Driving without a Driver's License

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Driving without a driver's license is a criminal offense in California and not just a traffic ticket. Driving without a valid driver's license may seem simple, but it is still a misdemeanor. You could serve a prison sentence and a guilty conviction will appear on your criminal record. In fact, when your criminal record is checked, it is likely that a conviction for driving without a license will appear on your record. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you reduce the crime to an offense or dismiss the charge entirely. Don't go alone when you face a crime that affects your future. If you have been charged with driving without a license, contact our office to discuss your legal options. We can help you!

California law

Pursuant to Article 12500 of the California licence and insurance Traffic and Vehicle Code, you cannot drive in California without a valid driver's license. The license must be specific according to the type of vehicle you drive. For example, if you ride a motorcycle, you must have a license to ride a motorcycle. Visitors to the state of California can drive with a valid license from the state where they live. However, once the driver becomes a California resident, they must obtain a California driver's license within 10 days of establishing residency. California residency is established in several ways, by registering as a voter to vote in a California state election, pay resident tuition at a university or college or file a property tax exemption. If you have been fined for driving without a license, you or your attorney must appear in court on the date shown on the ticket. Failure to do so will issue an arrest warrant.

It is relatively easy for the prosecution to convict an individual of driving without a license simply by proving that you were driving, but you must prove that you do have a license. If you actually have a license, but were unable to present it at the time you were detained, you will be assessed a violation in accordance with Article 12951 of the California Traffic and Vehicle Code. Once you show the judge that you have a valid driver's license, the charges are dropped. If you do not have a driver's license or if your license is expired or invalid, you face the penalties described below.

Sanctions and Convictions

In California, driving without a license is a "wobblette," which means that prosecutors can charge the charges as a misdemeanor or infraction. Your driving record is the primary factor taken into account in determining whether the violation is being charged as a misdemeanor charge. People who commit this violation for the first time are charged with the offense, something that is not considered a criminal violation and is not included in the criminal history record.

Penalties for driving without a driver's license on a misdemeanor charge

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • A fine of up to $ 1,000, in addition to fees and penalties that can add thousands of dollars to the final fine
  • Up to 3 years probation without reporting
  • Up to 30 days of seizure of the car.

Penalty for driving without a driver's license with a violation charge

  • Fine of up to $ 250, in addition to fees.

Even if you have been charged with a misdemeanor charge, the prosecutor may agree to dismiss the charge or reduce it to a violation if you can obtain a driver's license within a reasonable period of time. Criminal defense attorneys at Stephen G. Rodríguez y Asociados have been highly successful in convincing the prosecution to postpone criminal proceedings and giving the client time to obtain his license. In these circumstances, the misdemeanor charge is reduced to a violation or is dismissed entirely.

Why my car was seized

In Los Angeles the tow truck can take your car and seize it for 30 days if you drive with a suspended, revoked license or without a valid driver's license. These laws (Articles 14602.6 and 14607.6 of the California Traffic and Vehicle Code) are very strictly enforced in Los Angeles. If your car is impounded, you must pay the cost of the tow and the impoundment for 30 days, which can cost you more than $ 1,000. In some cases, you may lose your car and it may be sold at auction.

Driving with a suspended or revoked license

Driving without a license in accordance with Article 12500 of the Traffic and Vehicle Code is not the same violation as driving under a suspended license. Driving with a suspended license (Traffic and Vehicle Code Article 14601) is a misdemeanor and a more serious violation in California for which more severe penalties are imposed.

Illegal immigrants who drive without a driver's license

Every California resident knows that it is difficult to work if you cannot drive. Only people who are citizens of the United States or who are legal residents of the United States can obtain a California driver's license. Undocumented immigrants are prohibited from legally obtaining a California driver's license. This results in many immigrants driving without valid licenses. If an illegal immigrant is charged a charge for driving without a license, there is no way to legally obtain one. Therefore, the option of having a misdemeanor reduced to an offense or having your case dismissed is very complicated. It is very important that the charge be reduced or discarded,


Like many traffic violations in California, the initial traffic stop must be valid. The police officer cannot arbitrarily arrest drivers, he must have a "reasonable suspicion" that a violation has occurred. Therefore, if the traffic stop was not legal, the case can be dismissed. However, the best defense is to apply for and obtain a driver's license in a timely manner. Other potential defenses include that the driver was unaware that the license was suspended, that he had driven with a license that he believed was valid in another state, or that he had driven without a license due to an extreme emergency.

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyers

It may be tempting to accept an offer from the prosecutor to plead guilty to driving without a license. But if you plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge, this conviction will appear on your criminal history record, which may affect you in the future when employers, landlords, creditors, and acquaintances check your criminal history record.

After carefully analyzing your circumstances, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you solve your case in the way that suits you best. You have options. The attorneys at Stephen G. Rodríguez & Partners have represented many individuals who face charges of driving without a license. We dynamically and aggressively protect your freedom and rights by providing you with the best legal defense available. We will provide you with the correct information, we will clearly communicate your options and answer your questions.

Contact us to set up a FREE and confidential appointment to discuss your case.
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