It might be tempting to take a quick drive to the store when you do not have a valid driver’s license in California. However, that quick trip can lead to serious consequences, and even criminal charges, if you are stopped by a police officer. Driving with an expired license can lead to time in jail and hefty fines.
If you have been charged with driving with an expired license, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case immediately.
Vehicle Code (VC) 12500 in California
In order to operate a motor vehicle, every driver must have a valid driver’s license. If you live in California, your license must have been issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Vehicle Code (VC) 12500 governs the offense of driving without a valid license in California. Under this code, you can face penalties if any of the following apply to you:
- You never secured a driver’s license.
- You had a driver’s license from another state and failed to obtain one from California upon moving to the state (you have 30 days to obtain a California license upon moving).
- You did not renew your driver’s license when it expired.
- You drove while having a valid license but failed to bring it with you in the vehicle.
You are in violation of Vehicle Code (VC) 12500 when the following occurs:
- You drove a vehicle that requires a license in order to operate it on a highway or street.
- At the time of driving said vehicle:
- You were not in possession of a valid driver’s license.
- You were required by law to obtain a driver’s license.
It is important to note that the license does not have to be issued by California. It just has to be valid in another state or country for it to also be valid in California.
Penalties that Can Be Assessed for Driving with an Expired License in California
Vehicle Code (VC) 12500 is considered a wobbler charge in California, which means that prosecutors can charge it as a misdemeanor or an infraction, depending on the circumstances of each individual case. For example, if it is your first offense, you might face fines and nothing else. If you are arrested a second or subsequent time, you could face time in jail and higher fines.
If convicted a second time of driving without a valid driver’s license, you could face time in jail of no more than six months and/or fines of no more than $1,000. These penalties can be assessed for third, fourth, and fifth violations of driving without a valid license in California.
Building a Defense Against Charges of Driving without a Valid License in California
It is within your rights to fight any charges levied against you for driving without a valid license in California. You do not have to accept these charges or plead guilty. You can fight the charges with the help of an experienced Los Angeles DUI Attorney from our team.
There are plenty of defenses you can use to have the charges dropped or reduced so you can obtain a valid license and get back on the road as soon as possible.
You Were Not the Person Behind the Wheel
It very well could be the case that you were not driving the car yet were still charged. An experienced attorney will be able to show the right evidence to prove this defense. Just because you own the vehicle and have an expired license, it does not mean you should be charged with this crime.
You Live in Another State
It is possible that you originally lived in California but have since moved to a new state. However, your California license expired and you drove back into the state without your new license. The only way you can be successful using this defense is to have a valid license from another state to show the court.
You Failed to Have a Current License with You
It is not uncommon to have a license renewed and still carry the expired one by mistake. If you failed to switch the license in your wallet, this defense can easily have the case against you dismissed, so long as you can show the valid license to the court at your hearing.
You Are Exempt from Needing a License
There are a few drivers who do not need a license to operate a vehicle in California. One such driver is the one who operates a tractor. Another category is that of government employees. They do not need a license in order to drive a government vehicle.
DUI Arrest and Driving without a Valid License
You can make matters much worse if the traffic stop was initiated due to suspicion of DUI when driving without a valid license in California. You will not only face charges and penalties for driving without a valid license but also for DUI if it is found that your blood alcohol content was over the legal limit. Speaking with an experienced Los Angeles DUI Attorney can help ease the stress of the case and allow you to build a strong defense against all of the charges.
Driving in California as an Out-of-State Driver
You are legally allowed to drive in California as an out-of-state driver so long as you meet the following requirements:
- You are at least 18.
- You hold a current, valid driver’s license from the state where you live.
- The driver’s license is valid for the type of vehicle you are using in California (motorcycle, truck, car, etc).
Call an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney When Stopped for Driving without a Valid License
If you were pulled over for driving without a valid license in California, you can face serious fines and jail time. You need to build a strong defense against the charges so you are not without a license for an extended period. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule an appointment with an experienced criminal defense attorney.