Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Driving on a Suspended License in California

     Driving on a suspended driver's license ("CDL") is a misdemeanor crime in California, but it can also be charged as an infraction.  Many people think it is the equivalent to a speeding ticket or running a red light, but the punishment and consequences can and often will be much more severe than traffic ticket.

How Did My Driver's License Get Suspended?

     The DMV can suspend a person's driver's license for many different reasons.  If you suspect your driver's license has been suspended, visit your local DMV branch and inquire into the status of your CDL.  Here's a list of possible reasons for a CDL being suspended:

   - Arrested on SUSPECTED DUI and 30 days after arrest, license suspended (did not request DMV Suspension Hearing within 10 days of arrest to fight suspension or lost Suspension Hearing)
   - Convicted of Driving Under the Influence and have not enrolled in Alcohol Education Class (AB541 for first time conviction, SB38 for second time conviction)
   - Unpaid/Open Traffic tickets
   - Too many traffic convictions within specified period
   - Unpaid child support
   - Unpaid judgment from lost lawsuit

Vehicle Code Section 14601.1(a) - Driving on a Suspended CDL

     Under this section, it is a misdemeanor for a person to drive a car knowing her driver's license has been suspended by the DMV.  To prove the case, the District Attorney's Office must prove the following elements:

     1. The defendant drove a motor vehicle while her driver's license was suspended/ [or] revoked
     2. When the defendant drove, she KNEW that her driver's license was suspended/ [or] revoked.
To show KNOWLEDGE of a suspended license, a jury can consider different methods:
     1. A Judge or law enforcement officer personally informs (gives notice) to the defendant that her license is suspended
     2. Department of Motor Vehicles mails a notice to the defendant through the following elements:
         a. The California Department of Motor Vehicles mailed a notice to the defendant telling her that her driver's license had been suspended/ [or] revoked;
         b. The notice was sent to the most recent address reported to the department [or any more recent address reported by the person, a court, or a law enforcement agency];
         c. The notice was not returned to the department as undeliverable or unclaimed;
Punishment for Driving on a Suspended License
     The punishments if caught knowingly driving on a suspended driver's license range from an infraction and fine in the hundreds of dollars to summary (informal) probation, fines over $2,000, and/or county jail up to 6 months.
     For a first time offense, some DA's offices will agree to reduce the charge to an infraction, thus avoiding probation and jail time.  For multiple offenders, the punishments can/will be more severe and will often include probation, jail, and very large fines.
Repeat Offenders - Punishment is Greater
     Vehicle Code Section 14601.2(a) - Driving on License Suspended Due to Alcohol
     A person's driver's license can be suspended upon a conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or after being arrested on SUSPECTED DUI.  Once convicted of DUI, the DMV will suspend a person's license to drive until  a person is arrested for SUSPECTED DUI, the police officer involved with fill out a DMV form requesting to suspend the defendant's driver's license.  The defendant has 10 days to request a hearing.

     If a person is caught driving a car, knowing her CDL is suspended for a prior DUI conviction, the punishment is a minimum of 10 days county jail (maximum 6 months county jail), in addition to informal (summary) probation.  If the person is driving on a license suspended for a prior DUI conviction and has a prior conviction for driving on a suspended license LESS THAN 5 YEARS BEFORE, the minimum punishment is 30 days county jail.


  1. Hi there! this is such an informative post. Thank you for sharing. Cheers!

    - The boston lawyer

  2. This is an informative guide for motorists in California. Nice one Cali Publlic Defender!

  3. Thanks for sharing the article. Consequences of driving on a suspended license well pointed out. It doesn't cost you much to reinstate the suspended license than paying the penalty.