Driving With A Suspended License

The law prohibits anyone from driving once their driver's license has been suspended. If you have been caught driving while your license is suspended, you could be arrested and incur unnecessary penalties and costs. A person's license can be suspended for a variety of reasons, such as after being charged with a DUI. If you are facing charges for driving with a suspended license in Santa Ana, get in touch with us at Darwish Law so that we can help defend you.

Legal Definition of Driving with a Suspended License Under California Vehicle Code 14601

When your driving privileges are revoked or suspended, any further driving can result in criminal penalties as per the California Vehicle Code. Driving with a revoked or suspended license is illegal under the California VC Section 14601, and anyone who is convicted faces serious criminal consequences.

California VC 14601 violation is described as operating an automobile at any moment after your driving license has been suspended or revoked with total understanding or comprehension of the revocation or suspension.

The frequency of driving with suspended licenses increased dramatically when new traffic rules were enacted in 2021 to combat distracted driving as well as other driving violations. Each year in California, millions of traffic tickets are issued. These offenses result in the accumulation of points on drivers' licenses, increasing the possibility of suspended licenses, and generating large sums of money in penalties.

Most license suspensions occur as a result of failing to attend court, a problem that has proven so problematic in the State of California that a large number of driver's licenses have been reinstated following complaints.

Suspensions are also common as a result of

  • California DUI-related charges
  • Refusal to consent to a DUI chemical test
  • Careless or reckless driving
  • Accumulating many points on your license. This could be 4 points in 1 year, 6 points in two years, or 8 points in 3 years
  • Negligent driving that leads to injury under VC 23104
  • A mental or physical impairment
  • Being involved in a vehicle accident and not having evidence of insurance
  • If you have been considered a negligent driver of a vehicle
  • Failure to show up in court
  • Having a ticket that hasn't been settled

Operating a vehicle with a suspended license has different consequences depending on why the driving license was suspended. For different types of violations, different statutes apply to driving with a suspended driving license. The following statutes are listed below in detail:

License Suspension for Specific Offenses Under VC 14601

As stated before, it is prohibited to operate any car, or even a motorcycle, when you are aware that your license has been revoked or suspended for either of the following reasons, according to California VC 14601:

  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • A mental or physical ailment that makes it difficult for you to safely drive
  • Drunk driving (whether it be "wet reckless" or "dry reckless")
  • Being labeled a "careless" or "inept" driver

The most obvious cause of license suspension is careless driving, which is similarly a typical sentence reduction from DUI accusations in California. The key distinction between "wet reckless" and "dry reckless" DUI charges is that "wet reckless" driving accusations include the use of alcohol and carry heavier punishments.

License Suspension for General Offenses Under VC 14601.1

VC 14601.1 is a broader statute that enables you to be prosecuted for driving with a suspended license for any cause, even those not included in the list above.

License Suspension or Revocation for DUI Under VC 14601.2

It is prohibited to operate a motor vehicle when you are aware that your driver's license was revoked or suspended due to a DUI charge, according to VC 14601.2. It's the most severe of the VC14601 offenses and bears the most severe penalties.

Repeat Offenders Under VC 14601.3

Recurrent driving-related convictions and violations are forbidden after your license has been suspended or revoked, according to VC14601.3. If you have been convicted or participated in the following offenses within 12 months after your license was revoked or suspended, you could be labeled a "repeat traffic offender" and charged with driving with a revoked or suspended driving license:

  • Another breach of VC 14601
  • A DUI offense as per VC 23152
  • 2 or more major traffic offenses, such as negligent driving under VC 23103
  • Speeding offenses under VC 23109
  • 3 or more driving offenses in general
  • 3 or more traffic accidents resulting in injury or damage to property totaling a minimum of $750

License Suspensions for Refusal to Take Part in Chemical Tests and Other DUI Violations Under VC 14601.5

Driving with a license that has been revoked or suspended for different reasons relating to refusing to take part in chemical tests is unlawful under California VC 14601.5, as well as other DUI-related scenarios cases such as:

