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How to Avoid Jail Time for Driving on a Suspended License

by Lindsay Chambers

If your driver’s license has been suspended due to reckless driving or a DUI, and you decide to drive anyway, you should be aware of the consequences you might face. California Vehicle Code 14601 makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly drive with a suspended or revoked license, punishable by up to six months of jail time and a fine of $1,000. 

If you drive with a suspended driver’s license, you could get arrested during a routine traffic stop – for example, if a police officer pulls you over because you ran a stop sign or have a burned-out taillight. How can you avoid fines and jail time for driving on a suspended license? Let’s look at some possible legal defenses.

1. No Knowledge 

To find you guilty of driving on a suspended license, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly violated VC 14601. To inform you that your driving privileges have been revoked or suspended, the California DMV will mail a notice to your most recent on-file address. If this notice doesn’t get returned to the office as undeliverable, and you end up facing charges, a judge might assume you were aware of your status and chose to drive anyway. 

However, if this notice gets mailed to an old address and the current occupant throws it away instead of returning it to the sender, you may continue driving anyway, never realizing your status has changed. One potential legal defense, then, is to say you did not have this knowledge.

2. No Suspension

Another way to avoid jail time in this case is to prove that your driver’s license has always been legal and valid.   

3. Necessity

Driving is a must to get around many Southern California communities. For example, imagine what you would do if it was an emergency and you were the only one available to respond, but you had a suspended license. Under a necessity defense, your attorney could argue that you had a sufficiently good reason to commit the offense. 

Suspended License FAQs

Here’s what else you need to know if your driver’s license gets revoked or suspended.

When the suspension ends, how can I get my license reinstated?

The license reinstatement procedure will depend on why you had your driving privileges suspended. For example, if you got arrested for a DUI, you will need to fulfill the terms of your sentence, then provide necessary documentation to the DMV to prove you have completed all court-ordered programs.

Can I lose my job for driving with a suspended license?

Many people in California rely on their cars to get to and from work. If the terms of your employment require you to have a valid driver’s license, a suspended license may jeopardize your job status. While your employment status may be critical to your livelihood, the court will likely not consider it a factor when deciding to suspend or revoke your license. 

Is it possible to get a provisional license after a DUI?

After a DUI conviction, you may be able to apply for a provisional driver’s license once you take the required driver’s education courses, obtain a high-risk SR-22 insurance policy and get an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.

Who to Call If You Are Facing Charges

Driving with a suspended license is a gamble you shouldn’t be willing to take. However, if you are facing jail time for driving with a suspended license in California, you need representation from an experienced attorney. At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we will give your case the respect and consideration it deserves. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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