Driving With a Suspended License (California Vehicle Code Section 14601)
California Vehicle Code (VC) section 14601 prohibits anyone from driving with knowledge that his or her license has been suspended or revoked. The difference between a suspended license and a revoked license is the process by which the driver regains their driving privilege. A suspension is a temporary loss of driving privileges that can be automatically reinstated after the driver meets certain conditions. A revocation is a more serious deprivation, which may be permanent, or may require you to reapply for a license at a time when you become eligible.
How Can I Lose My License?
There are many violations of law that can cause you to lose your license. The DMV, the court, or the law enforcement agency that arrests you for violating a law all have the power to take your driver’s license away. Some of the reasons they could suspend or revoke your license include:
- You were arrested or convicted of DUI;
- There is a warrant out for your arrest;
- You were arrested or convicted of reckless driving;
- You accumulated too many “points” on your driving record due to traffic violations or a DUI conviction;
- You have a medical condition, such as vision problems or epilepsy;
- You do not have car insurance;
- You failed to pay child support;
- You failed to appear in court on a traffic violation;
- You were arrested or convicted of possession of a controlled substance;
- You failed to file a report with the DMV after an accident; or
- You failed to pay a civil judgment related to an automobile accident.
Prosecution for Driving with a Suspended License
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In order to convict you of driving with a suspended license under VC 14601, the prosecution must prove these two elements:
- You drove a motor vehicle while your driving privilege was suspended or revoked; AND
- When you drove the vehicle, you knew that your driving privilege was suspended or revoked.1
The first element is fairly self-explanatory, as it only requires that the prosecution show that you were driving, and at the time, you had no active driving privilege to do so. The second element is the more difficult to prove. However, VC 14601 provides that a driver is presumed to have knowledge of the suspension or revocation if:
- The DMV mailed notice advising of the suspension or revocation;
- The notice was mailed to the most recent address given to the DMV by the defendant, or a more recent address as given to the court or a law enforcement agency; AND
- The notice was not returned to the DMV as undeliverable or unclaimed.
If the prosecution can show this mailing occurred, the law shifts the burden to you to prove that you never received the notice. Similarly, if the prosecution proves that a court informed you that your driving privilege was revoked or suspended, your knowledge is presumed.
Defenses to VC 14601 Charges
Lack of Knowledge – As stated above, the difficult part for the prosecution is to prove that you had knowledge that your driving privileges were suspended or revoked, which is why the law includes the provisions that presume knowledge. So, if your experienced criminal defense attorney can show that the notice was sent to an address that was not your address, or that the law enforcement officer or court never advised you that you were losing your driving privileges, you may have a valid defense to these charges.
Your license was actually restricted – Another valid defense is that you were driving on a restricted license, and that the driving was allowed under the conditions of that restriction. A restricted license is a type of suspended license that allows the driver to commute between home and work or school. If you were driving in accordance with those conditions, the driving was not a violation of VC 14601.
Punishment for Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License
Driving with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor under California law. A first conviction under VC 14601 can result in the following punishment:
- Imprisonment in a county jail for between five days and six months; and
- A fine between three hundred dollars ($300) and one thousand dollars ($1,000).
After the first conviction, subsequent violations of this law, if they occur within five years of a conviction for the original offense, can result in increased jail time and fines. In addition, if your driving privileges were suspended or revoked because you were convicted of DUI, the court can require the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) that will prevent your vehicle from starting if you cannot provide a breath sample that is free from any measurable amount of alcohol.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Will my license be automatically reinstated when the suspension ends?
The procedure for reinstating your license will depend on why it was suspended. For example, if your license was suspended because of a DUI, you will have to complete the terms of your sentence, and then provide necessary documentation to the DMV of the completion of all alcohol education programs, proof of insurance, etc.
- If I am arrested for a DUI due to alcohol, at what point will my license be suspended or revoked?
For a DUI, your license is actually suspended at the time of your arrest. The officer is required to take your license and provide you with a “pink sheet,” which is a notice informing you of the suspension. You can take steps, however, to continue to drive by notifying the DMV within 10 days of your arrest that you are invoking your right to a hearing before the DMV suspends your license. If you do not contact the DMV within 10 days of the date of your arrest, your license will be suspended 30 days from the date of your arrest.
The police officer must only take your driver’s license after a DUI arrest if the DUI is related to the alcohol content in your blood. If a police officer arrests you for a DUI based upon his belief you were driving under the influence of unlawful drugs or prescription medication, he is not permitted to take your license.
- Can driving with a suspended license cause me to lose my job?
This is a potential problem for many people, especially if their job involves driving. If your employer requires that you have a valid driver’s license, you may face difficulty maintaining your job. The court will likely not consider your employer’s demands when revoking or suspending your license.
Contact the Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to Learn More
If you or a loved one is facing charges of driving without a license, your best option is to work with an experienced and aggressive attorney. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully defending people accused of driving with a suspended or revoked license for over 30 years. Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation and let us help you too.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. CALCRIM No. 2220. Driving With Suspended or Revoked Driving Privilege (Veh. Code, §§ 13106, 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, 14601.5)↩