Driving on a Suspended License for Refusal or an Unlawful BAC - VC 14601.5

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Driving on a Suspended License After a BAC Above .08 Percent or Refusing to Submit to Chemical Test

Many people take the ability to drive for granted and feel as though it is a right. In reality, driving is a privilege, and the state can take away a person's license for many different reasons. Drivers who are irresponsible pose a threat to all others on the road, not just themselves. 

One reason people often lose their license is that they were driving under the influence of alcohol. Drunk driving is a problem that continues to plague road safety even though every state outlaws a vehicle's operation by a person who has a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher.

California Vehicle Code 14602.5 makes it illegal to drive on a suspended or revoked license. Anyone who violates this law will face an additional legal penalty. 

Examples of Violations of VC 14602.5

If the police pull a driver over, and that individual's chemical tests reveal that their blood alcohol level is .08 percent or higher, the state can suspend that person's license. If that same driver decides to get behind the wheel and drive to the mall, they violate VC 14602.5, even if they are now sober and following all traffic laws. 

Of course, there are times when police may pull over a driver suspecting that the person is drunk and that driver refuses to submit to a chemical test. In those cases, the state can suspend their license for refusing to take the chemical test. The reason for this is that there will be a presumption that the driver violated the law and is likely under the influence if they refuse to take the chemical test. A driver operating a car and following all relevant traffic laws but who has a suspended license for refusing to take a chemical test will also be violating VC 14601.5. 

Consequences for Violating VC 14601.5

Violations of VC 14601.5 are misdemeanor offenses in California. A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction but is not as severe a felony. A first-time offender will face the possibility of up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.

The penalties increase for subsequent offenses. A second violation of VC 14601.5 in five years can lead to a one-year jail term and up to $2,000 in fines. 

Judges have some discretion when it comes to sentencing terms in these cases. It may be possible to reduce penalties to probation, depending on the circumstances. 

How to Defend Against Charges for Violating VC 14601.5

Individuals may defend against these charges in several ways. The best strategy will depend on the facts of the case. Some common defenses include:

  • The defendant did not know about the license suspicion
  • The defendant was not driving (perhaps the defendant was sitting in the driver's seat waiting for the driver
  • The allegations are false

It may also be possible to reduce the penalties based on mitigating factors. A criminal law attorney will help develop the right defense given the facts. 

Suspensions Versus Revocations

If the state suspends a driver's license, the motorist will lose their ability to legally operate a vehicle for a certain amount of time. Before getting their license reinstated, the driver will likely have to pay fines and may need to take safety courses or complete other requirements. 

Drivers who continue to operate their vehicles on a suspended license may face longer suspensions, or eventually, the state may revoke their license. Revocations are more serious. If California revokes a person's license, that person will have to start the entire process of obtaining a license over again, including applying and taking any exams. The period of the revocation may last for up to five years. 

Drunk driving and reckless acts behind the wheel could lead to the state revoking a person's license, as could racing or trying to evade the police. 

Offenses Similar to VC 14601.5

Driving on a suspended license after a DUI conviction is a similar law, but the state lists this offense under VC 14601.2. If a driver on a suspended license causes bodily injury, they violate VC 14601.4

Drivers convicted of a DUI violate VC 23152. The law states that anyone who drives with a BAC of .08 percent or higher is under the influence "per se," meaning that even if they are not acting intoxicated, they may face charges for driving under the influence. 

Drivers can also violate the law if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as demonstrated by impairment of their physical or mental abilities. In those cases, the driver need not have a BAC that is at or above .08 percent. 

Penalties for DUIs include:

  • Probation
  • Mandatory DUI school
  • Fines
  • Suspension of a driver's license
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device

In more severe cases, driving under the influence may result in felony charges. For instance, a driver who caused severe injury or death to another person while driving under the influence may face felony charges. Anyone convicted of DUIs three or more times in ten years or less will also face felony charges, as might anyone with previous felony DUI convictions who commits another DUI. 

While traffic violations may not seem like serious offenses, they can lead to severe consequences and might impact a person's life for many years to come. It is crucial for anyone facing allegations or charges in California to contact a criminal defense attorney.