Many Californians have driver's licenses. Every year, 8.25 million driver's licenses and IDs are issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. California's public transportation system isn't always sufficient in some areas and private transport, while increasing in popularity and access, can be expensive. Without a driver's license, being competitive in the job market is hard and you may miss out on good opportunities because you can't commute. Driving without a license is possible but extremely risky. State and federal law prohibits driving a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license on roads or off-street parking lots. If caught driving without a driver's license, you may be charged with a misdemeanor and it will show up on your criminal record. While it doesn't seem like that big of a deal, it can reflect poorly on you if you get more driving related charges down the road. It isn't just driving with out a license on your person that will land you in trouble; your license must be valid and approved for your residence (be it California or another issuing authority) and reflect the type of vehicle you are permitted to drive. For example, commercial drivers must have a commercial license. Similarly, if you are driving a motorcycle without a valid endorsement, you will be given an infraction. Simply forgetting or losing your driver's license is not enough to land you a criminal record however driving despite not having a valid license is. If you had a valid license but did not have it on you when asked by a police officer, you will be given an infraction, which can later be dismissed if you provide proof of your license; valid at the time you were pulled over. If you are driving while you know your license has expired, is not updated for your current residence, if you have never had a license or are simply unable to obtain a driver's license, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. Similarly, if you drive outside the restriction guidelines of your restricted suspended license, you can be charged in the same manner. For example, if you drive anywhere other than work and your alcohol education classes while under a DUI restricted suspension, the penalties are similar for driving with a fully suspended license. While these consequences seem harsh, they are really aimed at making the roads safer. California laws on licensing try to account for those who drive anyways with a suspended or revoked license. Drivers who have their licenses suspended or revoked are often considered unsafe or high-risk drivers, so keeping them off the road is important. Driver's licenses can be suspended or revoked from getting a DUI, driving recklessly or being a habitual traffic offender, to name a few applicable scenarios. According to the reason why your license was suspended, your suspension period will generally increase; you may face additional jail time and increased fees and penalties. If you knowingly drive with a suspended or revoked license, you could face up to six months in jail in addition to a fine ranging from $300-$1000 or both, even on your first offense. For a second offense, you may face between 30 days and one year in jail and a fine of between $500 and $2,000. Habitual traffic offenders may face even harsher penalties. If you have been charged with driving on a suspended license but never received notice of your suspension, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for help on navigating the process of contesting the suspension. You cannot be charged with driving with a suspended license unless you knew about the suspension or revocation. Unfortunately, you can still face charges for driving without a valid license even if you did not know your license was invalid. It is generally assumed the license holder has knowledge of his or her license status. If you are facing charges of driving with a suspended or revoked license and, at the time of the infraction, did not have knowledge of the suspension, you can provide evidence in court suggesting you did not knowingly drive on a suspended or revoked license. In addition to any charges, your vehicle may also be impounded if you are found to be driving without a license for a standard period of 30 days. It is clear that California takes driving without a valid driver's license or driving while on a suspended or revoked very seriously and those who do so and are caught face criminal charges. It is important to take action if you are facing these charges and do all you can to fight for your driving privileges.
Have you or a loved one been caught driving with out a license? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can ensure you take the right steps towards getting your license back and getting you back on the road. Call our offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.