Catch a Vehicle Code 12500a Violation? A Valid License Helps, But Not Required.

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:

Questions?  Leave a Comment.

About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
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61 Responses to Catch a Vehicle Code 12500a Violation? A Valid License Helps, But Not Required.

  1. Saumitra says:

    Hi Christopher,

    I ran into an accident on SR 152 WB near Gilroy CA, while returning from LA to San Jose. On a red light, I could not stop the vehicle and hit a Chevy truck from behind. People in the truck called CHP officer and they wanted to go for an accident report.
    I was driving on a valid WA driver’s license, for more than few months now, after registering my car in CA DMV in March 2014. I wanted to change my license from WA to CA, but the lady in the DMV said that I can wait until May 2015, when it expires and then get a CA license and it shouldn’t matter to me!
    So, I did not act on the change of license and kept driving around on my WA license. However, after the accident report, I got CHP 215 notice to appear mentioning 125000(a) VC – non-licensed driver in CA. The notice marks it as non-correctable Misdemeanor. Also, the court has issued notice with the court address, but with date “To be notified”. I don’t know what to do now and I’m really worried!
    What are my best options to not get a point or any sort of criminal record on my license or any other history? Your help will be greatly appreciated!

    • Sau,

      You crashed into an accident? Holly crap! wat..

      Ha! This is a great question. So you have a Vehicle Code 12500a charge. The cops think you live in CA, but failed to get a valid CA drivers license, right?

      Here is a trippy thing about law in California. In some counties, a Veh Code 12500a charge can be a misdemeanor or an infraction. In other counties, they actually read the vehicle code which says the Veh Code 12500a is always a misdemeanor, and they say NEVER AN INFRACTION. Some courts are not sure what it is. Some courts says ALWAYS an infraction, because they are out of resources to give a 12500a criminal protections, like a jury trial and public defender.

      But in a strange twist of fate, the government put that “always misdemenaor” language for a VC12500a in THE WRONG PLACE!!! I am totally not kidding about this.

      Vehicle Code section 12500a does not say whether it is a misdemeanor or infraction. There is a statute way in the back of the vehicle code that says if there is no language in the statute about it being a misdemeanor, it is an infraction. (VC10000.5 or something like that – look it up yourself – check index for “infraction”). The law that says it is a misdemeanor is somewhere else. CRAZY!

      Bottom line: there is always an argument a 12500a can be an infraction. If they insist it is a misdemeanor, you have the right to a jury trial, and may apply for the public defender services.

      At trial the government has the burden to prove that you were breaking the law by driving in CA without a valid drivers license.

      If you had a valid CA drivers license, and hired me, or could get one, I would drag out the case until you gave it to me. Then I would use it to get you an infraction, or if not, a jury trial. Lets see if they really want a jury trial, lets see if they can really win, lets see if they want to see your new CA drivers license first?????

      What should you do? Show up on time, and ask if it is an infraction or misdemeanor (the court can change it). Misdemeanor? Hire an attorney or apply for the public defender. Ask for time to get an attorney (and a drivers license).

      They may tell you it will not help to get a valid CA drivers license. But things change on the day of jury selection sometimes…..

      It may also be a lot easier than that. You might just walk in, they tell you it is an infraction now, and offer to dismiss it if you can get a valid ca drivers license, or if not, a $100 fine.

      I dont think they will deport you back to Washington.

      • Saumitra says:

        Thanks a lot Christopher for taking time out and posting your invaluable advice here!
        What does an infraction mean? Will it be recorded on my social and will it affect my credit history or insurance premium or a point on my license or any background check during my Green Card / Citizenship process or while joining a new job?

        I have a few queries, if I want to go for your attorney service. Would you travel to represent in my case, as it will be staged in Santa Clara county superior court at Morgan Hill? What will be your fees, as this is my first ever encounter with any attorney? Also, how important it is for an attorney to practice in a particular court and know the judges there to win a case? Have you represented anyone in Morgan Hill court yet? If not, would it impair any of my chances to get acquitted?

        It’ll be really great if you can answer my questions and we can take it further.

        Thanks and Regards,

        • Saumitra,

          Ha! Great Questions! I may have to write more in an article. This is a great comment.

          Yes, I have had cases, including criminal cases with immigration problems in Morgan Hill. It’s a nice mellow court.

          Sadly, I must report I do not want yours.

          However, I can answer your great questions. I’ll follow up shortly.

          • Saumitra says:

            Thanks a lot Christopher for taking time out and replying to my queries! May I bug you with another follow-up question?
            I received the courtesy notice from the Morgan Hill court and the notice classifies my traffic offense as “misdemeanor” once again and asks me to pay “Amount due for bail forfeiture as $485″ as well as “Amount for court appearance as $485″. Also, it says that my court appearance is optional.

            So, what should be the total amount that I need to pay, if I decide not to appear in court? Also, if I pay this amount right away, does it not mean that I’m pleading guilty? Will this further imply that this misdemeanor will be recorded and remain on my driving/criminal record and appear in any kind of background check? What do I need to do to get this reduced to an infraction, without any point?

