Several circumstances could cause your California driver's license to be suspended. Some of these reasons include reckless driving, drunk driving, and being a habitual traffic offender. You must produce your license and vehicle registration when law enforcement officers stop your vehicle at a traffic stop.

You could be arrested and charged under VC 14601.1(a) if your license is suspended. The prosecution has to prove that you operated the vehicle and knew that your driving privileges were suspended for you to be convicted.

The penalties you face after a conviction for driving with a suspended license are severe. Additionally, the exact reason for your license suspension will affect your sentencing. Having a legal representative as you fight your charges can make a difference in the outcome of your case. If you face charges for driving with a suspended license in Long Beach, CA, you will benefit from the expert legal guidance we offer at California Criminal Lawyer Group.

An Overview of California Vehicle Code 14601.1(a)

Driving a vehicle with a suspended license in California is illegal. Failure to adhere to this regulation can attract severe penalties and collateral consequences. The difference between a suspended and a revoked license is how you can regain your driving privileges.

When a license is suspended, the loss of driving rights is temporary, and you can seek reinstatement when the suspension period ends. However, a revocation could be permanent, and you must reapply for the license when eligible.

There are several reasons why the court or DMV can order a suspension of your driver’s license, including:

  • An Arrest and Conviction for Drunk Driving

You will face severe criminal charges for driving while intoxicated in California. DUI occurs when you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content exceeding the legal limit. You could also face these charges if your behavior is influenced by alcohol use.

California DUI laws are strict, and a conviction for the offense can have life-changing consequences. Immediately after your arrest, the Department of Motor Vehicles will seek to suspend your license.

The suspension period can last six months to three years, depending on your criminal history. However, you can avoid suspension by attending and winning a DMV hearing. You could lose your driving privileges through a court-ordered suspension, regardless of the outcome of your DMV hearing. This occurs if you are convicted of a drunk driving criminal charge.

  • A Reckless Driving Conviction

Under California Vehicle Code 23103, reckless driving involves operating a vehicle with disregard for the safety of other people. You can be convicted under this statute if you know your actions are dangerous and ignore the risk.

  • You are a Habitual Traffic Offender

In California, drivers receive "habitual offender status if they drive on a suspended license and accumulate many points on their driving record. The DMV can suspend or revoke your license for being a habitual offender.

  • Failure to Submit to a Chemical Test

When you hold a valid California driver’s license, you must submit to a breathalyzer test when your vehicle is stopped for a suspected DUI. Although the traffic officers cannot force you to take the test, failure could automatically suspend your driver’s license.

  • Failure to Report an Accident to the DMV

After an auto accident, you must report the incident to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Failure to report can trigger the suspension of your driving privileges.

Elements of California Vehicle Code 14601.1(a)

Before you face a conviction for driving on a suspended driver’s license, the prosecution must prove these elements of your crime:

You Drove a Vehicle with a Suspended License

You cannot be found guilty of driving with a suspended license unless you operate the vehicle. This can be easy for the prosecution since most drivers are arrested for this offense at traffic stops.

You Knew that Your Driving Privileges Were Suspended or Revoked

Another critical element in proving your guilt under PC 14601.1(a) is your knowledge that your license was suspended. Proving this element can be challenging for the prosecution. However, California law provides different circumstances under which a driver is presumed to know about the license suspension. They include:

  • The Department of Motor Vehicle Sent You a Suspension Notice

The DMV ensures a systematic record of all vehicle privileges for drivers in California. When you are convicted of a driving offense, and the court suspends your license. After the suspension, your status is updated, and the DMV notifies you about the suspension.

A DMV official will deliver the suspension notice to the address you provided during your vehicle registration. Since you receive the notice physically, this method of delivering the information is more reliable and easy to prove. Showing that you received a notice of suspension from the DMV is an efficient way for the prosecutor to demonstrate your knowledge of the nature of your suspended license.

If the evidence proves you received your notice, you can be found guilty and punished for driving on a suspended driver’s license.

  • The DMV Did Not Receive an Unclaimed Statement for Your License Suspension Notice

If a notice from the DMV does not reach the intended recipient, it will be returned to the DMV offices. Additionally, DMV officials will update the status of an unclaimed statement in the department’s database.

When establishing your liability under California Vehicle Code 14601.1(a), the prosecution must prove they have not received a response for an unclaimed notice. Operating a vehicle after you have received notice of your suspension will result in charges for driving on a suspended license.

  • The DMV Sent the Notice to Your Recent Address

You have an obligation to update your address at the “Department of Motor Vehicles" if you change residence. Therefore, if you argue that you did not receive your notice of suspension, the DMV can show that they sent the notice to the most recent address you provided. The prosecution in your case will call the DMV official tasked with delivering the notice as a witness to your criminal case.