  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol with a BAC of:
  1. 01 percent or higher while you are on probation
  2. 08 percent or higher
  • 04 percent or higher while operating an automobile that necessitates a commercial driver's license
  • Refusing to take part in a chemical test after being arrested for DUI
  • A California DUI allegation including a refusal to take part in a Preliminary Alcohol Screening or having a blood alcohol content of 0.01 percent or higher while being under the age of 21
  • Refusing to take part in a chemical test after being suspected of drunk driving while being on probation for DUI

To prosecute someone under Vehicle Code 14601.1(a), the prosecution must show that:

  • The offender operated a car while his or her driver's license was revoked or suspended
  • The accused drove, while he or she was aware that his or her driver's license had been revoked or suspended

Proving Knowledge

If the below statements are found to be true, it will be assumed that you had been aware that your driving license had been suspended or revoked at the moment when you were arrested for such an offense:

  • The California Department of Motor Vehicles sent you a notice of your driver's license revocation or suspension
  • The revocation or suspension notification was mailed to the most recent home address that you provided to a federal entity, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, a police department, or the court
  • The revocation or suspension notice did not reach the Department of Motor Vehicles as undeliverable or unclaimed

The court shall presume that you were aware that your driving license had been revoked or suspended if:

  • You had been arrested for a crime that warranted revocation or suspension, and the arresting officer provided you with a notification of revocation or suspension (like a DUI). When possible, the police might also have taken your driver's license
  • When you were convicted for an offense that led to the revocation or suspension, a court notified you of your driving license revocation or suspension

If any one of the above statements is proven to be true, it is assumed that you were aware of your driving license's revocation or suspension. But, it doesn't demonstrate that you were aware of the revocation or suspension, and your criminal defense lawyer could be capable of refuting that inference and showing the jurors that you were unaware of the revocation or suspension.

Penalties for Driving with a Suspended License

Driving with a suspended or revoked license is charged as a misdemeanor in California, according to VC 14601. The severity of the consequences will be determined by the cause for your license suspension or revocation, your driving record, and if you have been convicted of driving with a suspended driving license in the past.

The following are possible penalties:

  • For first-time violators, fines of up to $300 – $1,000, for repeat offenders, fines of $2,000 or more, and/or
  • For first-time violators, a jail term of 5 – 6 months is imposed, for repeat offenders, a term of 10 days – 1 year is imposed

Multiple violations within five years after a previous offense result in increased fines.

A conviction under VC14601 does not carry a sentence to state imprisonment in California.

If you have been convicted of driving while your license is suspended for a DUI offense, you could be ordered to have an ignition interlock device, which works like a Breathalyzer that stops you from driving a car when any amount of alcohol is detectable in your body.

Reinstatement of Your Driving Privileges

After your driver’s license has been suspended, you are not permitted to drive till you have taken the proper measures to get your driving license reinstated. That implies that even after the suspension period has passed, you can still be prosecuted for driving while your license is suspended when you drive your vehicle before taking the proper measures. To avoid being penalized, you must do the following:

  • Complete the required steps with the Department of Motor Vehicles to regain your driving rights, or
  • Demonstrate to the judge that you've fulfilled all probationary conditions

Regardless of the cause for the suspension, there'll be different considerations for regaining your driving license. You must comprehend the exact rules that apply to you depending on your offense and case specifics.

Common Defenses for Driving with a Suspended License

Your criminal defense lawyer can employ a range of defense approaches to challenge VC14601 allegations. The usual defenses include, the defendant not being aware of the license suspension or revocation, an illegitimate suspension or revocation, as well as the ability to drive using a restricted license.

You Were Not Aware that your License was Suspended

The prosecutor should be capable of proving that you were aware of the revocation or suspension to prosecute you for driving while your license was suspended or revoked. You could have the accusations dismissed if your notification of license suspension was issued to a previous address or had been lost before it was mailed, or if you had been never informed of your suspension or revocation by the Department of Motor Vehicles or a law enforcement official.