            I’ll be really grateful if you can answer my questions.

            Thanks and Regards,

          • S,

            This is a classic trick some traffic courts use from a defense attorney’s perspective.

            “Misdemeanor”????? Yea, until you tell them you want a jury trial and need a public defender.

            If I were the attorney on your case, I would immediately go to the court in person with a written demand for jury trial. You have a right to jury trial on a misdemeanor.

            When I do that, sometimes cases get dismissed right away.

            That’s why it is better to have an attorney who can back up a real demand for jury trial.

            You? You can do it anyway. Then when they say “Are you ready for trial?” You can so “No. I need an attorney at the public’s expenses, I think” and screw everything.

            OK that is all I am allowed to tell you. There is a guy in a black suit knocking at my door with a running motor cycle.

            (I’m playing GTA V at the moment – so don’t put too much into my answer).

            Are they trying to sell you a court appearance? That would be a little strange.

            Misdemeanor convictions are criminal convictions. Infractions are not criminal convictions. Don’t fall for their trick if it is one. Demand a trial. Show up on time. If you need an attorney and cannot afford one, send in or file in person a written request for public defender.

            Actually, you never said what the offense was. But I assume its one like … driving on a suspended drivers license that can be either infraction or misdemeanor.

  2. Laurie MacDonald says:

    Hello, I recently received a 12500 vc misdemeanor. There were no other violations issued along with it and I have never had any run ins with the law previous to this one. While researching what my violation was and how I needed to prepare myself I came across your blog. I took the advice given and quickly started working on obtaining a valid CA drivers license. Unfortunately I am not able to get my drivers test completed before my court date.
    I am hoping to be able to request an extension so that I can take the test and obtain my license. But I have a few questions about doing so.
    I read that I could plead not guilty if I had been able to show up with license in hand. However since that is not the case and I am asking for an extension, do I now plead guilty? Or does the plea get postponed as well if the extension is granted?
    My other question pertains to the extension. While requesting for the extension should I bring in my DMV documents (my permit, drive test date, ect.) to show for my reason behind the extension?
    I really wanted to seek legal help but money is really tight and the information I was able to find here calmed my nerves some. I was also hoping I would be able to have my license in hand by the time my court date rolled around. So any advice and/or help you can throw my way will be tremendously appreciated! I’ve spent hours on google and so far your site has been the most helpful.

    Thank you.

    • Laurie,

      This is a good comment. I can actually help you for free. But I am not going to do it by answering your questions. Instead, I shall just give you some info.

      You do not need a drivers license to resolve a Vehicle Code section 12500(a) alleged violation. It may help, but it is not required. You can just walk in and plead guilty without a drivers license. No big deal. You would probably end up with just a fine anyway, no jail. If they charged it as a misdemeanor, (it can be an infraction also), jail time is theoretically possible.

      There are many ways to get an “extension”. If what you really want is more time, just show up at the arraignment (or clerks office if you do not have an arraignment date set) and tell the judge you need more time to figure out how to plead. If he / asks you why, tell them you really dont understand what is going on (which is true from the evidence in your comment). You can also tell the judge you are working on getting a valid drivers license, and you think it may help you resolve the case. You can also tell the judge you need more time to shop for an attorney, because you dont know what the hell to do. You can also just plead not guilty and ask for a trial in say 90 days. Then show up with a drivers license, and change your plea at the last second. Happens every day. You can also demand a jury trial if they have charged it as a misdemeanor.

      Just show up and ask for more time in person for best results. You can do it before you enter a plea formally, or after you plead not guilty. Do not try to get an extension over the phone. It will not work the way you want it too.

      If you plead guilty, you are going to get a sentence on the spot and your case will be over.

      Possible defenses? Well, from a defense attorney perspective, you might have an illegal stop here. They must have evidence of a vehicle code violation prior to stopping you. If they did not list any other violation besides the 12500(a), why did they stop you? To check your drivers license status? That, my friend is illegal, unconstitutional, and reason for dismissal.

      You should read my article on How to Challenge an Illegal Stop

  3. Mugambe says:

    I was pulled over for my plate light not working, then also cited for not having a California drivers license. I’m an overstayed immigrant but my change of status case is with the immigration, i had applied for a CA, DL but was denied because my Visa was expiring in 3 weeks, but this was after passing my behind the wheel test.

    On asking for my DL i issued the cops both my Country’s Drivers License (Uganda) and the International Drivers Permit but they insisted on citing VC 12500a (M) and VC 24601a (I).

    I want to plead guilty, because the DMV website states that they recognize foreign Drivers Licenses issued by a state, country or territory in which the holder resides. I believe i’m still a visitor in CA since i am not yet granted permanent residency.

    I request for your legal advise on this plea i hope to take, if there is another way i can handle it please advise me.


    • Mugambe,

      I think I can honestly say this is the best comment I have ever received to this point.

      Really good questions. I cannot give you direct advice or tell you what to do, but I will give you my thoughts.

