Some people who get caught driving on a suspended drivers license, or with an expired drivers license will get arrested and/or cited for violating California Vehicle Code section 12500(a). That section is generally known as “driving without a valid license”.
Violations of Vehicle Code section 12500 usually come in the form of a ticket or citation after a person is stopped by a peace officer. The violation will typically be listed in the officers writing on the citation as “VC 12500a”.
In a way, getting a VC12500a violation means you got lucky. It may have been the lessor of 2 evils the officer could have selected.
|Driving on a Suspended License (veh code sec 14601.1), is almost always a misdemeanor only, and can lead to mandatory jail time, arrest and impound of your vehicle, and 2 points on your drivers record (the same as a DUI conviction).|
On the other hand, not as serious as a charge of Driving on a Suspended License (which is vehicle code section 14601), California Vehicle Code section 12500(a), can be a misdemeanor or an infraction in most courts. The law specifically states that VC12500a is a misdemeanor (see vehicle code section 40000.1-.5) but most courts will entertain the idea that it be an infraction instead.
I’ve talked more than one judge into allowing it to be an infraction by demanding a jury trial if it is a Misdemeanor and the court will not be flexible.
This is because as a misdemeanor, it gives the defendant the right to a jury trial. And no judge wants to call in 12 jurors from the voting community to hear a VC12500a case. There is just way too much other more important justice to serve, and a 12500 trial is not an efficient use of the courts time. A judge can avoid the jury trial right by reducing the charge to an infraction, and save the court time and money.
It is also a violation that is “correctable” in many courts, which means a court can reduce the penalties for driving without a valid license if the problem is corrected (which means show a valid drivers license in court).
Because of this, ideally, a person charged with a VC 12500a violation should know whether they are charged with a misdemeanor or an infraction, and should get the matter corrected by getting a valid drivers license. Then try to get an infraction as the outcome.
Finding out whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or infraction to is easy. On most California form citations, the severity of the vioaltion is listed in a check box next to the violation. Usually, there is a check box for “M” and one for “I”. Sometimes the officer will handwrite in M or I. The M stands for misdemeanor, and the I stands for infraction. You can also call the court clerk to verify the label they give it. VC 12500a violations almost always start out as misdemeanors.
Most courts will reduce a misdemeanor violation of vehicle code section 12500(a) to an infraction in court if they are shown a valid drivers license for the defendant. To make this happen, typically, a person will appear in court, plead not guilty, and then return for a second court date with a valid drivers license.
Usually this takes 30 days or more, because the person may have to deal with drivers license holds, or failure to appear cases to get the license back. But the court will allow time if requested. Most courts want unlicensed drivers to get a valid drivers license.
A person may end a VC 12500 case completely by just paying the fine and pleading guilty without a drivers license at the first court date. The penalties are harsher then if the case i reduced to an infraction, but it can be done.
Do not make this mistake: Many people believe that they cannot resolve the case without a license and therefore miss their court date and do not pay the fine. Even without a license, the court dates must be made – and the court is not required to reduce the charge. In difficult courtrooms, having an attorney do the work for you is valuable, because the attorney has a much more legitimate threat to demand a jury trial and have one, than an everyday lay person who does not know how to start the jury trial process.
To find out the status of a drivers license, the best option is to call the Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Safety Office. If there are holds on a license preventing it from being valid, the holds must be cleared and a re issuance fee paid to DMV before a license is completely valid. Clearing the holds alone is not enough – you must go to DMV to get a valid license after a suspension.
Free case reviews for 12500a cases with failure to appear or warrants at:
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