Driving on a Suspended License - VC 14601.1(a)

Criminal Defense Picture

Driving on a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor in California. Not only can such a violation impact a person’s driving privileges, but it can also lead to jail time and steep monetary fines. A person facing these charges will need to seek out the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. 

Vehicle Code 14601.1(a) 

California statute VC 14601.1(a) details the elements of driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license. To convict a suspect of this charge, the state must demonstrate that the individual operated a vehicle when they knew that they lost their driving privileges because of a suspension or revocation. 

The state does not have to prove actual knowledge but can presume that the defendant knows as long as the state notified the suspect of their license status as required by Section 13106. 

Consequences for Violating VC 14106.1(a)

The crime is a misdemeanor, meaning that the sentence will not include more than one year in jail. However, the state can hold a person in jail and charge fines. The maximum sentence is six months in jail and a $1000 fine. 

The precise consequences will vary depending on the reason that the suspect lost their license. There are several common reasons that courts revoke or suspend a driver’s license, including the following:

  • Reckless driving: Reckless driving includes actions such as speeding at high rates and drag racing. This crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines. If convicted under VC 1406.1(a) after a suspension for reckless driving, the individual can face between five days and six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and informal probation for a maximum of three years. 
  • Drunk Driving: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to hefty fines and potentially years in prison, depending on the severity of the crime and whether someone suffered injuries. Convictions for violating VC 1406.1(a) after a DUI-related suspension may lead to a ten-day to six-month jail term, a $1,000 fine, and at most three years of informal probation.
  • Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Test: If police suspect a driver of being under the influence, and the driver refuses a chemical test, the court can impose penalties including jail time, fines, and probation. Penalties for violating VC 1406.1(a) after a license suspension for refusing to submit to a chemical test may lead to at most a six-month jail term, a $1,000 fine, and at most three years of informal probation.
  • Habitual Traffic Offender: A driver who continues driving on a revoked or suspended license and continues to commit traffic offenses can face jail time and fines. A first conviction leads to 30 days in prison and $1,000 in fines, while subsequent convictions come with a possible 180-day jail term and $2,000 fine. Convictions for violating VC 14106.1(a) under this law may face up to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and up to three years of informal probation.

There are other reasons that a driver may lose their license as well. The penalties in those cases are similar to those listed above. 

Defending Against Charges for Violating VC 14106.1(a) 

Individuals facing charges for violating VC 14106.1(a) may have available defenses. One potential defense would be that the defendant did not know about the suspension on their license. A person only violates this law if they knowingly drive on a suspended license, so lack of knowledge would serve as a valid defense against charges. 

It is also possible that the defendant had a license, in which case the charges might be incorrect. If the driver had a license at the time, this is a defense against the charges. 

Another possible defense is a necessity. If a driver had a sufficiently good reason to the driver even though they knew that the state suspended their license, then that driver may use this defense. Suppose the driver only got behind the wheel because of a medical emergency and did not have another reasonable option. In that case, they could argue that they had a valid explanation although they committed the crime.

Similar Crimes in California

VC 14106.1(a) only applies to driving on a suspended or revoked license. Other codes apply for other similar crimes, including:

  • Failing to present a license: This occurs when a police officer stops a driver and requests to see their license, but the driver either does not have their license or refuses to turn over a valid license. The relevant code in these cases is VC 12951.
  • Driving without a license: A driver may violate the law by driving without ever obtaining or renewing a license, by driving on a license that does not cover the vehicle which they are operating, or by driving with a license that is not from their place of residence. A driver may use an out-of-state license or a foreign driver’s license, but they must reside where the government issued the license.
  • Unlawful use of a license: A driver may be using another person’s license, allowing someone to use their license, or altering a license in violation of the law. 

A suspect may face charges for more than one offense at a time. 

Getting the Conviction Expunged

It is possible to get charges for violating VC 14106.1(a) expunged. A defendant can talk to an attorney about the process. Completing any probation and jail time will help the defendant convince a judge to expunge the conviction. 

Seeking Help

Driving-related charges can impact many parts of a person’s life. Fortunately, violations of VC 14106.1(a) do not lead to a loss of gun rights or serious immigration consequences such as deportation or a ban on readmittance. 

Still, even minor sentences can impact a person’s life, job, and family. A California criminal defense attorney can help those accused of a crime develop a strategy for defending against these charges and any related violations.