      You are totally freakin’ innocent! You are right – you are not a permanent resident and you can prove it.

      The traffic court does not care about your immigration or visa status at all. That is a federal, not a state problem. The federal court system is completely different than a state system. The traffic court bailiff is not going to arrest you for a federal immigration issue.

      So – and here is where many people in your situation screw up – you need to show up on time. Get there, defend yourself. Dont worry about losing.

      I would say a good defense might be to demand a trial, and at the trial, show the judge your home country’s drivers license and passport. Tell the judge the DMV wont give you a drivers license because you are not a permanent resident. Then tell the judge at the trial (super important)

      “Judge in America, thankfully, I am presumed innocent. In Syria I would not be presumed innocent. But here in this courtroom I am. I have made a good faith attempt to comply with the law by have both my home country’s drivers license and an international one. That’s all I can do. I am innocent.”

      If the judge says guilty – make arrangements to pay the fine and move on with life.

      Those are my thoughts.

      Then if you lose, appeal.

      If you have lots of money – just plead guilty, pay and leave as soon as possible.

      a Vehicle Code section 12500(a) violation is not a crime involving moral turpitude for purposes of immigration.

      But dont quote me on that, I might be wrong. I dont know anything about immigration law.

      I dont think you need to be afraid to contest the ticket.

      But if you fail to show up as the citation or scheduled court date requires – things can get bad quick.

      If you sign a promise to appear in a US Federal or US State Court, you have to go on time or things get worse.

  4. Alex says:

    Hi Christopher,
    I was convicted of a DUI a little less than 3 years ago, then my driver’s license
    was suspended for a year. The period of suspension is over, but I never renewed my driver’s license. I don’t know exactly when, but it also expired in the past few years. Today, I was pulled over for going 87mph, and when I told the officer that I had no driver’s license with me and that it has expired, he went through some things and told me that my license was suspended. Then, I told him that the period of suspension has passed, but it’s just that I have not been able to renew it. He asked when my birthday is and found out my driver’s license number, then wrote me a ticket that lists two code and section 1) 22356(B)vc Speed(with I circled), and 2) 12500(A)vc Unlicensed Driver (with M circled).
    For some other reasons, I am still not able to get a valid driver’s license, which is no big deal like you said. So I just want to pay the fine, plead guilty and get a misdemeanor. However, what I’m worried about is that on my court date, the court might say that I was driving on a suspended license and get me a vehicle code section 14601. Is that possible when the officer has already written vehicle code section 12500?

    • Alex,

      A drivers license suspension does not end automatically by itself on a date. I tell everyone this:

      “After the cause of the suspension is cured, you must go to DMV in person to get your drivers license reinstated and to pay their reinstatement fees.”

      If you dont pay the DMV reissuance fee, your drivers license suspension will never end.

      There are some situations where DMV does not require that fee, but I tell everyone they have to go to DMV in person before they drive at all.

      If you were charged with a misdemeanor, yes, the complaint can be amended by a prosecutor to a VC 14601.whatever. BUt I would say it is very unlikely, unless you were still on probation for the DUI.

      • Alex says:

        Thank you so much for replying.
        I have 2 more months of DUI probation remaining. I guess in the last sentence you’re saying that it is likely that they will charge me with a 14601 if I was still on probation at the time. So maybe I should hire an attorney.

        • Alex,

          I would probably say your exposure is a Vehicle Code section 14601.2 w/ 10 days jail time minimum added via full blow “Complaint”. If it happens, you will discover it at the arraignment. It may not happen. But it is a danger.

  5. Jack says:

    hi Christopher
    I hope you can help me with my case. I am a over stayed alien in LA. the other I got stopped at Gardena, CA checkpoint. police gave me a ticket since my DL is expired and the ticket circled I as infraction. The police even told me it’s just like any other traffic ticket but I will have to go to court.
    my worry is that i am an illegal alien in LA and I am afraid if I go to court, judge will ask me why I can’t renew my DL and what do I say there then? I have no problem to plea qulity and pay the fine really. my court date is on/by 4/23/13, and it got me really sick worry if I go to court and I might get arrested and deported. I have never have criminal record and never got pulled over or got a ticket. i know it’s wrong to stay here illegally but we have our reasons. can you please let me know what should I do?

    thank you so much!


    • Jack,

      Getting a valid drivers license is not required to take care of a traffic ticket for driving without a valid drivers (Vehicle Code 12500) nor for “driving on a suspended drivers license” (Vehicle Code 14601) in California.

      Getting a drivers license MAY help you get a reduced penalty with those charges, but you do not have to get a valid drivers license to take care of the case in court.

      You can just show up on time, plead guilty, and end the case. If they ask if you have a a currant drivers license (they probably will not ask) just say “no, and I cannot get one”.

      No problem. It happens a lot.

      • Jack says:

        well noted, thank you so much Christopher.
        I will go to court next tuesday and I will come back to report the outcome, if I got out :0-
        By the way, should I also ask to go to traffic school in case I’ll get a point in my record?
        I really appreciate your answer and help.

