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Driving While License Suspended or Revoked

Under California law, you are not permitted to drive after your driver's license is suspended or revoked (sometimes called DWLS or DWLSR). If you drive with a suspended or revoked driver's license, then you can be charged with a misdemeanor under the California Motor Vehicle Code. This criminal offense comes with criminal penalties. A law enforcement officer can take you to jail and impound your vehicle.

A conviction for the offense can trigger another even more serious suspension or revocation. To make matters worse, the consequences of a conviction can also increase your insurance premiums for years to come. An attorney can take a look at your driving record and suggest the best ways to get your license reinstated. Once your license is reinstated, the prosecutor may agree to drop or reduce the current charges to keep your license valid. An attorney can often save you money in the short run and the long run. 

Once your license is reinstated, the prosecutor may agree to drop or reduce the charge to keep your license valid. By working with an experienced criminal defense attorney, you might save yourself money and aggravation while we help you fight for the best result in your case. We can also help you get back on the road so that you no longer have to worry about getting stopped by a law enforcement officer during a routine traffic stop.  

Attorney for Driving with License Suspended in San Francisco, CA

If you were arrested for Driving When License Suspended or Revoked in violation of Vehicle Code § 14601, in San Francisco, CA, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Ticket Crushers.

Our attorneys represent clients charged with a wide variety of crimes involving a driver's license, including Driving Without Being Licensed and Failure to Present License Upon Demand. Whether your driver's license was suspended for reckless driving, DUI, or any other reason, we can help you get your license reinstated and avoid another conviction.

We work to help our clients fix the underlying problem so that the pending case can be resolved on the best possible terms. Call the attorneys at Ticket Crushers today to discuss your citation for knowingly driving while your license was suspended or revoked. Call us at 1 (866) 842-5384 today.

The escalating fees and penalties for traffic tickets in California have led to driver's license suspensions for more than 4 million Californians. In fact, more than one in six drivers in this state suffer from a suspended license. Uncollected court-ordered debt in California has grown to more than $10 billion.

Many of the license suspensions are for unpaid tickets. If the driver doesn’t contest the citation and misses the deadline to pay, the initial fine can increase dramatically. Lower income families and people of color suffer the most. The state relies on collecting these escalating fees and penalties in order to fund many of their programs as officers are encouraged to issue even more traffic tickets. Don't get caught up in this system. Hire an attorney to help you get your driver's license back and avoid incurring even more fines and penalties.


Types of Charges for Driving While License Suspended

California law provides for three different ways that the offense can be charged which are contained in Vehicle Code § 14601, including:

  • Sections 14601(a) — (Driving while license suspended for reckless driving, negligent, or incompetent driving)

  • Section 14601.1(a) — (Catchall provision)

  • Section 14601.2(a) — (Driving while license suspended for driving under a DUI suspension).

Each section describes a different type of suspension or revocation and includes a different set of penalties and consequences. A conviction for any type of driving while license revoked or suspended offense comes with 2 points being assessed by the DMV. Fixing the underlying problem so that the license can be reinstated and avoiding a conviction on the new charge is the goal in these types of cases. 


Elements of Driving While License Suspended

A conviction for Driving When License Suspended or Revoked under Vehicle Code § 14601 requires proof beyond all reasonable doubt of the following elements:

  • The defendant drove a motor vehicle;

  • At any time when the defendant was driving, his or her driving privilege was suspended or revoked for a specified reason which is a statutory basis for revocation or suspension: and

  • The defendant had knowledge of the suspension or revocation of the driving privilege.

Although the prosecutor has the burden of proving that the defendant had knowledge of the suspension or revocation of the driving privilege, the law provides the prosecutor with an important shortcut to show proof in many cases.

Under California law, if the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that prior to the commission of this charge, the defendant was given notice of the suspension or revocation of his or her driving privilege, either by personal delivery thereof to the defendant or by the mailing of the notice, postage prepaid, addressed to the defendant at the address shown by the records of the Department of Motor Vehicles, then the judge or jury may infer that the defendant had knowledge of the fact of the suspension or revocation.

In fact, California's standard jury instructions include standard language that is often read to a jury in these types of cases at Cal. Jury Instr.—Crim. 16.641. The statutory presumption found in the Vehicle Code sections has been recast in the jury instruction as a permissive inference by using the words "may infer" instead of "must infer." In other words, the jury may infer knowledge under the inference but is not required to infer knowledge.


Penalties for Driving While License Suspended in California

The penalties for driving while license suspended, revoked or restricted depend on the way the crime is charge and whether you have any prior convictions for similar offenses. The penalties can include jail time, fines, and penalty assessments. 

