Driving On A Suspended License – California Vehicle Code Sections 14601 et seq.

OVERVIEW OF V.C. 14601 et seq.

Under V.C. 14601 et seq., it is illegal for someone to drive a vehicle while his/her license is suspended or revoked, as long as the person knew about the suspension or revocation. As such, to prove that the defendant is guilty under V.C. 14601 et seq., the prosecution must show that:

  • The defendant was operating a motor vehicle while her license was suspended or revoked, AND
  • The defendant had knowledge of the suspension or revocation.

Notably, the second element can quickly become a complicated issue because V.C. 14601 allows for knowledge to be presumed under certain conditions, even if the defendant didn’t have actual knowledge of the suspension or revocation. Specifically, the defendant’s knowledge is presumed if the prosecution can prove that:

  • The defendant was mailed a notice informing him that his driver’s license had been suspended or revoked by the California Department of Motor Vehicles;
  • The notice was mailed to the defendant’s most recent address that had been reported to the department (or any more recent address that had been reported by the defendant, a court, or a law enforcement agency); AND
  • The notice was not sent back to the department as undeliverable or unclaimed.

STATUTORY REASONS FOR SUSPENSION OR REVOCATION

As mentioned above, the first element of this crime is that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license. Depending on which statutory reason the defendant’s license was suspended or revoked for, the penalties can vary.

V.C. 14601(a) – Suspension/Revocation for Specific Offenses

V.C. 14601(a) is charged when the defendant’s license was revoked or suspended for one of the designated reasons listed in this section. Such reasons include: being a negligent operator (too many points on your driving record) reckless driving, abuse of alcohol and/or drugs, and a physical and/or mental disorder that prevents the defendant from operating a motor vehicle safely.

The penalties the defendant will face if convicted for the first time under this statute include: imprisonment in a county jail for a period of time between five (5) days and six (6) months, and a fine between $300 and $1,000. However, if the offense occurs within five (5) years of certain prior offenses, the penalties increase to imprisonment in a county jail for a period of time between ten (10) days and one (1) year, as well as a fine between $500 and $2,000.  Moreover, if the offense occurs within five (5) years of certain prior offenses and the defendant is granted probation, the court shall impose, as a condition of probation, that the defendant be imprisoned in a county jail for at least ten (10) days. Notably, if the defendant is being convicted of the reduced charge of V.C. 14601 when the original charge was V.C. 14602, he also faces a mandatory penalty of having an ignition interlock device being installed on any vehicle that he owns or operates.

Actual Case 1

John had received notice from the DMV that his license would be suspended for being a negligent operator. (He had gotten four moving violations in the last year, so had too many points).  He contacted me and I scheduled a hearing before the DMV.  At the hearing, I explained to the hearing officer that John had been putting a lot of miles on his car, so that was a mitigating factor in him receiving so many tickets.  I also appealed to the hearing officer by the fact that John planned to enter the military and not having a valid license may prevent him from being accepted.  I was able to convince the hearing officer to place John on probation rather than suspend the license.

Actual Case 2

Mary was a seventy-five year old woman that had a stellar driving record.  Mary’s husband had passed away the previous year and Mary was for the first time tasked with organizing the family’s business affairs.  Part of taking care of organizing the affairs included selling the family’s rural home so that Mary could move into the city and have services more accessible.  One night, after meeting with her realtor, while she was driving home, Mary fell asleep at the wheel, causing her to run off the road and hit a sign post.  When the police officer investigated he sent a request to the DMV to suspend Mary’s license.  Mary came to see me, and we set her case for an administrative hearing before the DMV.  At the hearing I presented a number of letters from friends and business associates of Mary that attested to her good driving abilities and her character for safety.  Also, Mary testified and told the hearing officer how the incident was a one-time event and that she would be much more careful to not drive when fatigued in the future.  As a result, we were able to convince the hearing officer to set aside the license suspension.

V.C. 14601.1(a) – Suspension/Revocation for Non-Specific Offenses

V.C. 14601.1(a) is charged when the defendant’s license was revoked or suspended for any reason other than those listed in V.C. sections 14601, 14601.2, or 14601.5.

This may include a failure to appear in court on a traffic ticket, failure to pay a fine on a ticket, failure to pay child support, or failure to satisfy a judgment for a traffic accident. 

If convicted for the first time under this section, the defendant faces penalties including: imprisonment in a county jail for (6) months or less and/or a fine between $300 and $1,000. However, if the offense occurs within five (5) years of certain prior offenses, the penalties increase to imprisonment in a county jail for a period of time between five (5) days and one (1) year, as well as a fine between $500 and $2,000.  Moreover, if the offense occurs within five (5) years of certain prior offenses and the defendant is granted probation, the court shall impose, as a condition of probation, that the defendant be imprisoned in a county jail for at least ten (10) days.

V.C. 14601.2(a) – Suspension/Revocation for DUI

V.C. 14601.2(a) is charged when the defendant drove a motor vehicle while knowing that her license was revoked or suspended because of a DUI conviction.