        • Jack says:

          Hi Christopher
          went to court today and they told me I’ll have to come back because the court schedules are so fulled. I’ll have to return until 7/08/13 to see the judge……4 months from now on!!!
          so when I go back on 7.08.13, that’s when I plea quilty in front of judge and get charge and pay the fine to end the case, correct?

  6. Leo says:


    I am a green card holder, resident of Virginia visiting CA. I was driving with my Chinese driver liscense and was stopped by a policeman for speeding. He eventually let me go with a ticket and charged me with speeding and unlicensed driving both accounts as infractions. Infractions, not Misdemeanor.

    The reason I was driving with a Chinese driver’s liscense at all was because I read the California DMV website, which states Visitors to California can drive with their home state or country’s driver liscense, which I misunderstood at the time of reading as me being able to drive with my Chinese driver’s liscense. Now that I realized since I became a resident, with record of residency in Virginia, I probably do not qualify as foreign visitor, therefore must provide driver’s liscense from my home state, which is Virginia. (I had one, but it was expired, and it showed up in the cop’s system)

    Anyways, now that I have both charges as infractions, I double checked, triple checked, it is circled over the “I” behind each charge.

    My question is, should I just pay the fine ASAP when I get the notice? I am worried the judge will up scale the punishment to misdemeanor in accordance to law.

    I try not to go to the court because The court date is very close to my wedding date in China, since I got an infraction, I want to handle this carefully and not screw my luck, knowing I probably got really lucky.

    • Leo,

      Infractions are not crimes. Driving without a valid CA drivers license (veh code 12500(a)) does not cause any “negligent driver points”.

      You can just plead guilty by mail and pay by mail for traffic ticket infractions in CA.

      Supposedly, you are allowed to drive in CA with a foreign drivers license from your home country (not an international license). But there is probably a list somewhere of countries that dont qualify. I dont know if china counts or not. But it probably does not matter here.

      And then there is this problem: you need to talk the officer (who probably cannot read a Chinese drivers license) into believing that it is real. And current.

      If this were my case, I might just decide to pay ASAP.

      • Leo says:

        Thank you Chris

        I’ve consulted with a couple trafficvticket lawyer who told me the judge is the final decision maker on my 12500a being an I or an M. If that is the case, will it be raised to M, if I don’t do something like hire a lawyer?

        I don’t want to wait for a couple weeks hoping to pay the fine to have it settled then discover it is raised to Misdemeanor.



        • Leo,

          Some courts will reduce Vehicle Code 12500(a) violations to infractions in some cases.

          Some courts will refuse to do it. Some courts will refuse because there is a statute in the vc40000.5 area . .. .. . should I actually look it up for you?

          Let me see if I can find it.

          Here it is: California Vehicle Code 40000.11(b) states:

          “A violation of any of the following is a misdemeanor, not an infraction . . .(b) section 12500 subdivision (a).”

          Based upon that statute – the court really has no option. It is a misdemeanor.

          But one time I did have success in a tough court arguing:

          Vehicle Code section 12500(a) does not list or use the term “misdemeanor” in its text at all.

          Vehicle Code section 40000.1 states: “Except as otherwise provided, …it is an infraction to violate any section of this code. …”

          That argument worked once. Once, before I found Veh Code 40000.11(b). And I still feel bad about it. But I got the infraction.

          Generally, technically, unless the court takes a short cut – all misdemeanor convictions require the defendant to give up his/her rights to jury trial in writing or in court in person under questioning from the judge about whether or not they understand the nature and consequences of the misdemeanor.

          If the attorney is able to resolve the case and enter a plea to the violation without you in court, I would say it almost certainly would be an infraction. If the attorney cannot get the misdemeanor reduced, you will probably have to fill out the court’s waiver forms and/or go to court in person.

          And how is that for some real, detailed, free, Attorney drafted traffic ticket self help?

  7. KP says:

    Hi Chris,
    I live in San Diego County. I had a CA license until 2008 and moved back to OR and obtained OR license. Moved back to CA in end of 2010 and driving on OR license with CA registered car with CA insurance since then. All are in my name only. I didn’t have my front license plate fixed and I was stopped by a Deputy for that. I showed him the OR license he issued me a fix it ticket for front license plate and VC 12500(a) marked it as misdemeanor for license validity. And, my car was impounded.

    In the traffic ticket, at the license # box, he put my expired CA license number (from 2008) after getting from their database. On the same day, I went to the DMV and I got my CA drivers license (with the same # I used to have it in 2008). The next day I went to the court house, showed my CA license and collected my impounded car. In 2008, I had a speeding ticket with my CA license and I was done with the traffic school for that and paid fine at the court.

    What do I do now? My Court date is in 30 days. Would getting a lawyer help me to reduce this to an infraction and be done with fines alone (I don’t want any misdemeanor convictions on my record. I have a clean record otherwise)? Or should I plead guilty or non-guilty at the court by going alone? I haven’t collected my court notice yet.

