What Happens if an Undocumented Immigrant Gets Caught Driving without a License?

If you choose not to apply for and obtain an AB 60 license, there could be consequences. Those consequences are governed by Vehicle Code 12500(a) VC. 12500(a) VC states that it is a crime to drive without a valid driver’s license. Violation of 12500(a) VC can be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction. The penalties for a misdemeanor are up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalty for an infraction is up to a $250 fine. Normally, the first violation of 12500(a) VC is charged as an infraction, but that is not always the case. It can be charged as a misdemeanor even if it is your first violation. 

What to say if you get caught

If you are to get caught driving without an AB 60 license you should be respectful and only answer the questions the law enforcement officer asks of you. Additionally, you should always give your correct identifying information. If you lie and give false information, there are two offenses that you could be charged with that have heavy penalties attached. Penal Code 148.9 PC, showing false identification to a peace officer, and Vehicle Code 31 VC, providing false information to a peace officer, are both misdemeanors and carry penalties of up to six months in jail and/or a hefty fine. 

Unlike some states, California does not have a general “stop and identify” law. This means that people stopped by law enforcement officers are not required to show identification – unless they are driving. Therefore, if you are stopped and asked to identify yourself, you must. However, undocumented immigrants should never tell a law enforcement officer about their status without first speaking to a lawyer. 

What happens after you are caught

California Vehicle Code 12500(a) VC penalizes people who drive without having been issued a current, valid driver’s license or AB 60 license at all. 

If you are caught driving without a driver’s license or AB 60 license, you can be charged in violation of 12500(a) VC either as an infraction or a misdemeanor. The main factor that the prosecution will consider in a 12500(a) VC case is the defendant’s driving history. A first-time offense will usually be charged as an infraction. Subsequent offenses are more likely to be charged as a misdemeanor, and this is in the prosecutor’s or the court’s discretion. 

Someone who was issued a driver’s license or AB 60 license but does not have it in his or her immediate possession will instead be cited under Vehicle Code 12951 VC, which is California’s law for failing to display a driver’s license. Vehicle Code 12951 is most often charged as an infraction. It can be punished by at most a $250 fine. Even then, the charge will usually be dismissed as long as the driver presents the court with a license that was valid at the time of the arrest. 

The court process from that point.

As stated above, driving without a license in California may be a criminal misdemeanor with substantial fines or possible imprisonment. This will require you to make one or multiple court appearances. The burden of proof in California “driving without a license” cases is a bit unusual. For most state offenses, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, in a 12500(a) VC case, the prosecution does not bear the burden of proving that the defendant drove without a driver’s license or AB 60 license. Instead, the prosecution simply has to allege that the defendant was not licensed at the time of driving. The burden then shifts to the defendant to prove that he or she had a valid driver’s license or AB 60 license. This is the case because it is easier for the defendant to prove he or she is licensed than for the prosecution to prove he or she is not licensed. 

 Therefore, if you find yourself in a situation where you have been charged with driving without a license or AB 60 license, it may be in your best interests to promptly consult with a well-qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. A well-qualified criminal defense attorney will be knowledgeable about how these charges will affect your immigration status and the possibility of deportation. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you assert your best legal defenses to your charges, if any, and may even get your charges dropped.

H Law Group Online

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