You Had a "Restricted" California Driving Permit

If you can establish that you do have an "essential reason to drive" after your license has been suspended, you could be given restricted driving privileges. You shall be capable of driving to your workplace, to school, a court-mandated DUI class, or wherever the court permits a restricted driving license.

When you hold a restricted driving license, you could be capable of having your VC 14601 charges dropped if you can show that you drove within the limits of your restricted driver's license.

The Suspension or Cancellation of Your California Driver's License Wasn’t Warranted

Your VC 14601 charges may be dropped if the suspended or revoked license was erroneous, such as when the proof rendered against you had inaccuracies.


You can use a necessity argument to try to avoid being found guilty by demonstrating that:

  • You had a compelling motive to perpetuate the crime

This defense can be referred to as "pleading guilty with an explanation." Under the scope of this law, a defendant could argue that he or she perpetrated the offense because they did not have any other option. Maybe the defendant was forced to drive due to a medical emergency.

Case Dismissals and Plea Bargains

To reduce costs and save time, the prosecution could lower your VC 14601 crime to a minor charge or perhaps even an infraction. This approach may be advantageous for you when you have little to no criminal history.

California DMV Hearing

By seeking a DMV hearing with the assistance of your defense lawyer, you could be able to prevent your license from being revoked or suspended. You get 10 days following the DMV's revocation or suspension notice to seek a hearing. Before your driving rights are revoked or reinstated in California, you are eligible for a DMV hearing. Avoiding revocation or suspension is the easiest method for defending yourself against accusations of driving with a revoked or suspended license.

Related Offenses to Driving with a Suspended License

Offenses related to VC 14601 charges include:

Driving Without a Driver's License Under VC 12500

Driving with no license is an offense that is related to charges of driving while your license is revoked or suspended, however, it's a lesser crime. For you to be convicted of driving without a driver's license as per VC 12500, you must have been found operating a car without a legitimate driving license.

You could be convicted of a misdemeanor offense or an infraction when you violate VC 12500. However, if that's your first violation and your driving record is clean, the offense will merely be prosecuted as an infraction.

Failure to Present a Driver's License Under VC 12951

Failure to produce a driver’s license is a lesser crime than driving while your license is revoked or suspended. You might incur penalties for violating California VC 12951 violation when you:

  • Operate a vehicle without a legitimate driver's license. This also applies to leaving your driver's license back at home
  • When driving a car, refusal to show your driver's license to a law enforcement officer when asked

It is a criminal offense to refuse to present your driver’s license to a law enforcement officer. If you had a legitimate driving license that was not with you at the moment of the violation, you could probably get the charges dropped if you establish that you had a valid driver’s license at the time of the stop.

To operate a vehicle in California, you do not need a California driver’s license, but you must have a legal permit from another country or state.

Illegal use of a driver's license As Per Vehicle Code 14610

This vehicle code makes it illegal to utilize a driving permit illegally. When someone engages in unlawful use of the driver's license, they:

  • Possess a license that has been suspended or revoked
  • Lend their driver's license to someone else
  • Refuse to give up a suspended driver's license
  • Allow someone to use a driver's license in an unauthorized manner
  • Duplicate or modify a license

Immigration Consequences

Driving with a suspended or revoked license has no bearing on an individual's immigration situation.

Upon being charged with a California offense, non-citizens could be deported back to their countries of origin or tagged as inadmissible. When a non-citizen is charged with a felony involving moral depravity, for instance, he or she will be deported. However, a charge under this law will not lead to deportation.

Expungement of Driving with a Suspended License Charge

If a defendant is guilty under this provision, they may be eligible for expungement when the following conditions are met:

  • If you completed your probation
  • You served your sentence

You could still be eligible for expungement even if you committed a probationary violation.

Find a Santa Ana Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you have been accused of driving with a suspended license, having a defense lawyer in your corner is critical. Based on the specifics of your case, a strong legal defense attorney will be able to have your charges reduced or even dismissed. We at Darwish Law have attorneys who can assist you in developing a solid defense strategy to get the best possible result for your case. Call us today at 714-887-4810 if you are facing charges for driving with a suspended license in Santa Ana.