Solutions & Defenses to Driving on a Suspended Drivers License. Defense Attorney Point of View

If you are dealing with a Driving on a Suspended Drivers License misdemeanor charge, you probably have questions.  Are there any defenses? Can I get the charges reduced?

There are defenses to driving on a suspended license, and methods of dealing with the problem to minimize the consequences and stress.

Understanding Misdemeanor Driving on a Suspended Drivers License

This article will discuss CA law, but the general principles may increase general understanding of the issues for other jurisdictions.

There are many variations of the “Driving on a Suspended Drivers License” violation. The variations usually depend on the reason for the suspension.  

A drivers license suspension caused by an alcohol offense, such as a DUI, for example (Vehicle Code section 14601.2), brings stiffer penalties than a suspension caused by a missed court date on a traffic ticket (Vehicle Code section 14601.1). Some versions, and violations with prior offenses, may bring mandatory jail time.

The most common form of drivers license suspension comes from a missed court date on a traffic ticket. Often, people with this problem may not know their drivers license is suspended and they keep driving until they get caught.

A drivers license is not required to resolve a Driving on a Suspended Drivers License charge, but it might help. It is always a good idea for a person charged with driving on a suspended drivers license to get a valid drivers license as soon as possible. But don’t miss court because you could not get a valid drivers license! Go to court on time anyway.

To California Defense Attorneys, a driving on a suspended drivers license offense is called a “14601″. What that refers to is the actual statute: California Vehicle Code section 14601.1 which is the law that makes a simple driving with a suspended drivers license a misdemeanor crime. That is the violation we will discuss here.

It is a real misdemeanor, which means it can lead to a criminal record, and a possible max sentence up to 1 year county jail. It always starts out as a misdemeanor, but can be treated as an infraction by the court.

A “VC 14601.1” as it is sometimes called, also adds 2 “Negligent Driver Points” to a DMV driver history – separate from the court penalties.  Sometimes, those 2 “points” can cause a new drivers license suspension due to having too many negligent driver points.  

As a misdemeanor offense (crime), people charged with driving on a suspended license violations are entitled to a jury trial if they wish to fight against a conviction. And people who are completely broke can ask the court to appoint a public defender in any misdemeanor case.

If the court changes it to an infraction, jail time is not possible. A fine is the only punishment from the court, and the DMV will still apply 2 points to the violation.

When dealing with a Suspended Drivers License case, a typical defense attorney will usually have the following goals, in order of priority:

1) get a dismissal or not guilty verdict on the charge if possible; or

2) get the misdemeanor charge reduced to a different infraction with no points; or

3) get it reduced to an infraction version of Vehicle Code 14601.1 with points.

There are different avenues to accomplishing one of these goals. If everything fails, the Defendant gets convicted of a misdemeanor and has a criminal conviction record.

Most misdemeanor criminal cases end in a plea agreement without a trial. Generally, a Defense Attorney will try to develop and communicate possible defenses to the prosecutor, in the hopes of convincing them that a trial would be a giant waste of time and resources.

This process usually happens in court during the arraignment or pre trial conferences. Routine misdemeanor plea bargains are also often made over the phone when a defense attorney calls the prosecutor to discuss a case. Judges like it when Defense Attorneys and Prosecutors have an agreement to end a case.

Applicable defenses to Driving on a Suspended Drivers License might provide the leverage to get a dismissal from the prosecutor prior to trial.  

From a defense attorney perspective, defenses are first used to provide leverage for reasonable, effective plea negotiations.  Later, if a trial is necessary because of an unreasonable prosecutor or judge, the defense(s) can be presented formally at a trial.

What defenses could there possibly be if the drivers license was actually suspended?

There are several. A good defense Attorney will review and consider and try to use at least the following defenses:

Defense # 1. Stop of the Defendant’s Vehicle Was an Illegal Detention and Arrest.

Peace officers, such as the California Highway Patrol and county sheriffs, must have a valid legal reason to stop a vehicle before they ask for a drivers license.

The 4th amendment to the US Constitution requires that an officer have specific facts that would lead a reasonable officer in the same circumstances to believe that:

1) a crime or motor vehicle code violation occurred; and 2) that the vehicle or occupants were involved in the violation or crime.

In practice, this generally means that the officer must have reason to believe a driver has violated a traffic law. An officer is generally not allowed to stop a vehicle only because they suspect the person may have a suspended drivers license.