  • Vehicle Code Section 14601

    • For a first offense, the penalties are five (5) days to six (6) months in jail AND $300 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments PLUS must install ignition interlock device if the plea agreement is for a charge of VC § 14601.2.
    • For a second offense or subsequent offense within five (5) years of another conviction for VC §§ 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, or 14601.5, the penalties are 10 days to 1 year in jail AND $500 to $2,000 fine plus penalty assessments PLUS must install ignition interlock device if plea agreement is for a charge of VC § 14601.2.
  • Vehicle Code Section 14601.1
    • For a first offense, the penalties are up to 6 months in jail OR $300 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments OR both PLUS must install ignition interlock device if the plea agreement is for a charge of VC § 14601.2.
    • For a second offense or subsequent offense within 5 years of another conviction for VC §§ 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, or 14601.5, the penalties are 5 days to 1 year in jail AND $500 to $2,000 for a fine plus penalty assessments PLUS must install ignition interlock device if the plea agreement is for the charge of VC § 14601.2.
  • Vehicle Code Section 14601.2 & 14601.4
    • For a first offense, the penalties are 10 days to 6 months in jail AND $300 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments PLUS must install ignition interlock device. Habitual Traffic Offender: Additional 180 days in jail AND $2,000 fine. VC § 14601.4: Same but no release program.
    • For a second offense or subsequent offense within 5 years of another conviction for VC §§ 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, or 14601.5, the penalties are 30 days to 1 year in jail AND $500 to $2,000 fine plus penalty assessments PLUS must install ignition interlock device. Habitual Traffic Offender: Additional 180 days in jail and $2,000 fine. VC § 14601.4: Same but no release program.
  • Vehicle Code Section 14601.5
    • For a first offense, the penalties are up to 6 months in jail OR $300 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments OR both PLUS must install ignition interlock device if plea agreement for a charge of VC § 14601.2.
    • For a second or subsequent offense within 5 years of another conviction for VC §§ 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, or 14601.5, the penalties are 10 days to 1 year in jail AND $500 to $2,000 fine PLUS must install ignition interlock device if plea agreement for a charge of VC § 14601.2. Note: VC § 14601.3 constitutes a prior conviction for this offense.
  • Vehicle Code Section 14601.3
    • For a first offense, the penalties are 30 days in jail AND $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments. Habitual Traffic Offender: 180 days in jail AND $2,000 fine.
    • For a second offense or subsequent offense within 7 years of another conviction for VC §§ 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, or 14601.5, the penalties are 180 days in jail AND $2,000 fine plus penalty assessments. Habitual Traffic Offender: 180 days in jail AND $2,000 fine.
  • Other Consequences for Driving While License Suspended
    • Other Consequences of a conviction for driving while license suspended include a vehicle impound for up to 6 months for a first conviction under VC § 14602.5 and a vehicle impound for up to 1 year under VC § 14602.5.
    • Also, for the second or subsequent conviction, the vehicle may be declared nuisance and ordered sold as provided in VC § 14602.7.

Reasons the California DMV Suspends a Driver's License

The California Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend or revoke your driver's license for many different reasons including: 

  1. No Insurance
  2. Failure to report an accident
  3. Driving under the influence (DUI) conviction
  4. Failure or refusal of a drug or alcohol test
  5. Underage drinking
  6. Excessive points on driving record
  7. Vandalism
  8. Failure to appear in court for traffic ticket
  9. Failure to pay Child Support (Family Code §17520)

Additional Resources

General Information on Suspended Drivers License - Visit the website of the Superior Court of California, Alameda County, to find general information on charges for suspended drivers license. Find answers to commonly asked questions such as: What is a suspended drivers license? Why would your license be suspended? How can I get my license back? How do I get a restricted license?


Finding an Attorney for Driving While License Suspended or Revoked

If you were arrested for Driving When License Suspended or Revoked in violation of Vehicle Code § 14601, then give our attorneys for motor vehicle crimes a call to discuss the case and possible defenses. We represent clients on both felony and misdemeanor offenses under California's Vehicle Code. We are also experienced in representing clients for related offenses involving a driver's license, such as Failure to Present License Upon Demand and Driving Without Being Licensed.

Our experienced San Francisco criminal defense lawyers also represent clients on the underlying offenses that can trigger a suspension or revocation, including reckless driving, exhibition of speed, engaging in a speed contest, or Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

We represent clients throughout the greater San Francisco Bay area. Call 1 (866) 842-5384 to discuss your case with us today.


This article was last updated on Monday, July 18, 2016.

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