    • help says:

      Did anyone answer you? Virtually the same thing happened to me last night. I am terrified. Thanks.

    • What to Do After You Get a VC 12500(a) Citation


      I didnt originally answer your question because it is super common and I have answered it a million times. You case is probably ever. So I will answer your questions now (too) late and maybe you can tell us what happened?

      What Should you do?

      Show up to your court date (your arraignment on time) with your valid CA drivers license.

      An attorney would help in a case like this by discussing it with the prosecutor in advance, and trying to negotiate a plea agree with a dismissal or infraction as an end result.

      If you hire a private attorney, they can go to court for you and take care of the court appearances for you while you hang out at the beach.

      If you cannot hire a private attorney, you may qualify for a public defender assignment, but you will have to go to court for that.

      • KP says:

        Hi Christopher,
        Thanks for your response. Of course, it was too late from my side as well.

        This is what happened in my case. Though I was cited 12500(a) VC as misdemeanor in my traffic ticket, it was directly filed as infraction at the traffic court. I did go to traffic court with my CA driver license and plead guilty for the infraction. Judge reduced the fine after verifying I got the CA driver license. I paid the fine.

        Now, I have a question. I hope you can answer this quickly. Do I have a criminal record based on my ticket though it was direct filed as infraction? Will it ever come up in thorough background checks like immigration or govt jobs background checks? I’m worried about mentioning this in immigration related applications.

  8. MB says:

    Hi Christopher,

    I was pulled over for being on a cell phone, driving on a suspended license. The cop was nice and just gave me the cell phone ticket (infraction) and he just said pay it. He confused me becuase he didn’t make it seem like it was going to be a big deal for me and acted like he was basically letting me off. He did not bust me for driving on a suspended. I am eligible to get my license back in a few weeks, three days AFTER my court appearance for my cell phone ticket. Should I just pay it or actually appear. I am afraid they will suspend my license again if the DMV notices I got this ticket before I was eligible for my temporary license with interlock device. Is it automated and will i get my license suspended automatically or does it not cross over and will I get lucky?? Sometimes cops aren’t aware of the fast changing DMV laws in California! Hoping there is a chance I will just pay it and be able to keep my temp license privileges but have no idea! I would appreciate any feedback on this, thanks!

    • DortLaw says:


      You are part of a phenomenon i have noticed in the nature of human beings who think they are in trouble:

      They hide the most important facts in the middle of the question.

      So I am going to re write your question for you, and let it answer itself. Here it is.

      “A few months ago, I was arrested for a DUI and convicted. My drivers license was suspended, and I was placed on court probation. One of the terms of the probation was that I ‘do not drive at all without valid drivers license and insurance’.

      I ignored that term of probation and drove anyway. I did not understand or believe that there was a 5 day minimum jail sentence and loss of car if I was stopped for driving on a suspended license while on DUI probation. I decided to talk on my cell phone while I was driving on a suspended drivers license because I did not believe it was dangerous and did not car that it was illegal. I drove right past a cop while doing all of this, but I did not notice him because I was busy talking on the phone. It was a very important call that may have changed my life. Anyway, I got pulled over. Somehow, thanks to the magical forces of higgs boson particle and universal karma paying me back for the time I saved that lost dog on the side of the road, the officer decided not to arrest me for a violation of vehicle code section 14601.2 and he did not impound my car. Instead he only cited me for a moving violation. I am worried that if I try to fight the ticket, DMV might find out I was driving. And I dont know this yet, but I am also worried that the court will find out that I was driving and will charge me with a probation violation. And I also dont know this yet either, but I am also afraid that the citation will be forwarded to the district attorney’s office for review by the police officer, and the DA may decide to file a VC 14601.2 case against me anyway, and that this would trigger the court to revoke my probation and try to re sentence me on the original DUI case.

      Is that possible? What should I do? Fight the cell phone ticket? Or end it ASAP in a puff of smoke and hope to god that no one else ever finds out? Should I put my last name on this comment?”

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  9. Alberto R. says:

    Hello Christopher, I wanted to ask a question about being pulled over ( me speaking).
    I was driving on my way home from a volunteer from a hospital and I was pulled over for a broken brake light. The light was working, it wasn’t very bright is all. I also got marked for being unlicensed, and I do have a permit to say the least.

    My question to you is that my Court is like in a month and a half from now, and I just want to know that if I get my license before the court case, will the charges of being unlicensed be dropped? Also about my “broken” brake light; me and my dad fixed it right after we took off, so the light is fixed. I am uncertain what to do at the moment.

    Please give me a response on what I should do, and what I can manage. My classes for fall are around the time of my court date so I just need some arrangements done. Thanks! Appreciate any help, send it via e-mail.

    • Alberto R. says:

      Hey there Christopher,

      I hope you can give me some feedback on what I can do, for the question above. My court date is set to be soon, and I want to have all the support and best idea on what I should do. Thanks!