Why? From a Defense Attorney point of view, there is no way for an officer to know who is actually driving a car, or what the status of the drivers license of that specific individual is until after the car is stopped (or detained). The justification for the stop must be present before the officer turns on his flashing red and blue lights and thereby begins the detention.

If there is no legal justification for the stop at the time the detention begins, it is an illegal detention under the 4th Amendment.

If there are grounds for challenging an illegal stop, a Criminal Defense Attorney may write and file a Motion under Penal Code section 1538.5 for an order to exclude all evidence flowing from the illegal detention, including discovery of the status of the drivers license. Usually, the court will have a separate hearing prior to jury trial to determine if a Defendant’s Penal Code section 1538.5 Motion should be granted.

In ruling on the motion, the judge may take live testimony from witnesses and the police officer(s). If the judge agrees that the stop was illegal, the Motion is granted, and the court will not allow evidence collected after the stop in the trial. That means they cannot use the status of the drivers license as evidence.  When this happens, the prosecution’s case is usually crippled and, usually, dismissed on the spot.

If there are facts that could form the basis of a successful Motion to Suppress, a Defense Attorney can communicate these to the prosecutor, and perhaps negotiate a favorable plea agreement to be finalized at the next scheduled court date.

If the court reduces a Driving on a Suspended Drivers License charge to an infraction, the defendant only has a right to a court trial. There is no option for a hearing on a Motion to Suppress. But the motion can be made at the very beginning of a court trial.

Defense #2. Driver Did Not Have Actual Knowledge of the Suspended License.

If there is a jury trial on a misdemeanor charge, the government will have to prove the defendant knew his/her drivers license was in fact suspended.  Knowledge of the suspension is a required element of the charge.

There are ways for the government to get around the “Actual Knowledge” requirement. For example, a driver is required by law to keep their address current with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at all times.

If the DMV does not have your correct address, it is your fault, not the fault of DMV. The law also presumes that if DMV sent you proper notice of the suspension, you got it, even if you did not get it. Get it?

DMV does send out notices of suspension to the last known address via certified mail. And yes, they probably have proof they sent it to your address on file. However, there are occasions where DMV fails to give proper notice or warning to a driver of a suspended license. When that happens, there may be grounds for a motion to dismiss the case prior to trial, or a solid basis for a jury to vote not guilty.

It is also important to note that in order for the government to establish the Defendant had either actual or legal notice of the suspension, normally, they have to introduce DMV records into evidence at trial. Without a proper evidentary foundation in trial, these DMV records are inadmissible hearsay. Because of this, a Defense Attorney will almost always want to object to and challenge the admission of the DMV records on “Hearsay” grounds.

Defense #3. A Driver Charged with Driving on a Suspended Drivers License is Presumed Innocent.

A defendant charged with a misdemeanor or infraction violation starts out presumed innocent. To get a conviction, the government must prove the violation up “beyond a reasonable doubt” to overcome this presumption of innocence. If the government is unable to meet this burden, the defendant is not guilty.

Many “not guilty!” verdicts have been won on the simple argument to a receptive jury that there was not enough evidence shown in trial to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore, not enough to convict. Consequently, it is always important to review all of the evidence the government intends to use in a prosecution.

A careful study of the evidence may reveal that critical evidence is missing or not admissible because of a rule of evidence. Such may be the case if a prosecutor does not have admissible documents to prove the DMV suspended the drivers license during the day of the violation (the receipt for the mailing of the notice).

Getting a Valid Drivers License Is Not a Defense, But Can Help.

Ironically, getting a valid drivers license (or the license reinstated) is not a defense to the charge of violating Vehicle code section 14601.1. This is because getting a new license does not suddenly erase history, and it is not a correctable violation.  If you were caught driving, you were caught driving. Don’t expect to win a trial because you eventually got a valid drivers license.

But there is good news.  When a VC 14601.1 defendant gets a valid drivers license, it is often very helpful in getting a good result on the case prior to a trial. The courts and prosecuting agencies are always motivated to get rid of suspended license cases efficiently without a trial. And most judges believe society’s interests are best served by getting a suspended driver back on track, rather than giving them a jail sentence.

Because of these factors, valid drivers license can be used to ask for a reduction in the charge. For example, maybe a defendant can present a valid drivers license at the Arraignment and ask for a substituted charge of something like Vehicle Code section 12500(a) – (Driving without a valid drivers license) – which is much better for a lot of reasons.  For example, it can be an infraction, and carries no points on a driver history report.

