What are the consequences for driving with a suspended license?

Posted on April 13, 2021 by John

According to the California Vehicle Code (VC) section 14601, a person is prohibited from driving knowing that their license has been revoked or suspended. Revoked licenses and suspended licenses differ in the process drivers must take to regain their driving privileges. A revoked license is a more severe consequence and can be permanent or require reapplication when a person becomes eligible. A suspended license is temporary and can automatically become reinstated once a driver meets specified requirements.

How can I lose my license?

Various violations of the law can cause you license suspensions/revocations. Your driver’s license can be taken from you by the court, the DMV, and the law enforcement agency that arrests you for the law violation. The following are a few reasons they could suspend and revoke your license:

  • You have been arrested or convicted of DUI, reckless driving, or possession of a controlled substance,
  • You have an arrest warrant,
  • You have a medical condition that affects your ability to drive (such as epilepsy),
  • You rack up too many points on your driving record for DUI or traffic violations,
  • You failed to pay child support,
  • You do not have car insurance,
  • You did not appear in court following a traffic violation,
  • You did not file a report with the DMV following an accident, or
  • You failed to pay a civil judgment regarding an automobile accident.

Prosecution for Driving with a Suspended License

Under VC 14601, the prosecution must prove the following elements before convicting a person of driving with a suspended license:

  • A person drove a motor vehicle during their license suspension or revocation.


  • They were aware their driving privilege was suspended or revoked while driving the vehicle.

The first component is self-explanatory in that it only requires the prosecution to prove a person was driving during a time they had no privilege to do so. The second is a bit more challenging to prove; however, VC 14601 states that a driver is presumed to know of their suspended or revoked license if:

  • The DMV mailed the person advisement notice of the suspension/revocation,
  • The notice was mailed to the most recent address listed at the DMV, or a more recent address was provided to a law enforcement agency or the court, AND
  • The notice was not returned to the DMV as unclaimed or undeliverable.

A person’s knowledge is presumed if the prosecution can prove this mailing occurred or that the court informed the defendant of their suspension/revocation.

VC 14601 Charge Defenses

Lack of Knowledge

  • The law includes provisions that presume knowledge because it is difficult for the prosecution to prove a person was aware of their driver’s license suspension or revocation. Therefore, if a person’s criminal defense attorney can prove that the notice was sent to the wrong address, they may effectively defend the charges. A person’s lawyer may also defend the charges if they can prove that the court or law enforcement officer failed to advise them of their revoked or suspended driving privileges.

The License Was Restricted

  • An attorney may defend a person’s charges if they can prove that the person was legally driving on a restricted license and that the driving was permitted under the restricted license’s conditions. A restricted license is unique because it a type of suspended license that allows a driver to commute between home and school or work. Therefore, driving would not be considered a violation of VC 14601 if a person was driving under the conditions.

Consequences for Driving with a Suspended/Revoked License

Under California law, driving with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor. Under VC 14601, a first conviction may result in the punishments listed below:

  • A fine ranging from $300 to $1,000; and
  • Imprisonment in a county jail anywhere between five days and six months.

If the same violations occur within five years following the first conviction, a person may face increased fines and jail time. In addition, a person whose license is suspended or provoked due to a DUI conviction may be required by the court to install an ignition interlock device (IID). An IID prevents a person’s vehicle from starting if they cannot provide a breath sample free of any measurable amount of alcohol.


  • Will my license be automatically reinstated when my suspension ends?

The process of reinstating a license will depend on why a person’s license was suspended. So, suppose your license suspension was caused by a DUI. In that case, you will be required to complete the terms of your sentence and provide any necessary documents to the DMV (completion of all alcohol education programs, proof of insurance, etc.).

  • When will my license be suspended/revoked if I was arrested for an alcohol-related DUI?

For DUIs related to alcohol, licenses are suspended at the time of the arrest. The officer is required to take possession of your license and provide you with a notice informing you of the suspension (also known as a “pink sheet”). However, you may be able to continue driving if you notify the DMV that you are invoking your right to a hearing within ten days of the arrest. If you fail to contact the DMV within ten days of your arrest date, your license will be suspended 30 days from your arrest date.

It is important to note that police officers are not permitted to take your license if you are arrested for a DUI under their belief that you were driving under the influence of prescription medication or unlawful drugs.

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

If your job involves driving, violation of a suspended license may be a problem. Some jobs also require that you have a valid driver’s license, making it difficult to keep your job with a suspended license. Typically, the court will not consider your employer’s requirements when suspending or revoking your license.

If you face a revoked or suspended license, call the Law Office of David Leicht at (760)256-3104 for a free consultation today.  The Law Office of David Leicht serves the California communities of Barstow, Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Adelanto, Baker, Needles, Lucerne Valley, Big Bear, San Bernardino, Mojave, Phelan, and Wrightwood.

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