The California DMV and the court can suspend your California driver's license for a number of reasons, including unpaid fines, failure to appear in court, and certain citations and convictions. While losing your license can be a significant inconvenience, driving on a suspended license is never worth the risk. If you don't believe me, review these five facts before you get behind the wheel with a suspended license.
It's Against the Law
Driving on a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor crime in California. If convicted, you face no less than five days but no more than six months in a county jail and a fine of between $300 and $1,000. This is for a first offense. The penalties can increase significantly for each additional offense committed within five years. Please note that the specific vehicle code under which the court will charge you will depend on the circumstances of your offense. For example, driving on a license suspended for a DUI is distinguished from driving on a suspended license for unpaid tickets. Depending on the reason for your suspension and other facts of your offense, you could face more jail time and higher fines. For this reason, speak with a California driver's license defense attorney about your situation. An attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and advise you on the specific penalties you could face.
It Can Be Expensive
In addition to any court-imposed fines you may receive for a conviction, which can mount when you add penalty assessments, the DMV can also charge you. You will also have to pay fees to the DMV to reinstate your license. For certain suspensions, you will have to submit proof of financial responsibility. This is also called SR-22 “insurance,” although it's not like regular insurance. SR-22 insurance can be very expensive and cause your regular car insurance rates to skyrocket. You may have to maintain SR-22 insurance for a few years after your suspension, depending on the reason. When you look at the long-term costs of driving on a suspended license, it's much more affordable just to resolve the issue that prompted your license suspension and grab a ride-share.
It's Difficult to Argue Your Way Out of It
If caught driving on a suspended license, it may be difficult to fight the charge. This is due, in part, to the DMV's policies on notifying drivers of suspensions. In fact, receipt of the notice (and thus your knowledge of the suspension) is presumed if:
- The DMV mailed you notice of your suspension or revocation
- The DMV sent to the notice to your most recent address on file or address reported by you, a law enforcement agency, or the court, and
- The notice was not returned to the DMV as unclaimed or undeliverable mail
- A police officer notified you in person of the suspension
- A judge notified you in court of your suspension
Arguing you didn't know your license was suspended can be difficult to do given this presumption, but your knowledge is a rebuttable presumption, meaning you can challenge it. Speak with a California driving crime defense attorney if you are facing charges so that you can discuss all possible defenses.
You Won't Be Able to Drive for a Long Time
If you knowingly drive on a suspended license, the DMV can suspend your license for even longer. In fact, for most driving on a suspended license offenses, the DMV will add two points to your driving record under the Negligent Operator Program. If you accumulate four or more points within a 12-month period, the DMV can declare you a negligent operator and suspend your license for six months. It will also put you on probation for one year, meaning the DMV will prolong your suspension if you accumulate any more points on your driving record.
It's Easy to Get Caught
All it takes is one minor traffic violation to be pulled over, at which point the officer may ask you for proof of insurance. California conducts nearly 2,500 sobriety checkpoints a year, at which they may ask for proof of insurance or run a check. Something as simple as getting in an accident can notify law enforcement you were driving on a suspended license, even if the accident was not your fault!
Given these facts, it's clear why driving on a suspended license is not worth the risk. If you are at risk of losing your license for any reason or if the DMV has already suspended your license, discuss your case with a California driver's license and driving crime defense attorney. An experienced attorney can help you take steps to protect your license or reinstate your driving privileges.
If you are facing a license suspension, we can help you with your defense. California attorney Christopher Martens knows California driving crime defense and will help you fight for your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has helped many Californians fight their charges. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.