What If You Have to Go to Court Alone?

Here are some general tips for the self represented defendant:

Keep in mind that an infraction is almost always better than a misdemeanor. Get clarity on which version you are charged with. If you have an illegal stop on an infraction that you want to challenge, demand a trial and make a Motion to Suppress. If you can get a valid drivers license, tell the judge you have one at your earliest opportunity. Ask the judge for what you want.

Dont be afraid to ask for more time to get a drivers license, or more time to hire an attorney. It is common for a court to continue a case to allow a defendant to get a drivers license or hire an attorney.

Related Article:

Driving on a Suspended Drivers License vs. Driving Without a Valid Drivers License.

Questions? Leave a Comment.

What about the car that got impounded? We can’t help with that. Sorry. Go down to the tow yard in person with a licensed driver and proof of insurance. Ask for the vehicle back. Sometimes the 30 days hold is not imposed fully.

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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76 Responses to Solutions & Defenses to Driving on a Suspended Drivers License. Defense Attorney Point of View

  1. Dan says:

    i was pulled over about a month ago in delaware visiting my mother. about a block a way from her house i get pulled over. when the officer asks for my license, registration and insurance, the documents fell out of a compartment into a crack between my seats. i was able to retrieve the registration but kept looking for the insurance card. after checking my registration he comes back and tells me to stop moving because i am making him nervous. i explain that i am looking for my insurance card but the officer just tells me to sit still.

    he asks if i knew why i was being pulled over–i did not. he said my license was suspended for VEIP. i did not know that my license was suspended or i would have never driven all the way to delaware. i was charged with:

    1) fictitious or cancelled registration card, number plate, or tag (001-DE 2112 0002 V)–[i know its DE but does this mean driving on a suspended license?]

    2)failure t/surrender on demand susp/cancelled (002 DE 21 2115 0004 V)

    3)out of state vehicle – failure to have minimum insurance (003 DE 21 2118 000B M)

    he said we could “work out” the insurance charge(s)? if i could show proof of insurance in court. i plan on bringing my insurance card of course. the next day i was on the phone with the DMV and the police department all day, and was granted a VEIP extension which reinstated my license immediately, according to the people at the DMV. my car is being worked on to repair the things that need to be up to inspection standards for VEIP now, hopefully i can get the inspection done before the court date, but legally i have until 2014 now.

    anyways, how does it look? i do not have an attorney retained. i accept that driving on a suspended license is against the law but it will be my first criminal charge and first time in court. i will be okay with paying a fine but would like to avoid probation and certainly jail time. does it seem like i should get a lawyer and try to form some sort of defense based on what happened? thank you in advance!

  2. Harrison says:


    My question is can I get the charge of driving on suspended license dismissed? My license was suspended for DUI in Illinois. I paid off all fines, attended all classes, and finished the court supervision period. The JUDGE HANDED ME MY LICENSE on my last court date. I then started to drive again. Over 1 year after the DUI I got pulled over for my sticker being expired. I gave the officer my license. The officer then told me my license was suspended for failure to pay a reinstatement fee. The officer gave me my license back, did not tow my care, and left me alone to drive home. I paid the fee and the ticket for expired sticker the next day and my license and registration is now valid. I was completely unaware I had to pay a fee. I received no letters or documents stating such. Last time my license was suspended for failure to pay SR22 I did not pay a reinstatement fee. Is there a reasonable likelihood that if I brought in documents showing I paid all known fees and my license and registration is currently valid that my case could get dismissed?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Harrison says:

      Also I am going back to the same judge I had for my DUI case. He is the person that handed me my license. He knows I am planning to join the military. I have taken the ASVAB already and I was going to schedule a date for my physical and job selection when I was pulled over. Due to an open court date I am no longer eligible to enlist. Will the fact that I am actively pursuing a career in the armed forces be beneficial to my case?

    • Harrison,

      This is a super common problem. Super super common.

      A suspended drivers license does not get reinstated automatically in CA once the cause of the suspension is resolved. To get a suspended license reinstated, you must first solve the suspension problem, and then go to the DMV in person to pay their fee and possibly to get a new drivers license card.

      Having a drivers license card in your pocket does not mean you have a valid drivers license.