  10. Marie says:

    Hi Christopher,

    I got pulled over on a highway for driving at 80mph instead of 65. This was 3 weeks ago.
    I am French and I have a French driver license and an international license as well. I showed them to the sheriff, together with my passport and my Visa (one year J1). I have been in California for 9 months and last time I entered the country was in January. I was registered at the DMV for passing the Californian DL but I have been procrastinating this.
    The sheriff charged me with the speeding and the absence of driver license (mideneanor on the ticket). He told me that since I was working in California, I should have passed the DL within 10 days after entering the country.
    I just received a courtesy notice from the court with the following violations: VC12500(A) and VC22349(A)+.
    In the meantime, I adopted a proactive attitude and passed my DL this week.

    Is there any chance that the misdemeanor could be brought down to an infraction? Should I plead non guilty and appear in court with the Californian DL? Can it be received, even though I passed it after the incident? The fine is $837…

    On the Courtesy Notice, under “options”, they wrote: “Correctable violations: send proof of correction along with $N/A on or before the due date” => does this mean that showing or sending a copy of my Californian DL is useless? (Non of the 2 violations is marked with a *, designating correctable violations).

    Thank you so much for your help!

    • Marie Geffroy says:

      Hello Christopher,

      Did you have any advice about my case above? My court appointment is this Wednesday.

      Thank you for your help!

  11. Matt B says:

    Hello Christopher,

    Recently I received a ticket for 12500(b)vc (infraction). My class C license is current and clear of any restrictions. I don’t own a motorcycle and was using someone elses. I don’t intend on getting one either.
    Point being is it necessary to get an endorsement before my court date or just pay the fine, and do I get a point on my record for that?


    • DortLaw says:


      Good question.

      You do not need a valid drivers license to resolve a VC 12500 case. It helps, but is not required.

      You are basically guilty. If you get a valid drivers license, you can ask the court TO USE ITS DISCRETION to dismiss or reduce the charges.

      But if not – no big deal.

      There are no points with a vc12500 conviction on your CA DMV history. But a related charge (VC 14601.1 – suspended drivers license) brings 2 points. Same as a DUI.

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      • Matt B says:

        Thank you for the quick reply. If you don’t mind I have one more quick question.

        At the initial court appearance LA County Superior Court is often so overwhelmed with traffic cases that they only allow a plea to be entered and nothing else. In this case would I enter a not guilty plea, then present my endorsement to the judge at my next court date, or plead guilty and hope the judge has time to look at my paperwork?

        Thanks Again

        • DortLaw says:


          The first court date on a traffic citation or criminal case is the Arraignment. Generally, they only thing you are allowed to do at an arraignment is tel the court your plea. Or ask for more time to get an attorney.

          In a traffic court case, this means you only have 2 real options at the arraignment: 1) plead guilty, get sentenced and end your case; or 2) plead “not guilty” and get a trial date.

          If the judge did not want to review your drivers license at the arraignment, you just have to show up at the trial, and try again.

          Having a valid drivers license after you get a Veh Code 12500a citation MAY help you get a good result – but it certainly not guaranteed.

          If you plead guilty – the judge will not review anything. Your case will end and you will be sentenced.

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  12. irving says:

    i just got a 12500 violation when the officer asked for my drivers license i had it but since the car is register to someone else they impounded the car. also my license is from mexico and i got pulled over in san diego ca. i do not know what to do?
    any help

    • Irving,

      It appears they did not tow the car because you did not have proof of insurance. They towed your car because you did not have a valid CA drivers license.

      What about registration on the car? Mexico also? / // /

      I cant help you get the car back. But if you can get a valid CA drivers license, bring it to court with you when you go. You do not need it to end the case, but it will help you get a good result. Maybe. Ask the court (in person ) for more time to get the license if you need it.

      Mexico Drivers License? Well . .. technically, I think the CA DMV accepts a valid Mexico Drivers License. You have to look up the law on your own. But it does not matter. That cop probably had a bad experience in a Tiajuana Taxi. Like me. Just kidding. Never been to mexico. Again. If you cannot get a valid CA drivers license, take your valid Mexico Drivers license to court with you and try to convicce the judge it is a legal drivers license in CA for a visitor.

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  13. Kimber Espinoza says:

    Well I have a question about a ticket I recently received and I hope someone can help me answer it please

    I recently received a ticket for being unlicensed (12500 a VC), but at the moment I had a drivers permit and a licensed driver by my side. I just didn’t have it with me the moment I got pulled over. Could it be possible that my case be dismissed if I show up to the judge showing my drivers license?

    please help ! :)

    • Kimber,

      Great question. Yes, bring your permit and, if you can, the passenger with you to court before the date on your citation (by your signature).

      Actually, you do not need the passenger the first time you go to court. The first time you go, they may schedule a date for you to come back and see the judge, or they send you right in. Either way, as soon as possible, tel the judge you were driving legally, and you have the permit. I expect they will dismiss it for you right away. But if not, you can plead not guilty, the court will schedule a trial date, and then you bring your passenger with you for the trial.

      But I would expect, if these are the facts, they will dismiss it as soon as you show up with your permit.

