One of the most common situations we see with people facing DUI penalties is driving on a suspended license. The license suspension process is lengthy complicated, and even getting a restricted license to drive to work is expensive, making it impossible for some DUI defendants. This creates a situation where many drivers have a hard time continuing their lives unless they drive on a suspended license. Unfortunately, this is illegal and it carries big risks.
Driving on a suspended license is a criminal offense, and it is never advisable. If you have been charged with this offense, however, there are ways to fight it.
What happens if I am caught while driving on a suspended license?
If you are pulled over for any reason, police will find out that your license is suspended when they run your name and information in their system. They can then immediately arrest you, even if you would not have been arrested for the original reason they pulled you over (e.g., a speeding ticket).
What counts as driving on a suspended license?
The law against driving on a suspended license is set forth in California Vehicle Code Vehicle section 14601:
VC 14601.1 (a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle when his or her driving privilege is suspended or revoked… if the person so driving has knowledge of the suspension or revocation.
This means that to convict you, the prosecutor has to prove that you knew your license was suspended. They will do this one of several ways:
- If the DMV mailed out a suspension notice, and the address they used is your correct address, then you are presumed to have known—even if you never looked at, saw, or opened the notice.
- Normally police will give you written notice of your suspension the same day they arrest you for DUI. If there is a record of you being given this notice, the court presumes you knew your license was suspended.
How can I defend against a charge of driving on a suspended license?
The most common defense is to argue that you were not informed of your suspension. For example, if the DMV mailed out the notice but the address is not your current address, and it was not forwarded to you, then you were not informed.
An alternative defense is that you weren’t driving. This is similar to the no driving defense for DUI. Just because you were in a vehicle does not mean you drove. Officers may have made an assumption even though they did not see you actually driving the vehicle.
What are the penalties for driving on a suspended license?
The criminal penalties are steep, and they vary depending on whether this is your first time or a repeat offense.
1st time driving on a suspended license:
- A jail sentence of 5 days to 6 months
- A fine of $300-$1,000
Repeat offense (within 5 years of a previous driving on a suspended license charge):
- A jail sentence of 10 days to 1 year
- A fine of $500-$2,000
These are the basic penalties for all charges of driving on a suspended license. However, when your license was suspended as part of a DUI conviction, you face a double penalty, because driving also counts as a violation of your probation. DUI probation lasts 3-5 years and one of the requirements is that you do not commit any other crimes during that period. Since VC 14601 is a criminal offense, it violates those terms.
When this happens, in addition to the charges above, your case will be referred to a judge. You could potentially be arrested and brought to this hearing. The judge can then impose additional penalties for your probation violation. These penalties may include sending to to jail to serve out any time that was waived in your original sentence.
A DUI lawyer can help you fight both your DUI itself and a charge of driving on a suspended license. Don’t let your license suspension derail your life—fight the charge.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 896-2724 and get your free consultation today.