      The courts do not have the power to tell DMV to reinstate a drivers license. All the courts can do is notify DMV that a case has been resolved. DMV then acts on that info according to their own rules.

      I’d guess that if you show up on time with a valid drivers license, you will get some relief. The charges can change in court. Having a valid drivers ;license will probably help.

      It would help you to hire a private attorney in advance. If you did that, the attorney can go to court for you and resolve the case. If you have a valid drivers license, the attorney will be able to take it to the prosecutor in person and discuss your case in person in an effort to resolve it efficiently.

      An attorney’s goal in a case like this would probably be something like a VC12500a as an infraction (dont believe them if they tell you it is impossible – courts do it every freaking day in CA) or a Vehicle Code section 14601.1 infraction (the problem with this section is that is carries 2 negligent driver points on your DMV record).

      What if you have the bad luck of being charged with Vehicle Code 14601.2? Minimum jail time. Attorneys often try to substitute a Veh Code 14601.5 instead to avoid jail time. Get an attorney before making any decisions if you have this problem.

  3. lee says:

    i was driving in lynnwood and i speed up to 40 mph on 40 mph zone in first gear. my cars kinda loud so the cop seen me acceleration kinda fast but i didnt go anything about 40. then the cop looks at me and waits 10 seconds to actually start up his motorcycle and follow me then i made a right turn and parked the car then ran cause i have a dwls 3rd degree what can be the charge, and the cop thinks my girlfriend is lieing. cause her story doesnt make sense, i took her car without her knowledge but she gives me permission to drive the car since she gave me a spare key. she has never ever been in trouble and shes a uw graduate with a bachelor i just want her out of this mess and i wanna see what the consequences are.

    • lee says:

      and she filed a stolen car report cause she thought the car was stolen cause i took it without her knowledge now the cop thinks shes lieing cause shes scared and never ever dealed with the cops ever, her record is clean. please reply im in real need or advice and what i should do thanks!

      • Lee,

        All I can say about this is that you dont have the skills you need to handle this alone. Hire an attorney if you can in advance of your court date. Show up in court on time. If you cannot hire an attorney of your choosing, show up in court on time and ask the judge to appoint a public defender to your case.

        You cannot control what happens to your girlfriend. You do not have that power.

        It is possible to steal a person’s car even if you have a spare key that was given to you.

        Any other advice? Yea. Stay in school.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I was stopped by an officer in Benton County WA, he claimed I was on my cell phone when I wasn’t. When he asked for my license and registration I had two copies of my insurance, an older one and a current one. I was flustered and handed him the older insurance. He went to his car and came back with a ticket for driving with no insurance. I informed that I did have insurance and showed him my current insurance, but he told me that he had already written the ticket and it was my issue and had to take care of it in court.
    I contacted the court to get it taken care of and I was told I could mail in my proof of insurance and a check for my fine, which I did. A little more than a month later an officer pulled me over, asked if it was my car, I said yes. He asked if I was Jen , I said yes. He asked if I knew I was driving with a suspended license, I said no. He went to check what it was for, told me it was for a previous unpaid ticket for driving without insurance and issued me a citation for DWLS 3rd Degree 46.20.342.1C. He informed me that I needed to call for a ride since my license was suspended.
    I had no idea my license had been suspended and had to pay $850 to a collection agency for the registration so I could pay an additional $100 to get my license back.
    My issue is that 1) I shouldn’t have gotten the ticket to begin with since I had proof of my insurance to begin with and 2) I mailed the information in and still had to pay almost $1000, along with having a court date for a misdemeanor. What should I do to prepare for the misdemeanor trial and is there anyway to get some of that money back, or will it be considered my fault for not checking back to see if the information was received?

    Thank you!

  5. Victoria says:

    I recently got pulled over because my license was suspended. I was driving to my grandmothers house because she didn’t feel very well and I was the only one close enough because my father is out of the country right now. The police officer was really nice about it and said that he didn’t even understand why it was still suspended, but still had to issue me a court date and technically “arrest” me then release me to myself. The only thing is that I didn’t know that my license was still suspended, I had already paid everything off to get my license back, both the restoration fee and the civil court judgement (I have the receipts to prove it) If I go to court and present this will the case against me be dismissed and will I have nothing on my record?

    • Victoria,

      This is a common scenario.