      That is unless your permit has special restrictions – like no driving with people under 18, or no driving at night, etc. No driving without a parent, etc.

  14. Edgar says:

    Christopher all I was doin was asking for ur advice since ur a lawyer ,But ur definately coming off as a dick.. If ur so obsessed with detail u would notice u have misspelled an infinite amount of words.. Thank you for your help.

    • Edgar,

      My apologies, sometimes I am a jerk just to keep other readers coming back. It’s an old publishing trick. The typos were probably a politically insensitive joke based upon a an old Basketball Reality Show and a cultural dialect known .. opps. judge. gotta go.

  15. Edgar says:

    I guess I’ll just get down to the point maybe ull understand it like that.. I got pulled over for crossing a flashing red light and I also have a suspended license due to my DUI suspension 2 years ago.. The cop gave me a ticket for crossin the light and for being an unlicensed driver under VC12500A it doesn’t state wether its an Infraction or misdemeanor but he put it as a traffic violation on top.. As far as my DUI conviction two years ago I’m done with all court and DMV mandated stuff all I had to do was wait till April 27th to get my full license I would have gotten a restricted license but in a paper the DMV sent me it stated I needed an ignition interlock and I was low on funds to deal with the installation and payments for that just a few days go I called te DMV and they told me I didn’t need an ignition interlock all I needed was an sr22 to get my restricted which I did and now have a license with restrictions and I also found out that the date the DMV had previously said I would get my license back on paper was wrong and turn out I get my license sooner which is march 14th 2012… My court date for the ticket is till April 21 2012 so by then I’ll have my full license now getting down to the important question… Are they going to suspend my license all over again for that infraction of driving with a suspended license or what consequences u think I’m looking at.. Hope that explained things better to u..

    • Edgar,

      One of your sentences has 145 words. You did not break the record, but that is ridiculous. I am only responding because I get paid on the ads no matter what I write. But you dont. It is not possible to understand your question -exspecially for a dude like me who is obsessed with detail.

      I’ll sik with you though. Try again. Limit your sentences to 10 words or less. Can you do it? If so, that alone will help you figure out the problem.

    • Periods, commas, semi-colons are also helpful.

  16. Edgar says:

    I recently got pulled over for crossing a flashing red light which led me to be honest to the peace officer cause i knew i was in deep crap and told him all about my situation about my DUI conviction which suspended my license for 2 years he could have took me to jail and impound my car but he didn’t he said he was charging me with crossing the flashing light and being an unlicensed driver which on the ticket it shows is V.C 12500A he didn’t cite weather it was a misdemeanor or and infraction on the ticket but at the top of the ticket he checked the traffic box instead of non traffic and or misdemeanor .. But anyways it’s been two years and I now have my restricted license just got it a few days ago i didn’t get it before cause I was told in a DMV letter I needed an (idd) turns out when I go to the DMV I didn’t need it and they had previously told me I wasn’t able to get my full license till April 27th 2012 turns out they told me at the DMV office I get back my full license on march 14th 2012 and my court date isn’t till April 24th 2012 I’m all done with my DUI conviction finished all the court and DMV matters with it what do u think it’s possibly going to happen?

  17. PN says:

    An update: My case was finally entered into the system and according to the clerk I talked to on the phone, the citation wasn’t even entered as a misdemeanor, but an infraction! According to the clerk, driving with an expired license used to be a misdemeanor but they apparently recently changed it to just an infraction (I live in Northern California). I asked if I needed to show up to court with the renewed license and she said no, that I could just pay. However the fine is much more than I can afford, and I’m now wondering whether or not I should contest it anyway in court to see if I can get it reduced. The infraction part sounds almost too good to be true…since technically that means I haven’t even been charged with a misdemeanor… I wonder how widespread this change in law is in California..

    Sorry for cluttering up your comments section, I just hope to share in case someone else has similar circumstances. Thanks.

    • PN,

      Unfortunately, I cannot tell what you are talking about because I cannot see what code section the violation is. I suspect the court is just TREATING it like an infraction, because they dont want you to have the right to a jury trial or public defender. But maybe they changed the code section on you to something simple? Check the numbers. They are important. VC12500(a)? Look up the text by dong a google search for CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE SECTION 12500(a) DMV, and you can see the official version (yes, I did that just to get all of the 12500(a) key words in this comment! ha!)

      There is a section at the back of the Vehicle Code, testing my memory here . . . . .section 10000.5 I think???? Somewhere around there, that says which sections are misdemeanors, and which can be infractions. Look at that one too. Look in the Vehicle Code index for “misdemeanor”. TMI?

  18. D.W says:

    I’ve recently got this ticket as well.
    I had a valid Washington State driver’s license at the time but the police officer
    issued me this ticket anyways.

    However, the problem is, I am about to go back to Washington before the issued court date. Is there any way to resolve this problem?
    Can I just go to court and pay the fine?
    I don’t know what to do…

  19. rusty says:

    I got a misdemeanor traffic ticket for driving with a permit last month but I have got my license now and I have to appear in court before Jan,12. Can I correct my traffic misdemeanor and have a infraction instead ?

