Driving With Suspended Or Revoked License

Driving with the knowledge that you have a suspended or revoked California driver’s license is a misdemeanor under California law. The family of statutes that apply to this offense are California Vehicle Code §§14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, 14601.3 and 14601.5. Generally, the severity of the punishment or penalty for these offenses are contingent upon the seriousness of the underlying offense that led to the suspended license. Similar to certain other crimes, driving with a suspended or revoked license is a “priorable” offense,” meaning that the penalties will increase with each succeeding §14601 conviction.

Vehicle Code §14601 – Driving when License Has Been Revoked/Suspended for Reckless or Negligent Driving

Vehicle Code §14601 makes it a crime to drive if your license has already been revoked or suspended due to reckless or negligent driving. As delineated earlier, penalties increase for each additional 14601 conviction as follows:

1st Offense

  • Informal probation for up to three (3) years,
  • Five (5) days to six (6) months in county jail, and
  • $300-$1,000 in fines 2nd Offense
  • Informal probation for up to three (3)
  • Ten (10) days to one (1) year in county jail, and
  • $500-$2,000 in

Note: the ensuing 14601 conviction must be within five (5) years of a prior 14601 family conviction in order for additional penalties to apply.

Also consider that a capable defense attorney may be able to obtain a more favorable disposition than what the code has put forth.

Vehicle Code §14601.2 – Driving when License Has Been Revoked/Suspended for a DUI Conviction

You may be charged with Vehicle Code 14601.2 for driving after your California driver’s license that had been suspended or revoked due to a prior DUI conviction. The punishment for this charge includes the following penalties and sentencing:

1st Offense

  • Informal probation for up to three (3) years,
  • Ten (10) days to six (6) months in county jail,
  • $300-$1,000 in fines, and
  • Installation of a certified ignition interlock device (IID).

Note: if you have prior multiple DUI convictions, or a conviction for manslaughter while driving under the influence, and you have been declared a Habitual Traffic Offender under V.C. 14601.3, you may face additional penalties.

2nd Offense

  • Informal probation for up to three (3)
  • Thirty (30) days to one (1) year in county jail,
  • $500-$2,000 in fines, and
  • Installation of a certified ignition interlock device (IID)

Note: as delineated above, if you have prior multiple DUI convictions, or a conviction for manslaughter while driving under the influence, and you have been declared a Habitual Traffic Offender under V.C. 14601.3, you may face additional penalties.

Vehicle Code 14601.3 – Habitual Traffic Offenders

Under V.C. 14601.3, if you are deemed a Habitual Traffic Offender due to multiple violations, you will face the following punishment:

1st Offense

  • Informal probation for up to three (3) years,
  • Thirty (30) days in county jail,
  • $1,000 in fines 2nd or Further Offense
  • Informal probation for up to three (3)
  • 180 days in the county jail
  • $2,000 in fines, and

Note: 2nd or further offenses need to occur within seven (7) years of the first offense in order to trigger additional punishment

Vehicle Code 14601.5 – Declining a Chemical Test or Driving with an Illegal Blood Alcohol Content

Under V.C. 14601.5, it is illegal to knowingly drive on a California driver’s license that was revoked or suspended for refusing a chemical test or for driving with an illegal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). The punishment for this code section is:

1st Offense

  • Informal probation for up to three (3) years, and
  • A maximum of six months in county jail, and
  • $300-$1,000 in fines 2nd or Further Offense
  • Informal probation for up to three (3)
  • 10 days to one year in county jail, and
  • $500-$2,000 in fines 

Note: 2nd or further offenses need to occur within five (5) years of the first offense in order to trigger additional punishment; also note that, under certain circumstances, the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) may also be required.

Vehicle Code 14601.1 – Other License Suspensions/Revocations

Vehicle Code 14601.1 covers all other cases involving knowingly driving with a suspended/revoked California driver’s license. A conviction under V.C. 14601.1 includes the following punishments:

1st Offense

  • Informal probation for up to three (3) years, and
  • A maximum of six months in county jail, and
  • $300-$1,000 in fines 2nd Offense
  • Informal probation for up to three (3)
  • Five (5) days to one year in county jail, and
  • $500-$2,000 in fines

Notes: The 2nd offense punishment scheme is triggered if the 2nd offense occurs within five (5) years of a prior 14601 case. Also, under certain circumstances, the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) may also be required.

Legal Defenses to Vehicle Code 14601 Charges

A few of the defenses to V.C. 14601 charges include:

Lack of Knowledge

One of the elements the state of California needs to prove on a V.C. 14601 charge, is that you had knowledge of the fact that your license was suspended. Thus, if your attorney can show that you actually did not know that your license had been suspended, then that could form the basis of a defense. How would you not know? Some possibilities are that maybe the notice of suspension of your license was mailed to the wrong address. Or the court may not have properly informed you, otherwise.

You had a “Restricted” License

Another defense to a V.C. 14601 charge is that you had a restricted driver’s license and were legally permitted to drive. A restricted driver’s license is one where the driver retains a legal right to drive, but only to “restricted” locations (e.g., to work, school or DUI classes, etc.) and possibly during restricted hours. So, if you were driving within the scope of your license, you may have a legitimate defense against a V.C. 14601 charge.

Your License Suspension or Revocation was Not Valid

Under certain, your license suspension/revocation may have been invalid. This may be the case if, for instance, there were certain errors made in the prior conviction that led to the license suspension/revocation. However, rather than beginning to drive again because you believe that your license suspension/revocation was invalid, it is strongly advised that you consult with an attorney, first.

Dispositions and Plea Bargains

Have your attorney look into the possibility of lowering your V.C. 14601 charges to lesser offenses such as V.C. 12500 (driving without a valid license) or certain infractions. Prosecutors are often open to these alternatives.

Examples

  1. Jane was convicted of reckless driving in 2010. Among other punishments, Jane’s California Driver’s license was suspended pending completion of the terms of her probation, including fines. But Jane never pays her fines and her driver’s license remains suspended. In 2014, the vehicle Jane is driving is pulled over by a Los Angeles Police Department vehicle for speeding. When the police officer looks up Jane’s information, he notices that she has a suspended driver’s license. Jane is arrested and charged with V.C. 14601.1 for driving with a suspended license
  1. The car Tom is driving is pulled over for unsafe lane changes. Upon review, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy believes that Tom’s California Driver’s License has been revoked for past DUI violations. Tom is arrested for driving with a revoked license, under V.C.

    However, after investigating, his attorney concludes that Tom had a restricted driver’s license and not a suspended one; Tom’s restricted license allowed him to drive to and from DUI classes. His attorney also learns that Tom was on his way to a DUI class when his car was pulled over. Thus, Tom’s attorney will be able to mount a strong defense for Tom by arguing that Tom was legally driving with a restricted California driver’s license.
  1. Jeffrey is arrested for violation of V.C. 14601.3 – driving with a suspended license as a Habitual Traffic Offender. However, upon further research, Jeffrey’s attorney concludes that the notice of Jeffrey’s license revocation was not sent to his correct address. His attorney will be able to successfully argue that Jeffery did not know that his license had been revoked. Thus, Jeffrey will likely have a valid defense to this charge.