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License Suspension & Revocation Laws in California

License Suspension & Revocation Laws in California

California, like all other states, requires anyone behind the wheel of a motor vehicle to be properly licensed and in good standing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Should you run afoul of the state’s traffic laws, commit a certain crime, or engage in other specific punishable conduct, the DMV has the authority to suspend or revoke your driver’s license, a penalty that can have major implications for the many people Southern California who depend on their vehicles to get around.

While a license suspension or revocation can certainly create a number of problems, those problems may be exacerbated when drivers who have suspended or revoked licenses are arrested for new crimes, or found to be unlawfully driving. At Premier Criminal Defense, our legal team is led by Thomas Slattery, a former prosecutor with over 17 years of experience handling criminal cases from both sides of the courtroom – including those involving driving crimes, traffic infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Below, we discuss California laws regarding driver’s license suspensions and revocations, as well as criminal charges drivers may face in relation to their license status.

How Can My California Driver’s License be Suspended or Revoked?

California’s Vehicle Code contains numerous regulations regarding the responsibilities of motorists, as well as various types of infractions, driving crimes (both misdemeanors and felonies), and administrative penalties. Some of these penalties include a suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, with terms that vary depending on the underlying reason, and which may range from as little as 30 days for minor infractions to 1 year, multiple years, or indefinitely.

Common reasons why the DMV may suspend or revoke your driver’s license include:

  • A conviction, or multiple convictions, for driving under the influence (DUI).
  • Chemical test refusal during a DUI investigation (implied consent law).
  • Driving without insurance (after an auto accident) / failure to maintain proof of auto insurance.
  • Underage DUI, as well as driving with open alcohol containers when under 21.
  • Being declared a “Negligent Operator” after accumulating too many points on your driving record for multiple traffic violations, auto accidents, or serious driving crimes such as hit and run, DUI, reckless driving, evading a police officer, or vehicular manslaughter.
  • Failure to appear in court and / or failure to pay fines associated with traffic citations.
  • Failure to pay court-ordered child support.
  • Having a physical or mental condition which impairs your ability to safely operate a vehicle.
  • For commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders, suspensions may be issued for offenses such as reckless driving, following too closely, unsafe lane changes, causing a fatal wreck due to a traffic violation, driving a truck or commercial vehicle without a CDL, or DUI. In some cases, commercially licensed drivers may face both state and federal penalties

Depending on the circumstances, motorists may have options to protect their licenses from being suspended or revoked by requesting an administrative DMV hearing to contest and review and proposed suspension, revocation, and other disciplinary action. In DUI cases, for example, our legal team represents clients during both their criminal court proceedings and their administrative DMV hearings, which are separate matters.

CA Crimes Involving Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License

California’s Vehicle Code (VC) requires those behind the wheel of a motor vehicle to be properly licensed. When a person knowingly drives on a suspended or a revoked driver’s license, they can be charged with a crime under VC 14601 – 14601.5, depending on the facts involved. These crimes include:

VC 14601 (Suspension for Specific Offenses) – This section of the California Vehicle Code prohibits driving any motor vehicle when you know the DMV has issued a suspension or revocation for specific offenses, which are either: reckless driving, addiction / abuse of alcohol or drugs, a physical or mental disability, or being declared an incompetent or negligent operator. Penalties for a first offense range from 5 days to 6 months imprisonment in a county jail, fines, probation, and other potential consequences. A subsequent offense increases fines and potential jail sentences to 10 days to 1 year.

VC 14601.1 (Suspension for Any Reason) – This is California’s driving with a suspended license law, and it’s one of the most common “catch-all” statutes used to prosecute motorists who knowingly drive on a suspended or revoked license for any reason. Penalties for a first offense include up to 180 days in jail, and a second offense within 5 years mandates a minimum of 5 days and up to 1 year in jail, in addition to probation, fees, assessments, and other penalties.

VC 14601.2 (Suspension for DUI) – The most serious of the 14601 Vehicle Code violations, this section prohibits driving on a license motorists know was suspended due to a DUI conviction. Penalties for a first offense include 10 days to 6 months in jail, probation, fines, and fees. A subsequent offense within 5 years raises that to a minimum 30 days to 1 year in jail, plus probation and higher fines and fees.

VC 14601.3 (Negative Driving History During Suspension) – You may face charges under this section of the Vehicle Code if you accumulate a negative driving record during the term of your license suspension or revocation. Under this section, a driver will be declared a “habitual traffic offender” if the following applies: your license was suspended or revoked, and within a 12-month period you were convicted of (or involved in) any combination of:

  • Two or more serious driving relates offenses (i.e. DUI, reckless driving, exhibition of speed, or another suspended / revoked violation under VC 14601;
  • Three or more general moving violations (i.e. speeding, failure to yield);
  • Three or more injury-causing or property-damage-causing accident with damages of at least $750.

VC 14601.4 (Causing Injury During Suspension for DUI) – Driving with a license you know has been suspended or revoked due to a DUI conviction, committing a traffic violation or act of negligence that made you at fault for an accident, and causing bodily injury to another person is a crime under this VC section. Penalties for a first offense include between 10 to 180, as well as mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.

VC 14601.5 (Chemical Test Refusal) – Refusing a chemical test is one way to have your license suspended, and this VC section prohibits motorists from driving when they know their license suspension is due to any of the following:

  • A chemical test refusal during a DUI investigation,
  • An Under-21 DUI involving a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test refusal, or having a .01 BAC or greater.
  • Chemical test refusal (including a PAS) during a DUI investigation while on probation for a previous DUI.
  • Driving with a BAC level that of .01 or greater (while on DUI probation) or .04 or greater (while driving a vehicle requiring a commercial driver’s license).

Creative Solutions. Tailored Defense Strategies.

Backed by the experience of a Former Prosecutor who’s spent more than 17 years immersed in the practice of criminal law, Premier Criminal Defense is equipped with the tools to help clients in a range of matters involving driver’s license and suspension revocations, including:

  • Representation at administrative DMV hearings
  • Representation in criminal court for driving-related misdemeanors or felonies
  • Defense against traffic tickets and infractions

We focus on core elements the government is required to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) in these cases, including knowledge of a suspension or revocation, law enforcement protocol regarding your Constitutional rights, and other means of facilitating favorable plea scenarios, reduced charges and penalties, and dismissals when possible.

If you or someone you love face a traffic citation, misdemeanor or felony driving charge, or any other criminal allegation and administrative DMV driver’s license suspension or revocation, trust an experienced and passionate team. Contact Premier Criminal Defense to speak with a lawyer.