  20. P.N. says:

    It will take a few more weeks before my case even enters into the system, so I can’t even talk to the court yet about my specific case…
    I really hope for a good outcome, but it surprises me that (as you wrote above) it’s even possible to validly plead “not guilty” to driving with an expired license just because you later renewed your license after being cited. I mean, technically you are “guilty” if you were driving with an expired license, it’s just that you’re later correcting the offense in response – but I guess the courts are just flexible on this? I’ll have to wait and see.

    • PN,

      Dude! You dont quite yet have that defense attorney fire.

      You are Innocent Until Proven Guilty. Dont feel bad about telling the court to prove it up. You protect freedom and the rights of the accused by demanding your Due Process.

      You have the right to remain silent, and to force them to prove up the charges. You are innocent now. You are innocent until proven guilty. Keep your mouth shut. Say Not guilty and make them work on it! That is how you get leverage for a reduction.

      Some violations are correctable by law (See VC4000a – expired registration), some violations are correctable by local police (e.g., 12500a violations in different counties).

      Some courts have a policy that they want you to solve the problem and become a legal driver so that they do not spend court resources on you later. Some courts are not so far sighted, and they dont care if you become a legal driver or not.

      Some courts refuse to reduce 12500a cases to infractions. Some courts routinely reduce 12500a violations to infractions. I have gotten at least on judge (in Contra Costa CA Pittsburgh) to rule it cannot be a misdemeanor, because the code does not state misdemeanor.

      Some courts treat 14601.1 violations as infractions (Contra Costa – Walnut Creek), and thereby take away your right to a jury trial and public defender, but expose you to the same DMV penalties. Some courts treat the same charge as a non-correctable misdemeanor crime, and will give you a public defender if you are broke.

      Some people with 12500a cases get hammered. Arrested on the side of the road. Car impounded. Misdemeanor charges.

      Some people with the same charge get a simple ticket that ens up as a $25 dismissal fee.

      And outside, it’s America. Outside, it’s America.

  21. P N says:

    I’m sorry but I have an additional question, if possible. If I *was* to be charged with a misdemeanor but it was dismissed or changed to an infraction, would that still show up on a criminal record/background check for job/school applications even though I was never convicted? Thank you very much.

  22. P N says:

    Recently I was pulled over in California for a seat belt violation, and on top of that was cited for my license being expired. I plan to go to the DMV immediately the next day. Usually they give you a temporary paper that acts as your license since it takes a few weeks for your actual license to arrive in the mail. Is it all right to just use this paper rather than the official license? And also, can you appear with your renewed license in cases like these before the court date? They’ve set my court date at 3 months away (!) and I would rather just get it over with ASAP.
    Thank you.

  23. Ryan W says:

    I stumbled across this page while researching my issue. I was pulled over in San Diego for talking on my cell phone (dumb mistake) and the police officer issued me a ticket for that as well as a ticket for the 12500 (a) v.c. violation. (He also marked it as an infraction). My problem with this is that I recently moved to CA and have a valid Montana driver’s license. I was unaware that it was illegal to drive in CA without a CA license if you are planning on making CA your residence. So he not only gave me two tickets, but had my car towed/impounded costing me approx 500 dollars to get it out. Now I received my court notice in the mail and my fines are over 500 dollars as well. I went down to the dmv the first day it was open after I got pulled over (it happened on a weekend) and got my CA license. I want to go to court to fight it, but not sure how to approach it. Any info would help. Thanks,


    • Ryan, you’re guilty. Not knowing what the law is will not help you win the case. There is nothing in your submission that looks like a defense. Dont waste your time. Go to court on time. Take your valid CA drivers license. When the court calls your case, tell the judge you have a Valid CA license. Ask him/her to dismiss the 12500a violation. Request traffic school referral for the other violation. Pay your fine on time. Get proof you paid. Complete traffic school on time and get proof. Send proof of completion of traffic school to the court yourself. Get proof you sent it. Do not pay fines with a personal check. Pay your fine in person, get a receipt. Keep copies of everything. I cant help you at all with the car impound. Sorry.

  24. Jeanette Garcia says:

    What happens if you were originally charged with an infraction and already got your license issued? Can you plead non-guilty? Would there be any benefits to pleading non-guilty; or is it best to plead guilty?

    • Jeanette, infractions are not crimes. Misdemeanors are crimes. If they charged you with an infraction violation of Vehicle Code 12500(a) to start with, you got really lucky. You probably should double check because . . . . .. .. . .ohhhh man .. I really hate to write this because its bad for business but … Veh Code 40000.11 says Veh Code 12500(a) is a misdemeanor. So double check.

      At any rate, if you have a valid drivers license you can go into court and ask for a complete dismissal. May not be worth the effort, depending on the fine they want from you if it is an infraction.

  25. gwen ncnukkb says:

    I have been trying to get my license issued, but at this time i cannot as i have to have these cleared first. What do I do? I was involved in an accident as well

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