      If you have a valid drivers license, it may help you get the charge reduced or dismissed. But it is not a guaranteed result. Driving on a suspended drivers license is a misdemeanor crime, and IS NOT correctable.

      Typically, I try to use a valid drivers license on Vehicle Code 14601.1 cases to try to get a reduction to a Vehicle Code section 12500(a) as an in fraction. What if the court tells you that Veh Code 12500(a) cannot be an infraction? You should hire me.

      Will you have anything on your “record”? WHat record are you talking about? Your criminal history with the court? If you get convicted of a misdemeanor you will have a criminal conviction. If you get convicted of a Vehicle Code 12500(a) infraction instead, you will not have a criminal conviction.

      What about your DMV record? Driving on a suspended drivers license 14601.1 charge brings 2 beautiful “negligent driver” points that stay ON YOUR DMV DRIVER HISTORY REPORT for 10 years.

      Do not confuse DMV records with Court Criminal Histories. They are not the same thing.

      Can you bring receipts to court for payment of fees and judgements and expect to have it help? No. The only thing that MIGHT HELP is a valid drivers license – and even if you do get it – it may not hep at all. A valid drivers license is not required to resolve a driving on a suspended drivers license case.

  6. Carlos says:

    I was recently pulled over for a suspended license because i was speeding I’m a minor and had an MIP my court date is tomorrow. I have a valid license now before my court date what will most likely happen?

  7. Charles says:

    Hey Chris,

    Slightly Stupid one of my favorite bands as well (loved that reference). So my girlfriend and I were camping in the George Washington National Forest in VA. We had been there for about 3 hours, had camp set up, fire going and were eating dinner. When a Forest Ranger came flying up to where my vehicle was parked, jumped out and started running toward us yelling “hands where I can see them “. We complied completely and began asking what the problem was. She stated that there was no alcohol allowed in the Natl Forest. When we arrived to the area we observed the posted regulations which stated “no alcohol with 200ft or the road” and our camp was well beyond 200ft because we were planing on a romantic evening and really didn’t want to be bothered. Her and her ride along immediately began searching our campsite and found a few beers in the cooler as well as each of ours that were in koozies in the cup holders of our chairs. She then informed us we were being arrested for public intoxication, searched us and recovered our drivers licenses. Upon running my GF license we find out that it’s suspended. The Ranger then states that she believes she saw my GF driving my jeep earlier in the day and issues her with a driving on suspended as well as an expired tags ticket. We tried to explain to here that it’s my jeep, I was driving the whole way, neither of us remember passing a Ranger vehicle, when she arrived the jeep was locked and the keys were in my pocket. So our romantic weekend turned into a 15 hour stay in jail followed by a 20 mile walk the next day to where my jeep was towed. I know long story.

    So my question is. Does and officer saying “I believe I saw you driving earlier in the day” count as a reason to be charged?

  8. robert says:

    i was pulled over in rochester ny for driving on a revoked lisence. i was in a big drug area and when i got pulled over the first thing he asked was if i was looking for heroin, i said no and asked why i was being pulled over he told me because my muffler was hanging low then he asked for my lisence. when he ran my lisence and figured out it was revoked he took me out of the car put me in cuffs and put me in the cop car. at this time both cops searched my car without permission when they came back to the cop car they tell me they found 1 gram of pot and start asking me if there is anything else i told them no they continued to search but found nothing else when they returned to the cop car they gave me a ticket for a auo 3rd and a loud muffler ticket but the reason they pulled me over was because my muffler was hanging low “wich it wasnt” then they start joking with me and tell me there not charging me with the 1 gram of pot that they were gonna go sell it on remington st “a known drug street in rochester” and didnt charge me with it then to make matters worse they let me drive the car home when i asked for there badge numbers they denied them to me and said there not suppose to let me drive home so i should just be happy “wich i was” but then on top of that when they were searching my car they couldnt find the trunk latch and popped the hood by accident and as soon as i left it flew up and cracked the windsheild in 3 spots and when i got out of the cop car i tried to get a number for the chief of police or to talk to a supervisor and once again i was denied they told me just be happy were letting you drive home my question is is any of this legal can they take drugs nnot charge me with it and tell me there gonna sell it, can they let me drive home knowing im driving on a revoked lisence and could they deny me there cheifs number, and not give me badge numbers? and if i was in cuffs in the cop car being asked questions would that mean they would have to read me my miranda rights or not

