Driving on a suspended license (Vehicle Code section 14601) – Orange County

Vehicle Code 14601 (Driving on a suspended license) cases:

The California Vehicle Code makes it illegal to drive while your license is suspended by the DMV.  The possible penalties (fines, jail time, etc) depend on why your license was suspended, what specific code section you’re charged with, whether or not you can get your license back and whether or not you have prior convictions for driving on a suspended license.  Some of the more common sections include:

14601 (suspended due to a prior reckless driving conviction)

Sentence:  Minimum 5 days in county jail and a fine of $300 (plus penalty assessments); maximum 6 months county jail and a fine of $1,000.

14601.1 (This is the one that most suspensions fall under.  It can be for anything from failing to appear to non-payment of child support)

Sentence:  No mandatory minimum jail sentence, minimum fine $300 plus penalty assessments.  Maximum 6 months county jail and a fine of $1,000.

14601.2 (License suspended for prior DUI conviction)

This section is the most harsh of all the license suspension subsections.  If your license was suspended for a prior DUI and you are caught driving (or if your license was restricted and you were driving outside the restriction), the possible sentence is:

Minimum – 10 days county jail, $300 fine and the requirement that you install an ignition interlock device on any car you own or have access to for up to three years.  That ignition interlock requires physical installation (often with drilling a hole in your dashboard) and you would be responsible for the cost of maintenance and calibration (required periodically).  Maximum sentence for a conviction is 6 months in county jail, a thousand dollar fine and the ignition interlock device.

14601.3 (driving after suspension for being designated a “habitual traffic offender”)

If you get too many points on your license and are declared a habitual traffic offender by the court, your license can be suspended.  “Points” are generally moving violations and are listed under Vehicle Code section 12810.  If caught driving while under that suspension, the minimum sentence is 30 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. A second conviction within 7 years has a minimum of 180 days in jail.

14601.5 (suspended for excessive blood alcohol level)

If you were arrested for a DUI, your license was likely taken away and you were given paperwork to contest it being suspended by the DMV at an administrative hearing.  This is separate from any criminal proceedings in court.  If you lose (or don’t request) the hearing, your license will be suspended by the DMV.  If you are caught driving during that suspension, a conviction carries up to 6 months in county jail (no mandatory minimum) and a fine of up to $1,000 (minimum fine is $300).

Defenses

One critical element of a driving on a suspended license charge is that you must know that your license was suspended.  The DA has to be able to prove that you were put on notice somehow that your license was suspended before you were stopped.  It doesn’t count if you had no idea your license was suspended and the officer then notifies you as they were arresting you.

Notice can be in different ways.  Sometimes, notice is mailed to you by the DMV.  They will send any notice of suspension to the address on file with the DMV.  If it’s not returned or unclaimed, they will assume you got the notice.  What if you moved?  The Vehicle Code requires that you notify the DMV within 10 days of your new change of address.  They will try to claim that they sent it to your old address, so that’s good enough.  Not necessarily and this “notice” can sometimes be defeated.  Other times, the notice is done when you are at the DMV for other reasons and they see that your license has been suspended, but you haven’t gotten notice.  They will have you sign a form indicating you’ve now been put on notice that your license is suspended.  Police officers carry forms with them that they may have you sign if you’re caught driving, but there hasn’t been prior “good” notice served on you.  If you’re stopped after that, it’s tough to claim you didn’t know after being told and signing that form.

These sections are all misdemeanors as well.  Even under the sections that have no minimum jail time, a conviction will result in a misdemeanor on your record and a three year probation period.  The good news is that they can be reduced to infractions and/or handled in other ways to try and avoid the harsh penalties and conviction on your record.  Every case is unique, so to discuss your case further, call to set up a time to meet with me.

Joe Dane

info@joedane.com

(714) 532-3600

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