Driving Without a License in California
California law requires all persons who operate a motor vehicle to carry
a valid driver's license. Violation of this law could result in the
filing of a
misdemeanor or an
infraction. As a misdemeanor you could do jail time and a misdemeanor 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 one
of our experienced criminal defense attorneys who can assist you in getting
the offense reduced to an infraction or completely dismissed. Don't
face a driver's license charge alone. Contact us and let our many
years of criminal law experience work for you.
Contact our office now to discuss your legal options!
California 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.
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 or even forfeited 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.
Do I Need A California Attorney for A Driving Violation?
Since driving without a valid license can result in misdemeanor charges,
hiring the right lawyer makes a lot of sense. This is especially true
where the penalties for repeat offenders can mean serious jail time. If
you have been cited for driving without a valid driver's license in
Los Angeles county, contact us to learn about your legal options. We have
the knowledge and experience to successfully handle your driving without
a license violation and avoid a conviction.
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.