you are arrested for driving while your license is suspended in California, you will be prosecuted for a misdemeanor offense. Penalties for this offense, therefore, will include imprisonment in county jail, either a fine or both. It, however, does not require a person to be sentenced to state prison for this violation.
As earlier stated, the penalties for this offense differ due to:
- The reasons behind the suspension of your license
- If you have been convicted before for driving and your license is revoked or suspended
- History of your driving. In this case, they check if you have any out of state convictions on driving offenses.
It is important to note that driving with a suspended license is an offense whose penalties differ based on the number of times you commit the offense. The penalties or punishment for a first time offender are more lenient as compared to those of a second-time offender. Below, we summarize the violations and the penalties for each offense for ease of understanding.
Driving with a Suspended License Offense
Violating VEH 14601 suspension for particular offenses such as reckless driving, negligence, drug addiction, etc
Between five days and six months in county jail. Additionally, a fine of between $300 and $1,000
Violating VEH 14601.1 suspension of license due to general reasons
County jail time of not more than 6 months. A cash fine of between $300 and $1,000
Violating VEH 14601.2 suspension of a license due to a DUI
County jail time of between 10 days and 6 months. A cash fine of between $300 and $1,000
Installing an IID in your vehicle
Violating VEH 14601.3 Habitual offender with a suspended license
County jail sentence of 30 days
A cash fine of $1,000
Violating VEH 14601.5 suspension for refusing to take a chemical test
County jail time of not more than 6 months and a fine of between $300 and $1,000.
When a person is convicted of driving with a license that is suspended due to a DUI violation or offense, they will be needed to have an ignition interlock device in their car. This device prevents a person from driving until the device detects an alcohol-free breath sample.
Fighting VEH 14601 Charges
A defense lawyer with a specialty in driving violations can come up with various strategies that will help you fight the allegations. Here, we will discuss the various defense strategies that are common in fighting violations of VEH 14601.
You had no Knowledge
For you to be found in violation of this vehicle code, the prosecution must not only prove that you were driving while your license is on suspension or is revoked, but that you knew of it. This means that the case will be based on knowledge for the defense and prosecution.
It is a possibility the notice was sent, but it got lost somehow. You never got informed of the suspension by the police or a judge, and hence, you did not know about the suspension. This is a strategy that a defense lawyer can capitalize on to get an acquittal of your case.
You have a Restricted Driver’s License
Individuals that show a crucial need for driving can apply to have a restricted driver’s license. If this is accepted, you may be allowed to drive:
- From work or school and back
- To attend a DUI school as ordered by the court and back
- To any place the court allows
If arrested driving and you were within the conditions set forth in your restricted driving license, this could be used as a defense. When this is established, the charges brought against you for driving while your license is on suspension may be dropped.
However, it is essential to note that the defense is only applicable when your license was suspended due to a DUI offense VEH 14602.2 and VEH 14601.5.
The Suspension or Revocation of Your License was Unlawful
Sometimes, the revocation or suspension of your license was illegal in the first place. Sometimes evidence in our prior convictions may have contained errors leading to a suspension or revocation of your license. Should this be the case, it is possible to get your VEH 14601 charges dismissed, but you must fight and prove your case.
Dismissals and Plea Bargains
Many times, prosecutors are open to reducing the charges on VEH 14601 violations to lesser charges, such as:
- Driving with an invalid license under VEH 12500 or
- An infraction such as speed violations.
In some instances, prosecutors prefer to suspend these offenses to focus on more serious ones and save the state money. However, before they choose to suspend, they will look at your criminal record and the steps you have taken to reinstate your suspended driver’s license. If they are satisfied by what they see, they may choose to have the charges against the defendant suspended.
Offenses that are Related to Driving with a Suspended License
There are various offenses that a person can be charged with or alongside the offense of driving with a revoked or suspended license. Sometimes these offenses are lesser ones attracting less severe penalties and can be used in plea bargains.
Driving with no License (VEH 12500)
Violations of this law are similar to those of having a revoked or suspended license and still driving as outlined in VEH 14601. For one to be prosecuted with violations of this law, one needs only to be arrested for driving with an invalid license. This is regardless of your knowledge that you got unlicensed or you held no license at all.
An offense of driving with no license is charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor depending on the prosecutor. When your driving history is clean and is your first offense, it is highly probable that your charges will be reduced to those of an infraction.
A person can be charged with VEH 12500 violations when they:
- Ignore renewing their license upon its expiry
- Have never got a driver's license, to begin with
- Move and become residents of California and fail to get a California license in ten days.
When a person is charged with an infraction, they will be required to pay a fine not in excess of $250. A misdemeanor conviction, on the other hand, will attract more severe penalties. The defendant is likely to be jailed for not more than six months in addition to paying a fine of not more than $1,000.
VEH 12951 - Failing to Show or Produce a Driver’s License
Failing to show or provide a driver’s license when asked by a law enforcement officer is an offense, although less severe than VEH 14601 violations. A person with a valid license can face penalties if they:
- They have no license in their possession yet they are driving
- They refuse to show the license to an officer of the law when called upon to do so.
Leaving your driver’s license behind and driving is an infraction in California. However, if arrested on this charge, the charges can be dropped if you are able to show that you have a driver's valid license.
DMV Hearings in California
Instead of facing VEH 14601 violations, one can avoid them by challenging their driver’s license revocation or suspension. If you can fight to have your driving rights or privileges reinstated, you do not have to face charges for driving while your license is on suspension.
When you get notified of the intention of the DMV to revoke or suspend your driver’s license due to:
- Accusations for negligent operations
- Allegations that you have a mental or physical issue that challenges your driving
- Having a conviction of a DUI charge
You will need to get a lawyer that is experienced in DMV hearings in the state of California. The law allows every person to have a hearing with the DMV before they decide to either revoke or suspend your license. The DMV hearing is usually scheduled for ten days from the day the notification is sent to you. If you do not request this hearing, the department will suspend or revoke your driving privileges.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Near Me
Driving violations may appear petty, but they carry significant consequences. For instance, repeat offenders may accumulate many points in their driving record that could lead to significant penalties for subsequent driving offenses. We at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm understand that you don’t want to face harsh penalties when we can help you prove your innocence or reach a plea bargain with the prosecution. Get in touch with us today at 310-935-1675 today if you are facing charges for driving with a suspended license in Los Angeles.