The Most Common Suspended License 14601.1
The most common violation of driving on a suspended license is California Vehicle Code section 14601.1(a). This is driving on a suspended license for any reason other than those reasons listed in 14601, 14601.2, or 14601.5. (We will explain these other code sections below.) The most common reason for CVC 14601.1, driving on a suspended license, is because of a FAILURE TO APPEAR IN TRAFFIC COURT. This suspension is then from something as simple as ignoring a speeding ticket. In addition to failure to appear in traffic court, the other reasons for a suspension under VC 14601.1 may include failure to appear in criminal court, failure to pay child support, failure to satisfy a civil judgement.
The specific Cal. Vehicle Code 14601.1(a) reads as follows:
Note that VC 14601.1 may be charged as an infraction instead of a misdemeanor. This is called a “wobblette” because the case can go either way, criminal or non-criminal.
Punishment if Convicted of Driving on a Suspended License
Driving on a suspended license CVC 14601.1 is punishable by a $300 fine but up to a $1000 ($4200) fine and 6 months in jail. However, a second conviction within 5 years has mandatory jail time of 5 days and a mandatory fine of $500 ($2100) fine, with a maximum of 1 year in jail and a $2000 ($8300) fine.
The fine amounts are deceiving. The California Legislature and the California Superior Court are deceiving people because they know the true punishment is much higher, even 4 times higher. That is why we are providing you with the actual amounts. A $1,000.00 fine is really about $4,175.00 after the court adds the “penalty assessments.” A $300 fine is actually a total of $1,305. A $500 fine is actually a total of $2,125. A $2,000 fine is actually a total of $8,275. And, these are not even the exact amounts because different courtroom clerks add the totals up differently. The same case in one court can give a different total than the same case in another court. On the positive side, some judges will be very helpful by waiving some of the mandatory fees or even the fine. And, judges will explain this “tax” on fines.
Regardless of whether it is a misdemeanor an infraction, a prior conviction can still be used against you to make the second case punishable with mandatory jail of 5 days and a mandatory higher fine of $500 ($2100), with a maximum of 1 year in jail and a $2000 ($8300) fine. For example, if Joe is convicted of 14601.1 in traffic court, as an infraction, there is no jail and the fines are lower. However, if a year later Joe is charged with 14601.1 again, now the prosecutor will allege that prior conviction, even if not criminal, and now Joe is at risk of mandatory jail of at least 5 days.
The other important, very important, consideration is that both as an infraction (non-criminal) or misdemeanor (criminal), a conviction of 14601.1 still results in 2 negligent operator points for 7 years on the DMV driving record. For example, if Joe gets convicted of both cases in the above example, now Joe will have 4 points on his driving record. (If those points were all within a year, that would mean a brand-new suspension by the DMV—but that is for another discussion.) To put this into perspective, a speeding ticket is only 1 point for 3 years, but a suspended license ticket is 2 points for 7 years, so that is 3 points compared to 14 points, if you do the math. And insurance companies do the math when they raise rates astronomically, or simply drop a suspended license convict as un-insurable.
It is worth noting that if there is a failure to appear on the suspended license case, if in criminal court in Westminster, Fullerton, Santa Ana, or Newport Beach in Orange County California, the judge or court clerk will usually issue a new license hold. This means that the driver/defendant has to clear up the original hold and now another hold. This is important because the court may not clear the hold on the criminal case until the criminal case is resolved. This denies the defendant a chance to get her/his license back, which is critical in negotiating for a better plea-bargain on the suspended license charge. Notwithstanding, we are often able to work with the court to help our clients get their license back and get the suspended license charge dismissed.
If that isn't enough, for a failure to appear on a suspended license case, OC courts will also issue--in addition to the license hold, the original misdemeanor suspended license charge, and a warrant--a second misdemeanor for failure to appear.
In stark contrast, the Los Angeles Superior Court rarely imposes a new license suspension when they issue warrants for failure to appear on misdemeanor criminal violations. And, LA courts rarely issue a second misdemeanor for failure to appear. Regardless, this does not make the suspended license criminal charge any less serious.
In conclusion, the most common suspended license is because of not appearing on a ticket. 14601.1 can be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor. It is priorable, causing mandatory jail. DMV consequences are 2 points for 7 years.
Suspended License 14601.2 - After a DUI
This other most common violation of driving on a suspended license, California Vehicle Code 14601.2, is for driving after your license is suspended due to a DUI conviction. This includes the most common types of DUI convictions, 23152(a) driving while under the influence of alcohol, and 23152(b) driving with blood alcohol content .08% or greater.
The reason I list this one second, is this discussion is more involved, more serious. 14601.2 Driving on a suspended license because of a DUI conviction is very common. However, because of laws that went into effect January 2019, this charge may be seen less, but only for those that take advantage of these newer restricted license laws. The other difference between 14601.1 and 14601.2 is that most—not all, but most—people with this charge know their license was suspended, so it is usually not a surprise.
It would be virtually impossible to be convicted of a DUI and not know it. However, sometimes people do not understand the complicated license suspension issues that go along with a DUI. And courts usually do not verbally tell people that their license is suspended, although they could. (Note that the court paperwork to enter a plea-bargain does states that there are DMV consequences, even a suspended license. But the details are not clear enough to be understood.) Since the license suspension is something that happens from the DMV, court judges skim over that part of sentencing, usually never saying on the court record that the license is suspended. This is good thing for reasons of a notice defenses.
