​​California Criminal Defense Attorneys

(310) 817-5899

Law Office of

​David Dastrup


DUI Defense

Traffic-Crimes Defense

Criminal Defense


A Criminal Traffic Ticket

Even if licensed out-of-state?

"No License" as a traffic ticket is a criminal case most of the time. Driving without a license in Los Angeles County or Orange County, California, refers to California Vehicle Code section 12500(a), "A person may not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver’s license issued under this code, ..." On the traffic ticket, the police officer may have written it like this, “12500 No License” or “CVC 12500a driving without a license” or “VC 12500(a) no driver’s license.” To the right of this, an "M" is circled, meaning misdemeanor, but "I" may be circled to indicate an infraction. (A misdemeanor is a criminal charge, punishable with jail, high fine, probation, etc., while an infraction is punishable with a fine.)

For driving without a California Drivers License, or no license at all, a criminal attorney is needed because this is a criminal law matter.

Many people that are cited for this actually have a driver's license in another state or another country. We are regularly asked:

“I do not have a California Drivers License because I do not live in California, so how can they give me a ticket for driving without a license?"

And, maybe …

“…I showed the cop my driver’s license from [another state/country].”

“…I have an international drivers license and was just traveling on business.”

“…I am just a student. When done with college, I am going back home to [Oregon … Nevada … Qatar … Kuwait … United Arab Emirates … etc.]”

When a client asks about why they were charged with driving without a license, the most important things are to understand how to deal with the case and the future. That is not the same as reading the law, which does not show the whole picture, nor how cops, prosecutors, or judges treat the charge in court. The real issue is how to resolve this the best way possible. Our extensive experience with driving without a license (and driving on a suspended license), as traffic ticket misdemeanors in criminal court and traffic ticket infractions in traffic court, has given us special insight.

Usually, the traffic ticket for driving without a license will be a misdemeanor, which is criminal, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and $4200 of a fine with fees. While that sounds very serious, and it could be, it is unlikely to be as serious of a concern if you do not have a criminal record, no prior similar charges, no prior convictions, and your license or privilege to drive in California is not suspended. First, in Los Angeles Superior Court, it is common for a driving without a license ticket to be filed as an infraction (non-criminal) case. As an infraction, there is  no risk of jail, just a risk of fine. If there are other counts on the same ticket, like speeding, then there is also risk of a negligent operator point. Second, even if filed as a misdemeanor (criminal) case, our attorney has a very high success rate of resolving “no license” cases as non-criminal, and probably with dismissals of the other less serious counts to avoid DMV negligent operator points. For someone who never returns to California, the points can still show up on a driving record at your home state’s department of motor vehicle. Or, if international, from out of the country, this could affect you when you return if there is a DMV record created from the case that shows up for rental cars or if you decide to get a CA license in the future.

If you have any prior criminal case, or prior tickets, it is more likely that your new misdemeanor traffic ticket is filed as a misdemeanor (criminal) instead of as an infraction (non-criminal). In addition, priors can affect the results of the new case, depending on the types of priors, whether your case is in the same court or with the same prosecutor, etc. Regardless, our attorney achieves excellent results the vast majority of the time, even with priors, even if the prior is for driving on a suspended license. Note that while our past results tend to show statistically a good chance of a dismissal or reduction for future similar cases, it is not a predictor of the outcome and every case is different. Furthermore, legal representation does not guarantee results; it is the practice of law. (This is similar to the practice of medicine. When you go to the doctor with a cold, it is because being treated by the doctor drastically increases the likelihood you will recover sooner and better than if not treated.)

When you hire us to go to court for you, the attorney goes for you so that you do not have to go to court. This means that you do not have to travel back to CA. You do not miss work or sit in court for hours. Moreover, we know how to make things happen for you, without you present in court.  

Something we normally tell our clients who ask about 12500 no license tickets, is how to be prepared for the future, if this happens again. We cannot advise someone to drive in CA without a CA license with the promise that police will not mishandle the situation. However, we believe a little advance preparation may help to avoid problems. This is not legal advice, it is merely things that have worked for some people before, and common sense.

It is a serious concern if a person is stopped and ticketed again for driving without a license, because the police will assume you should have a license since you are here in CA enough to get stopped a second time.

In other words, the officer may look up your DMV record and assume that someone who gets repeat tickets lives here permanently. Then, instead of just citing you again for driving without a license, your car may be impounded and there is a risk of handcuffs and being arrested. Sounds absurd, but it happens a lot.

To help avoid this scenario, it is probably a good idea to blend in. Maybe rent a plain car instead of something fancy. If an out-of-state student, do not give the cops reason to believe you have plenty of resources, so drive a regular sedan instead of the sports car. It seems that regular cars in good repair are impounded less than exotic cars or cars with other violations, like no registration, no front license plate, inoperable equipment, window tint, etc. More importantly, the more regular, then the less likely to get pulled over in the first place. The idea is to not attract attention and, if stopped, to avoid triggering the cop's personal social-economic opinions that may change how you are treated.
Another good idea that may help avoid problems is to carry proof of residency (other than an out-of-state license), travel itinerary docs, business doc showing activity outside and in CA, and a passport. Then, if pulled over, politely hand the cop docs in a manner that can be quickly assessed by the officer. Explain you travel here frequently but live in another state or country. Be sure to only had the officer the most important docs that are clearest on this issue. They do not want to read and sift through papers on the roadside. Your items should be minimal, orderly, and at the ready if stopped (e.g., not digging for papers in a brief case that raises cop’s concern of a concealed weapon). Even if the cop does not care about your documents, when the case goes to court, your attorney can get the cop to acknowledge that you showed documents at the time you were cited. Then, the judge is more likely to believe your situation, leading to a more favorable result. Again, this is not black-letter law--it is reality and wisdom.

As a DISCLAIMER, this is only brief information, and does not review the law or rights. It focuses on certain issues but not all issues and is not specific to any particular case. If you have a legal issue, you need an attorney. Information on the internet might be helpful, but does not create an expert out of you. Only an experienced attorney representing you in court will provide the best help that you need; Call us at 310-817-5899.