  • You Suffered a License Revocation While Driving

Sometimes, law enforcement officers can pull you over for offenses like speeding in an area with a speed limit. If your reason for speeding was DUI, you could suffer a license revocation immediately after the arrest. The prosecutor will use this information to prove that you knew your license was suspended.

  • The DMV Revoked Your License After a Criminal Conviction

You can suffer a court-ordered or administrative suspension for crimes like DUI and reckless driving. The court-ordered suspension is part of the penalties you face after your criminal conviction. You will learn about your court-ordered license suspension at the sentencing phase of your case.

The prosecutor will gather evidence of your criminal record to help prove your knowledge that your license was suspended.

Penalties for Driving on a Suspended License in California

A violation of Penal Code 14601.1 is charged as a misdemeanor. The severity of the punishment you face for this crime varies depending on the underlying reason for your license suspension. They include:

  • Negligent driving. You are guilty under VC 14601 if you operate a vehicle after a suspension for careless driving. You will face a jail sentence of six months if you are convicted under these circumstances. Sometimes, the court could sentence you to probation and impose a $1,000 fine.
  • Habitual offender. If you drive a vehicle after a license suspension for being a habitual traffic offender, you will be charged under VC 14601.3. The penalties for your conviction under this statute include up to thirty days in jail, probation, and fines.
  • Failure to take a chemical test. Your license will be suspended automatically for failure to submit to chemical tests during a DUI investigation. If you operate your vehicle under these circumstances, you can be charged under VC 14601.5.
  • Drunk driving. If you face a conviction for drunk driving or lose your DMV hearing after a DUI arrest, your license will be suspended. You could be sentenced to six months in jail after your conviction under this statute. Alternatively, the court can send you on misdemeanor probation and order a fine.

Defenses Against Driving on a Suspended License

You risk spending time in jail and paying hefty fines for driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license. Therefore, if you are arrested and charged with this offense, you can use the following defenses in your case:

Your License was not Suspended when you Drove

The most critical element that the prosecution must prove when proving your liability for driving on a suspended license is the nature of your driving privileges. A knowledgeable attorney will help you show that your license has not been suspended or revoked. If your case is based on mistaken identification, you need the DMV records to prove that your driver’s license was not suspended.

You Acted out of Necessity

If sufficient evidence proves that you operated a vehicle on a suspended license, you can argue that you acted out of necessity. A necessity is a situation, such as an unavoidable medical emergency. If you were the only person available to take a sick person for medical attention, you could use this as a defense. However, you must convince the court that the situation compelled you to violate the set rules.

During your trial, you can present medical evidence to prove that you or another person needed urgent care. Although this defense will only sometimes help you avoid a conviction, the court can impose a less strict penalty, like probation.

Serving a probation sentence means that you will avoid spending time behind bars. Such a sentence will not interfere with family or work life.

Lack of Knowledge that your License Was Suspended

You will only be guilty under VC 14601.1(a) if you operate knowing that your license has been suspended. The prosecution will prove your knowledge by showing that the DMV sent a notice of suspension to your address or that your license was suspended after a criminal conviction. You would not be found guilty under this statute if you did not know that your license was suspended.

Lack of a Probable Cause to Stop you

Most arrests for driving on a suspended license happen when a traffic officer stops your vehicle. Law enforcement officers can only stop your car at a DUI checkpoint. Driving on a suspended license does not always mean violating traffic laws.

If the traffic officers did not have probable cause to stop your vehicle, you can present this defense in your case. Although a lack of probable cause will not negate your violation under VC 14601.1(a), the court could impose a lighter sentence.

You Drove within your Employment or Private Property

You cannot be found guilty of this offense if you operate on private property or business premises.

California DMV Hearing

The best way to avoid criminal charges for driving with a suspended license is to fight to avoid the initial suspension. After an arrest for drunk driving or other driving crimes in California, the traffic officer confiscates your driving license. In return, you will be issued a notification allowing you to operate for up to thirty days legally.

Even before you enter criminal court for your case, the Department of Motor Vehicles may attempt to suspend your driving license. During the arrest, you will be notified of your right to a DMV hearing. The DMV hearing is a hearing held by the DMV officers where you can contest the suspension of your license.

Although the DMV hearing is informal, you have the right to have legal representation. Your attorney can help you defend yourself against the license suspension. In addition to presenting evidence, you can subpoena witnesses, like your arresting officer. The DMV hearing is different from your criminal case.

If you prevail in your DMV hearing, you can continue to drive your vehicle. Criminal cases take a while to resolve. Therefore, you will buy yourself more time to legally drive your car and avoid charges for driving with a suspended license. If the DMV suspends your license, you can obtain a restricted license to drive to work and school.