However, lack of notice or lack of understanding license suspension processes does not stop cops from citing for 14601.2, and it does not stop prosecutors from filing suspended license charges against persons with DUI convictions. However, lack of knowledge of the suspension is a defense, since knowledge of the suspension is written directly into the law.
The exact law of Cal. Vehicle Code 14601.2(a) reads:
The knowledge issue is similar for all of these suspended license charges. (This defense deserves its own full discussion.)
However, the biggest difference for criminal defendants between the types of suspended license misdemeanors is the jail time. For example, unlike 14601.1 (suspended license for other, as discussed above/first), a conviction of 14601.2 for suspended license due to DUI conviction, is punishable by mandatory jail time of 10 days and a $300 ($1300) fine, with a maximum of 6 months and $1000 ($4200) fine. Furthermore, a second conviction within 5 years carries 30 days of mandatory jail, with up to 1 year in jail, with a mandatory fine of $500 ($2100) to $2000 ($8300). If the second conviction is within 7 years but over 5 years, only 10 days jail and $300 fine, with a maximum of 6 months and $1000.
In addition to mandatory jail, an ignition interlock device is ordered. Even if the 14601.2 is reduced to a non-mandatory jail offense (like 14601.1 or 14601.5), the DMV will still order an ignition interlock device. To make matters worse, if the person was supposed to have an ignition interlock device already, but did not, there is a separate criminal offense, CVC 23247, that that results in a one-year ignition interlock and a new license suspension for one year.
California Vehicle Code 23247(e) reads:
The maximum punishment for 23247(e) is 6 months in jail and $5000 ($20,600)—yes, that is an extraordinarily high fine for a misdemeanor. However, there is no minimum punishment, meaning jail time is usually avoided for this offense, and the fine is usually much lower than the maximum. Unfortunately, separate from criminal sentencing, the DMV will immediately terminate any restricted license and impose the original suspension or revocation term. The DMV will also give a one-year license suspension.
This offense is becoming more and more common in Los Angeles Superior Courts, probably as the prosecutors become more familiar with DMV laws because of more recent requirements to ignition interlock devices. (Remember, prosecutors are in court, not at the DMV, so they usually do not focus on DMV consequences.) The only upside to a conviction of 23247(e), failure to have an IID when required post-DUI conviction, is that it does not carry any negligent operator points. But this usually overcome by most often being charged alongside 14601.2 that does have negligent operator points. For most people who need to drive, a conviction of 14601.2 is better than a conviction of 23247(e) for not having an IID. Avoiding a new license suspension is the main goal.
The Less Common Suspended License Charges
14601.5 – Other Alcohol Situations
Driving on a suspended license under California Vehicle Code 14601.5 usually involves a suspension due to a DMV decision that a person was driving with .08% or greater blood alcohol content (“BAC”). However, there are other reason, including a person on probation for an alcohol DUI had .01% BAC, or a person subject to a preliminary alcohol screening test refused that test, or a person under 21 had .01% BAC (does not have to involve driving), or a commercial licensed driver drove with 04% BAC.
The punishment for 14601.5 is a $300 fine but up to $1000 and 6 months in jail. However, a second conviction within 5 years has 10 days of mandatory jail and $500 fine, with a maximum of 1 year in jail and a $2000 fine.
The upside of this charge is that if it was for a DUI by the DMV, not a court conviction, then getting a restricted license may be the best way to fix the problem, especially for negotiating in court to acquire a relatively favorable result. The downside is that some of the reasons for this suspension cannot be fixed timely.
14601 – Negligent Operator, Physical or Mental, Addiction
Driving on a suspended license under California Vehicle Code 14601 usually involves a suspension due to negligent operation, reckless driving, or even for DMV refusal to renew a license because of drug addition, alcoholism. 14601 also applies when a license was taken away or not renewed because of physical or mental disability, disease, or disorder, that could affect safe driving, for example, a lapse in consciousness or an episode of confusion that may bring about recurrent lapses.
14601 is punishable by 5 days in jail and a $300 fine, but up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine.
A second conviction of 14601(a) within 5 years is now punishable by 10 day to 1 year in jail, and the fine almost doubles.
These last two driving while suspended laws, 14601.5 and 14601, are less common but still result in risk of jail, high fines, and 2 negligent operator points for 7 years. They can be more serious because many of the reasons for the suspensions are harder to negotiate away due to the nature of the underlying reason, especially including that it may take longer for someone to get their license back if suspended for these reasons.
12500 – No License
Sometimes if someone does not have notice about driving on a suspended license, they may be charged with California Vehicle Code 12500, Driving Without a License. This offense may be criminal or non-criminal, just like 14601.1. However, it does not carry the serious DMV consequences, but it is still subject to jail and high fines, even probation. (We will leave this for another discussion on CVC 12500.)
Most suspended license issues are related to failure to appear in traffic court or because of a DUI. It is important to be aware of the risk of jail, but equally important to consider the DMV consequences. When charged with any driving on a suspended license violation, the next steps should always be figuring out how to get one’s license back and hiring an attorney for proper competent legal defense in court. A good attorney will help you understand how to get your license back, in preparation for going to court.
Attorney David Dastrup has defended hundreds of clients with driving on a suspended license charges in Los Angeles and Orange County California Superior Courts. He has the experience you need to put this behind you. We, at the Law Office of David Dastrup, will take care of you. Call today to talk to make an appointment to talk directly to the Attorney, 310-817-5899.
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