Driving on a Suspended License in California
Vehicle Code 14601 makes it a misdemeanor to drive with a suspended license in California. This includes out-of-state drivers whose privilege to drive in California has been revoked. To establish this offense, the prosecution must prove three elements:
- The person drove a motor vehicle;
- The person's driving privilege was suspended or revoked; and
- The person knew his/her driving privilege had been suspended or revoked
The key element for the legal defense of Vehicle Code 14601 driving on suspended license cases is the "knowledge requirement." The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver knew his license was suspended. The prosecutor usually relies on DMV records to show that a notice of suspension had been mailed to the driver prior to the date of arrest. But given the tendency of mail to get lost or overlooked, jurors rarely find this evidence sufficient to meet the prosecutor's heavy burden in a criminal case.
Penalties for Driving With a Suspended License in California
Vehicle Code 14601 VC driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor offense and punishment may include probation, jail time and substantial fines. Penalties in a given case depend on (1) the reason the license was suspended and (2) whether the defendant suffered prior convictions for driving with a suspended license. Generally, penalties are higher if the license was suspended or revoked because of a DUI conviction, a vehicular manslaughter conviction, or a finding that the driver is a habitual traffic offender.
In practice, prosecutors are often willing to reduce Vehicle Code 14601 driving on suspended license cases to lesser offenses, to non-criminal infractions, or to dismiss them altogether. This is especially true if the person has no criminal history, and if he takes steps to get his California drivers license reinstated prior to the resolution of the criminal case. A good criminal defense attorney can usually help you reach a favorable resolution of your case.