  9. Remi says:

    I was pulled over a few day ago, in NJ. I was driving on a suspended license for a DUI. The officer approached my car and asked me for license, registration, and insurance. I told him I my license was suspended and he said ‘that’s why I pulled you”. I tried to get my registration out, and he said I didn’t have to, just asked me if it was valid. The copy of the DL I have was old and expired, and he said I have to take that, but then he gave it back to me! Another officer came up to my car and asked if I had anyone to take me home. I called someone, but the officer had me DRIVE a block to park my car in a safer place and then left me. I have to be in court next Thursday. My question is, was that a legal stop? He said he pulled me over for having a suspended license, but there is no way that he could have ID’d me. It was dark, and he was behind me, I had a black hoodie w/ the hood pulled up, so he couldn’t even see hair. I have glasses on on my license, but I was wearing me contacts.
    I have no money, so I am gonna ask for a public defender. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  10. Andy says:

    Ok, so continuing my question. I have a previous DUI conviction and was caught driving on a suspended license. I was sent a letter for 14601.1(a). I am enrolled in my DUI drivers class and am 3 weeks away from completing. Ive also completed the MADD class and spoke with DMV drivers safety office today to find out requirements to get my restricted drivers license to drive to work and the classes. What are the chances of getting a plea bargain for reduced charges? I will be done with all my requirements before my court date, what affect can that have on a positive outcome? If you were my attorney, what are the possibilities of getting no jail time? What is the possibility of negotiating community service, additional programs, or fines to avoid jail time?

    • Andy,

      These are good questions. If you were paying me to answer them I would write a lot here.

      Community service may be a possible substitute for a fine payment – but not a substitute for jail. And courts generally do not want to allow community service instead of a fine – because it costs them money to monitor performance and it takes away from the fine revenue.

      It really does not matter how much of the programs were completed. Bottom line = drivers license was suspended.

      Now that I read this I can see you are probably also on probation. Hopefully not, but if you are, this can be a basis for revocation of the probation also.

      If you get a valid drivers license by the arraignment, and if they do not charge you with a probation violation, and if they do not amend the charges to something scarier like 14601.2, working out a no jail result is possible.

      But If I were your attorney (I am not) I’d might say something like: “You just try to get a valid drivers license. I will go to the arraignment for you and see what is there when I arrive. Then I will call you and tell you what we have to do. If there is no amendment, and no probation violation problem, I can probably end the case without you having to go to court or jail at all. If there is a probation problem, we are going to have a discussion about what to do after the court date.”

  11. Andy says:

    So I was pulled over in Los Angeles for having tint. My tint is legal by the way. Upon being pulled over, it was revealed that I was driving on a suspended license due to a prior DUI conviction. I was driving to and from my court required DUI class, and was driving for mere minutes between my class and my home. I was given two tickets, 1) one a correctable infraction for not having the appropriate insurance paperwork (even though I had valid up to date insurance paperwork, it was missing the final page that listed me as an authorized driver, and therefore was not in my name. Despite me having several copies from previous years that displayed the same coverage including my name.) and 2) a ticket for 14601.1 (a) for driving on a suspended license. Interesting considering 14601.2(a) is for those previously convicted of DUI, but that is besides the point.

    My question is, what are my chances of beating the case due to an illegal stop for having legal tint through a Motion to Suppress? Or what are my chances of beating the case or reduced charges due to the fact that I was driving to and from my court required DUI class? Keep in mind I do and did have valid insurance during this whole time however have yet to attend court and clear the correctable infraction due to it being to soon. Would applying for and receiving a restricted license before my court appearance be beneficial to my case?

    Thanks for the time, hope you can respond

    • Andy,

      Good questions. Finally someone who does not want to tell me about the funeral they drove through or their sick relatives.

      From my experience in these cases – I’d be expecting the district attorney to amend the “Complaint” to a violation of Veh Code 14601.2 once they verify that you were on probation. You might find out about that at your arraignment.

      14601.2 carries a mandatory, minimum jail term. And 2 points on your drivers license “Negligent Driver Points” score.

      Because of the points problem, with a dui and 14601 issue – you may not be able to get a valid drivers license. But you should immediately try. It will help, maybe. Maybe not.

      Motion to Suppress? Can you convince the judge your tint was legal and that it was unreasonable for the officer to think it was illegal?

      Better question: Do you have the money to pay a professional who is skilled at talking judge into things?

