Driving Without a License in California
Driving without a driver's license is a criminal offense in California.
It is not a mere traffic ticket. "Driving without a valid license"
may appear to be minor, but it is still a misdemeanor. You could do jail
time, and a conviction becomes part of your criminal record. In fact,
a conviction for driving without a license is likely to appear on a background
check. Consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles
who can assist you in getting the offense reduced to an infraction or
completely dismissed. Don't "go it alone" when faced with
a crime that will affect your future.
Contact our office now to discuss your legal options!
Driving Without a License – Vehicle Code Section 12500
According to California Vehicle Code section 12500, you cannot drive in
the state without a valid driver's license. The license must be specific
to the type of vehicle you drive. For example, if you drive a motorcycle,
you must be licensed to drive a motorcycle. Visitors to the state of California
can drive with a valid license from their home state. However, once a
driver becomes a resident of California, he or she must obtain a California
driver's license within 10 days of establishing residency.
California residency is established in a variety of ways, such as voting
in a state election, paying resident tuition at a college or university
and filing for a property tax exemption. If you have been cited for driving
without a license, you or your criminal defense attorney must appear in
court on the date that appears on the citation. If you fail to do so,
a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest. It is relatively simple
for the prosecution to convict a person of driving without a license.
They must prove that you were driving, but you must prove that you do have
a license. If you actually do have a license, but you were not able to
produce it when you were pulled over, you will be charged with an infraction
under California Vehicle Code Section 12951. Once you prove to the court
that you have a valid license, the charge is dismissed; however, if you
do not have a valid driver's license, or if your license is expired
or invalid, you could face the penalties outlined below.
Penalties for Driving Without a License
In California, the crime of driving without a license is a "wobblette,"
which means that prosecutors can charge it as a misdemeanor or infraction.
Your driving history is the main issue taken into account in determining
whether to charge the violation as a misdemeanor. First-time offenders
are frequently charged with infractions, which are not considered criminal
violations and do not go on your criminal record.
Misdemeanor Driving Without a License Penalty
- Up to 6 months in jail
- Up to a $1,000 fine, plus fees
- Up to 3 years Informal probation
- Up to 30-day car impoundment.
Infraction Driving Without a License Penalty
- Up to $250 fine, plus fees.
Even if you have been charged with a misdemeanor, the prosecutor may agree
to dismiss the charge or reduce it to an infraction if you are able to
obtain your driver's license within a reasonable period of time. The
criminal lawyers at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners have had great
success in convincing the prosecution to postpone criminal proceedings
to give a client time to obtain his or her license. In these circumstances,
the misdemeanor charges have been reduced to infractions or dismissed
Why was my car impounded?
In Los Angeles, your car is subject to being towed and impounded for 30
days if you drive a vehicle with a suspended license, a revoked license,
or if you do not have a valid driver's license. These laws (California
Vehicle Code sections 14602.6 and 14607.6) are strictly enforced in Los
Angeles. If your car is impounded, then you are subject to paying towing
and impoundment fees for 30 days, which could add well over $1,000. In
some cases, your car could be forfeited and sold off at auction.
Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License
Driving without a license under California Vehicle Code section 12500 is
not the same offense as driving on a suspended license.
Driving on a suspended license (Vehicle Code section14601) is a misdemeanor and a more serious offense
that comes with harsher penalties.
Illegal Immigrants Driving Without a License
As any California resident will tell you, it is difficult to work if you
can't drive. Only people with U.S. citizenship or lawful residency
may obtain a California driver's license.
Undocumented immigrants are prohibited from legally obtaining a driver's license. This results
in a lot of immigrants driving without valid licenses.
If an illegal immigrant is charged with driving without a license, there
is no way to legally obtain one. Therefore, the option for having the
misdemeanor reduced to an infraction or having a case dismissed can be
very tricky. Getting the charge reduced or dismissed is extremely important,
as having a criminal record may make it difficult for the individual to
obtain a green card or citizenship in the future.
Like any traffic offense in California, the initial traffic stop must be
valid. The police officer cannot stop drivers arbitrarily, but must have
a "reasonable suspicion" that a traffic violation has occurred.
Therefore, if the traffic stop was not legal, the case may be dismissed.
If possible, however, promptly applying for and obtaining a valid driver's
license remains the best defense. Other potential defenses include you
being unaware that the license was suspended, driving with a license that
you believed was valid in another state, or driving without a license
due to an extreme emergency.
Arrested in Los Angeles? Turn to our firm for help!
It may be tempting to simply accept a plea bargain offered by the prosecutor
for driving without a license, but if you plead guilty to a misdemeanor
charge, you are going to have a criminal record. This could harm you in
the future by appearing in background checks conducted by future employers,
landlords, creditors, and personal acquaintances. After carefully analyzing
your circumstances, an experienced defense attorney can help you resolve
your case in a manner that is in your best interests.
You have options. The legal team at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners
has represented many individuals facing charges for driving without a
license. We will aggressively protect your rights and freedom by providing
you with the best legal defense available. We will provide you with accurate
information, clearly communicate your options and answer all of your questions.
Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation with our firm.
Our firm will review your case at no cost to you. Call now!