Driving on a Suspended License
Knowingly driving on a suspended or revoked license in violation of California Vehicle Code sections 14601.1, 14601.2, 14601.3 or 14601.5 carries fines and potential jail time. The penalties increase with prior convictions.
We actively and aggressively defend clients in driving on suspended license cases, challenging notice to the licensee about the suspension and the validity of any alleged prior convictions. We also file motions to suppress evidence based on unlawful traffic stops in violation of the 4th Amendment, prolonged detentions and other arguments.
Defenses to driving while suspended focus on whether there is proof you are the person actually driving, whether you had notice of the DMV license suspension, and whether your rights were violated by the police. Our office challenges prior convictions by searching court records and looking for irregularities. We move to dismiss out-of-state convictions and other "priors" where proof is lacking. For example, if you were not properly advised of your rights during a prior court proceeding, that is grounds to have the prior thrown out.
In these cases there are a variety of possible charges, each with different potential penalties depending on the underlying reason for the license suspension. For example, the penalty is more severe where the license was suspended because of a drunk driving conviction. The most severe penalties are those associated with so-called Habitual Traffic Offenders under California Vehicle Code Section 14601.3. This designation is reserved for drivers who have two or more convictions of driving on a suspended or revoked license in one year.
California Vehicle Code section 14601(a) prohibits driving on a suspended or revoked license that was suspended for reckless driving, alcohol and/or drug abuse, disability or being declared a negligent or incompetent driver. Section 14601.1 violations refer to all other kinds of suspensions, which most frequently involve failure to pay traffic fines.
Under section 14601.2 a driver may not operate a vehicle when his or her license has been suspended or revoked for a drunk driving conviction. Even a first offense carries a minimum jail sentence of 10 days, which goes up to a minimum of 30 days in jail for having a prior conviction. A conviction for this offense will require the defendant to install an Ignition Interlock Device in any vehicle he or she owns or operates.
In every case the prosecutor must prove two things: (1) that the defendant knew his or her privilege had been suspended; and (2) that she willingly drove anyway. To establish knowledge, the prosecution will normally point to a notation in the DMV file that notice was mailed to the driver's last known address, or that a judge or police officer provided verbal notice in person on an earlier occasion. This element may be defensible, since many people don't get their mail forwarded when they move, which could nullify the element of knowledge about the suspension.
Michael Coffino has assisted thousands of clients in driving on suspended license cases. If you have been charged with a Vehicle Code section 14601-related crime anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Marin County, Sonoma County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County or Napa County, call our office today at (415) 786-9703 or contact us online.