Did you get caught driving without a license in California? I’m a traffic ticket attorney in Southern California, but the law I’m discussing applies to traffic tickets received anywhere in the State of California.
What is a Driving Without a License Traffic Ticket?
“Driving without a license” can be defined in a number of different ways:
- you forgot your wallet and didn’t have your license on you at the time of driving (VC 12951);
- you were driving on a foreign driver’s license (issued from another country or another State) but had residency in California and were required to have a California license (VC 12500);
- you were driving a vehicle, but have never had a valid driver’s license ever (VC 12500); or
- you once had a valid California license but now your license has been suspended (VC 14601.1).
Normally, “driving without a license” refers to California Vehicle Code 12500, as explained below.
Driving without a License Under VC 12500
Penalties for Driving without a License
Although Vehicle Code 12500 is frequently referred to as a “traffic ticket,” if you’re convicted of this offense you may be facing much more than fines in traffic court.
Driving without a license can also be charged as a misdemeanor, which means a conviction leaves you susceptible to jail time and probation in addition to fines. Further, if convicted of VC 12500 as a misdemeanor, it will go on your criminal record and will appear on a background check (however, a misdemeanor expungement will allow you to truthfully not disclose this conviction to a potential employer).
If you received your ticket in Los Angeles or Orange County, you can contact me below if you’re interested in obtaining representation for this offense.
Defenses to a Driving without a License Charge
Certain defenses may be applicable to your case, which would result in the charges against you being dismissed.
For example, if you were driving with a valid foreign license, you may have still been cited by an officer under VC 12500. However, you aren’t required to have a valid California license unless you’ve established residency in California. You have 10 days from the day your residency has been established to obtain a valid California license.
“Residency” in California can be established by several different factors, including:
- you own a home in California,
- you pay taxes in California,
- you’ve lived here continuously for an extended period of time,
- you own a business in California.
None of the above per se establish residency, but “residency” is a factual question for the court and the above factors lend toward establishing residency.
Residency is NOT established merely because you moved to California temporarily, are here on a temporary job assignment, or are attending school here.
Driving without a License with a Failure to Appear
If you fall into the same camp as many of my clients, perhaps you were initially charged with driving without a license, but then you forgot or were unable to appear in court and you missed your court date. Now you are additionally charged with a failure to appear.
When your offense is charged as a misdemeanor, a failure to appear in court may turn in to a warrant.
In the case where your offense is charged as an infraction and is handled in traffic court, your case will be referred to collections and a hold will be placed on your driver’s license.
If you have a failure to appear in Los Angeles County, your case will be referred to GC Services.
You want to be careful when dealing with GC Services – they are a collections agency and will often try to convince you to forego your rights in court to pay them. The problem is, this can have many adverse consequences that aren’t readily obvious.
For example, paying GC Services may cause a failure to appear offense to show up on a criminal background check because a misdemeanor conviction will become part of your criminal record.
Also, if your underlying traffic ticket was a moving violation, you will receive a point on your DMV record if you pay GC Services, which will cause your insurance rates to go up.
In many cases you can still the see the judge to get the hold on your license cleared, and your ticket dismissed or at least the fines reduced (*note: if you have a failure to appear you can get another court date; but if you’re with GC Services because you have a “failure to pay” this means you’ve seen the judge already and you cannot get another court date).
Get Help with Your Driving without a License Offense
As a Los Angeles traffic ticket attorney, I’m here to help. You can reach me directly for a free consultation below.