The penalties the defendant will face if convicted for the first time under this statute include: imprisonment in a county jail for a period of time between ten (10) days and six (6) months, and a fine between $300 and $1,000. However, if the offense occurs within five (5) years of certain prior offenses, the penalties increase to imprisonment in a county jail for a period of time between thirty (30) days and one (1) year, as well as a fine between $500 and $2,000. 

Additionally, if this is the defendant’s first offense under this section and she is granted probation, the court shall require (as a condition of probation) that she be imprisoned in the county jail for at least ten (10) days.  (this sentence can often be served on home detention or work project).  If the offense occurs within five (5) years of certain prior offenses and the defendant is granted probation, the court shall impose (as a condition of probation) that the defendant be imprisoned in a county jail for at least thirty (30) days.

Furthermore, if the defendant is convicted under this section, the court shall require that an ignition interlock device be installed on any vehicle the defendant owns or operates.

V.C. 14601.3(a) – Habitual Offenders

V.C. 14601.3(a) makes it unlawful for a defendant to accumulate a “driving record history” during a time period in which the defendant’s driving privilege has been suspended or revoked. A “driving record history” means any of the following:

  • Two or more convictions (within 12 months) of offenses that have a violation point count of two;
  • Three or more convictions (within 12 months) of offenses that have a violation point count of one;
  • Three or more accidents (within 12 months) that involve bodily injury or death and/or property damage in excess of $750; OR
  • Any combination of the above convictions/accidents which results in a violation point count of three or more during any 12-month period.

If a defendant violates this section, he is designated a habitual traffic offender. If this is his first conviction under this section, the defendant faces imprisonment in a county jail for thirty (30) days and a fine of $1,000. Upon a second or any subsequent offense within seven (7) years of a prior conviction under this section, the defendant faces imprisonment in a county jail for 180 days, as well as a fine of $2,000.

V.C. 14601.5(a) – Suspension/Revocation for Other DUI-Related Issues

V.C. 14601.5(a) is charged when the defendant drove a motor vehicle while knowing that her license was revoked or suspended for a variety of DUI-related offenses, including (but not limited to):

  • The defendant refused to take a DUI chemical test;
  • The defendant drove a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or higher (The Administrative Per Se Law, also known as the stop and snatch statute);
  • The defendant is under twenty-one years old and drove with a blood-alcohol content of 0.01 or higher (such a violation results in the minors license being suspended for one year); AND/OR
  • The defendant drove a vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license when she had a blood-alcohol content of 0.04 or higher.

The penalties the defendant will face if convicted for the first time under this section include: imprisonment in a county jail for (6) months or less and/or a fine between $300 and $1,000. However, if the offense occurs within five (5) years of certain prior offenses, the penalties increase to imprisonment in a county jail for a period of time between ten (10) days and one (1) year, as well as a fine between $500 and $2,000.

EXAMPLES

  • Late one night, Laurel realizes that she has run out of cat food. Though she knows that her license was recently suspended as a result of her DUI conviction last month, Laurel decides to drive to the store anyway to purchase more food for her hungry cats. Reasoning that her cats shouldn’t suffer because of her DUI, Laurel begins to drive but soon gets pulled over by a police officer. Since Laurel drove a motor vehicle despite knowing that her license had been suspended as a result of her DUI conviction, she will likely be charged under V.C. 14601.2(a).                                                                                    
  • As a result of a clerical error, a notice of revocation regarding Devin’s license was mailed to the wrong address. Consequently, Devin is unaware that his license was recently revoked and so he has continued to drive to school everyday. Even if an officer pulls him over, Devin will not be convicted because he had no actual or constructive notice of his license revocation.

COMMON DEFENSES FOR V.C. 14601 et seq.

  • The defendant did not know that her license was suspended or revoked. Since knowledge is one of the elements for this crime, this is a strong defense when the defendant can show that the notice of revocation/suspension was mailed to the wrong address, or that the judge or other enforcement officer failed to inform her that her license was suspended or revoked.
  • The defendant’s license was unlawfully revoked or suspended.

HOW WE CAN HELP IF YOU ARE BEING CHARGED WITH DRIVING ON A SUSPENDED LICENSE

I have been practicing criminal defense for over 35 years.  I have represented people on hundreds of traffic violation cases and have a proven record of success.  I will begin by combing the police reports for any helpful information and inconsistencies and then will meet with you to discuss your side of the story and to determine possible defenses.  I employ a team of investigators, legal researchers, and expert witnesses that will help present the strongest possible case.  Often, in their attempt to find someone responsible for a crime the police will arrest the wrong person. Sometimes the police will take an innocent situation and charge someone with a crime.  I served for over sixteen years as a Judicial Officer of the Sacramento Superior Court and have established key relationships that can be used to greatly benefit my clients.  I will aggressively fight for you to get you the best possible result on your assault case including taking the case to trial if needed.  Call Foos Gavin Law Firm at (916) 779-3500 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a no-cost initial consultation.


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