Another benefit of attending a DMV hearing is that you can gather more information on the evidence that the prosecution has against you. This could help you win your criminal case and avoid a court-ordered driver's license suspension.

Frequently Asked Questions on Vehicle Code 14601.1(a)

Facing an arrest and charges for driving on a suspended license is a challenging experience. If you rely on driving to carry out your work or school activities, the consequences of a conviction can take a toll on you. Understanding your offense and the potential consequences is critical to ensuring that you take the appropriate steps to fight the charge.

The following are frequently asked questions on California VC 14601.1(a):

  • Must I serve jail time for driving on a suspended license?

The punishment you face for violating VC 14601.1 depends on the underlying cause of your suspension. However, jail time is not mandatory. The court can sentence you to misdemeanor probation, an alternative to jail time. While on probation, you will perform community service and report regularly to the court.

Although the probation sentence can save you from jail, you must follow all the conditions the court attaches to your sentence. If you do not follow your probation rules, the judge can order that you serve your jail sentence.

  • What qualifies as driving under Vehicle Code 14601.1(a)?

You must have been operating a vehicle to be arrested for driving on a suspended license. Sitting in a vehicle's driver's seat does not mean that you drove. For this reason, most arrests occur when a traffic officer stops your vehicle on the highway. Under this statute, a vehicle could be anything from a school bus, public transportation, a motorcycle, or a personal vehicle.

  • At what point will my license suspension be effective after an arrest for a driving offense?

When you face an arrest for drunk driving or another driving offense, you could face two forms of license suspension. The administrative suspension is imposed even before you are tried for your crime. Your license will be automatically suspended unless you attend a DMV hearing or lose.

The court triggers the other license suspensions for defendants found guilty in criminal court. You will receive a notice of suspension from the DMV, regardless of the type of suspension you face. If you operate a vehicle after receiving the notice, you will be charged with violating VC 14601.1(a).

  • Will my license be reinstated automatically when the suspension period ends?

The DMV will not automatically reinstate your driving privileges when you complete your license suspension period. You must pay a reinstatement fee and provide evidence of having attended DUI or traffic school. Additionally, you must show that you have met the vehicle insurance requirements.

Offenses Related to California Vehicle Code 14601.1(a)

Some offenses are closely related to driving on a suspended license. The prosecution can file these charges instead of or alongside VC 14601.1(a):

Driving without a License

Under California Vehicle Code 12500(a), operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license is a crime. The elements that the prosecution must prove to establish your guilt under this statute include:

  • You drove a vehicle on a highway.
  • At the time you drove, you did not have a valid driver’s license.

The only time you will not need a California driver’s license is when you fall into these categories:

  • You are a government officer driving a government vehicle on federal duties.
  • You operate a tractor or other farm implement.
  • You operate an off-highway vehicle across a public road.
  • You are a visitor with a valid driver’s license from your state.
  • You transport hazardous material with a Canadian driver’s license.
  • You have a valid diplomatic driver's license.

You can be charged with violating VC 12500(a) instead of VC 14601.1(a) if the prosecutor finds that you did not have a license at the time of your arrest. Driving without a valid license is a misdemeanor. This means that you could spend time in jail for the offense.

Unlawful Use of a Driver’s License

California VC 14610 defines the unlawful use of a driver’s license as engaging in these acts:

  • Displaying a revoked or suspended license.
  • Lending your driver's license to another person.
  • Failure to surrender a suspended license to the DMV.
  • Allow the unlawful use of your driver’s license by another person.
  • Duplicate another person’s license without their consent.
  • Altering a driver’s license.

The unlawful use of a driver’s license is a misdemeanor offense punishable by six months in county jail.

Find a Reliable Pasadena Criminal Lawyer Near Me

You can be arrested and charged under California Vehicle Code 14601 if you drive a vehicle on a suspended license. Suspension or revocation of your driving privileges is a likely consequence of a conviction for drunk driving and other traffic offenses. You will receive a notice in the mail if the DMV decides to suspend your license. Depending on the reason for suspension, you can obtain a restricted license to drive to school, work, or seek medical care.

This could help you avoid an arrest for driving on a suspended license during emergencies. A conviction for violating VC 14601 can result in a jail sentence and fines. Additionally, the conviction can impact your vehicle insurance. You will require some legal insight if you face criminal charges for driving with a suspended license.

A skilled criminal attorney can examine the facts of your case and help you build a solid defense against it. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have the legal knowledge and experience you need to secure a favorable outcome in your case. We serve clients battling charges for driving offenses in Long Beach, CA. Call us today at 562-966-8120 and let our attorneys guide you through your case.