All California drivers, and out-of-state drivers who move to California permanently, are required to have a valid driver’s license, and any person caught driving without a license in Los Angeles could face criminal charges under California Vehicle Code § 12500 VC. A more serious offense than simply failing to present a driver’s license to law enforcement, driving without a license can result in a criminal conviction and severe penalties, including a jail sentence and significant fines. If you were caught driving without a license in California, and you are facing criminal charges under Vehicle Code § 12500 VC, don’t hesitate to hire a skilled Los Angeles defense attorney to represent you. Our legal team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles has extensive experience helping clients fight driving without a license charges and can improve the chances of your charges being reduced to a lesser offense or dropped altogether.
Affordable Driving Without a License Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Under California Vehicle Code § 12500 VC, driving without a valid driver’s license is a criminal offense that can result in a conviction on your record if not handled properly by an experienced California criminal defense attorney. It is always advisable to obtain qualified legal representation when facing criminal charges in Los Angeles, like driving without a license, even if it is a first offense that you expect to get out of. A criminal defense attorney with experience defending clients against driving without a license charges can ensure that your legal rights are protected and can help you reach a favorable conclusion to your case.
Driving Without a License
Driving without a license in California is never a good idea, and if you get pulled over with an expired license, or without a license at all, you could face serious legal consequences. An example of this offense would be if you have a valid license and forget to renew it. After the license expires, you continue to drive and are eventually stopped by police because of an unrelated traffic violation. In this case, you could be criminally prosecuted under California Vehicle Code § 12500 VC.
Another example would be if you permanently move to California from New York but continue to drive with your New York plates and driver’s license. Because you failed to obtain a California driver’s license, you could be charged with driving without a license, even though you have a valid New York driver’s license. Anyone who moves to California permanently has 10 days to obtain a California driver’s license, or otherwise risks facing criminal prosecution for driving without a license.
On the other hand, consider a man who maintains his primary residence in New York and also has an apartment in California, who is stopped while driving in California. If he has a valid New York driver’s license, he would not be guilty of driving without a license, because he would fall under the category of drivers excused from the requirement of having a California license.
Some offenses related to Vehicle Code § 12500 VC include Vehicle Code § 14601 VC driving on a suspended or revoked license, Vehicle Code § 12951 VC failing to present a driver’s license, and Penal Code § 148.9 showing false identification to a peace officer.
Criminal Liability for Driving Without a License Vehicle Code § 12500
In order to show a violation of Vehicle Code § 12500 VC, the following elements of the crime must be established:
- The defendant drove a motor vehicle on a street or highway;
- When the defendant drove, he or she did not have a valid license; and
- The defendant had not been excused from the requirement to have a driver’s license.
However, Los Angeles driving without a license cases are unique in that, unlike other criminal cases, which require the prosecutor to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction, the prosecution does not bear the burden of proof in a driving without a license case. Instead, the prosecution merely has to allege that the defendant was unlicensed at the time of driving, and it is the responsibility of the defendant to prove that he or she did have a valid license. The logic here is that it is easier for a defendant to prove that a license existed than it would be for a prosecutor to prove that it didn’t.
What is the Difference Between Vehicle Code § 12500 and Vehicle Code § 14601?
Driving on a suspended or revoked license and driving without a license may seem like the same offense, but there is an important difference between these two charges. Vehicle Code § 12500 VC driving without a license is typically charged in cases where a person is driving and he or she has failed to renew an expired license, never obtained a license in the first place, or became a permanent California resident and failed to get a new license within 10 days. This offense doesn’t typically apply to situations where a driver’s license has been suspended or revoked by the DMV, because the DMV will only take such action if the driver has violated one or more California driving laws. In this case, the driver would face the more serious offense of driving on a suspended license under California Vehicle Code § 14601 VC.
Penalties for a Driving Without a License Conviction
Obtaining or renewing a valid California driver’s license can be inconvenient and time-consuming, especially if you are stuck waiting in line at the DMV, but it is a criminal offense to drive without a valid driver’s license in Los Angeles. Under California law, driving without a license is a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor offense or a non-criminal infraction, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s driving history. As a misdemeanor, driving without a license in Los Angeles is punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or $1,000 in fines, plus misdemeanor probation for up to three years. As a non-criminal infraction, driving without a license is punishable by a maximum penalty of a $250 court fine, which makes it the more favorable of the two options.
In California, a first driving without a license offense is typically considered an infraction, but subsequent offenses in violation of Vehicle Code § 12500 VC are more likely to be charged as misdemeanor criminal offenses. In some cases, if the defendant is able to obtain a valid California’s driver’s license while the charges are pending, prosecutors may be willing to reduce a California Vehicle Code § 12500 VC charge to an infraction or may even dismiss the criminal charges altogether. Drivers who have a valid license but don’t have it with them when they get pulled over could be charged under Vehicle Code § 12951 VC failing to present a driver’s license, which is always a non-criminal infraction.
Defenses to Driving Without a License
Driving without a license may seem like a relatively minor offense, but a conviction can result in jail time and significant fines, and it is the job of your criminal defense attorney to consider the circumstances of your case and build a solid defense. Some possible legal defenses to Vehicle Code § 12500 VC include proving that:
- You were a visitor to California and held a valid driver’s license from your state or country of residence;
- You were not driving;
- You were legally exempt from being required to have a California driver’s license; or
- You had a valid driver’s license at the time of the offense.
For example, if at the time you were arrested for driving without a license in Los Angeles, you: were an out-of-state driver simply visiting California, were living in California for less than 10 days, or maintained your primary residence out of state, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney could fight the charges by proving that you were excused from the requirement of having a valid California license. Or, if you had a valid California license but didn’t have it on you at the time you were pulled over, a criminal defense attorney could prove that you have a valid license and get the charges reduced to failing to present a driver’s license, a violation of Vehicle Code § 12951 VC.
Hiring an Experienced Driving Without a License Attorney
The state of California does not have a general “stop and identify” law, which means a person stopped by law enforcement does not have to show the officer identification, unless he or she is driving. As a driver, you are required to produce a valid driver’s license if you are pulled over by the police, or risk facing misdemeanor criminal charges or a non-criminal infraction. If you or a loved one has been charged with driving without a license in Los Angeles, contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today for a free initial consultation. With a knowledgeable Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer on your side, you can protect your legal rights and fight unfair driving without a license charges.