      Generally, it is very difficult to win a suppression motion based upon an illegal stop claim. You need something really good – like proof there was no stop sign at the place the cop says there was one. Or video that shows the cop was not truthful in his/her testimony at the hearing on the motion.

      You can definitely draft up a motion, file and serve it, and use it as leverage to get a favorable plea agreement. Try and avoid those point, and try to avoid that mandatory jail term.

      Can you do that alone in a criminal case? No. But you do have the right to try. The bad news is the prosecutor will not talk to you.

      What else?

      It does not matter at all where you were going unless you have a valid drivers license for those trips (restricted drivers license).

      The idea that you had insurance at the time, but just had the wrong papers makes zero sense. Why zero? Because if your drivers license was suspended, you cant be insured to drive. Even if you had a policy with your name on it – by its terms I am sure it excludes drivers with a suspended drivers license.

      That is the old “Yes, I am driving illegally, but I have valid insurance to drive in case I get into an accident while I am not allowed to drive” defense. It never works. It is usually followed by an impound tow truck with flashing yellow lights.

      • Andy says:

        Ok, well any optimism about getting a reduction and avoiding possible jail time and points on my record. What is the likelihood for a reduced sentence? What is the likelihood of serving community service instead of jail?

        Thanks for the response

  12. Kyle says:

    I recently got a violation of cvc 14601.5(a) for riding a dirtbike in an ohv park in the middle of the desert. but here’s the catch.

    I was riding with my girlfriend who was on a quad without a flag. The officer got behind us and turned on his lights. not knowing who he was pulling over we both stopped a few feet apart. The officer goes up to my girlfriend and tells her he pulled her over for no flag.

    He then comes over to me and starts questioning me. He says he smells alcohol on me which couldn’t have been true and runs my name and license. He made me do field sobriety tests which I passed all of. So he tells me he’s going to give me a driving on a suspended license but no alcohol tickets nor did he give my girlfriend a flag ticket which was the original reason he pulled her over.

    I didn’t even have any idea that I could not ride a dirtbike in the middle of the desert. Could I claim “mistake of fact”? I also had no reason to be detained or questions since he saw me break no laws.

    I have since been to court. Got it reduced to an infraction and plead not guilty and go back in a month. Is there any chance of getting this dropped? I have since got my license reinstated also.

    Any insight or tips would be greatly appreciated.

    • Kyle,

      That sucks. Sounds like you might have a defense. Try to win your trial. But be warned: what the officer says in court is probably not the same as what you think he is going to say. During the trial, he is probably going to say that he saw you driving in an unsafe and reckless manner. Without a helmet. Without a valid permit. With a broken taillight. And missing your left handed smokeshifter.

      Sounds like you might have an illegal stop issue, however.

      California Vehicle Code section 14601.5 states: “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at any time when that person’s driving privilege is suspended or revoked.”

      section (h) of that law states:

      “(h) This section also applies to the operation of an off-highway motor vehicle on those lands that the Chappie-Z’berg Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Law of 1971 applies as to off-highway motor vehicles.”

      So, I have to say, not knowing you could not drive a motor vehicle in the desert with a suspended drivers license is not a defense.

      Not knowing your drivers license was suspended is a defense. But not a good one if you failed to keep your address current with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

      One part of your comment does not make sense. You state they have already reduced it to an infraction. Usually reductions in the charges only occur as part of agreement whereby Defendant gets reduction and court gets guilty plea to amended charges.

      I doubt it was reduced if you demanded a trial. They might have offered you an infraction, and you may have mistakenly assumed that if you demanded a trial it would be on the infraction only.

      COURT: “This charge as listed carries a possible jail term of 6 months in county jail. If you are willing to change your plea we will reduce it to an infraction with a fine only as the sentence.”

      DEFENDANT (without attorney who has no idea what is going on): “OK, great. I was going to plead guilty. I’ll plead Not Guilty and have a trial.”

      COURT WALLS (to themselves): “ohh…another confused sucker. Trial on the misdemeanor it is then.”

      COURT TO DEFENDANT: “We will accept your not guilty plea and set the case for court trial. see you here on _________. Good luck”

      Maybe I am wrong. Maybe they did reduce and give you a trial at the same time. Maybe it was your luck day. But I would double and triple check everything to figure out what the actual charges will be on the day of trial.

      If the court reduced it to an infraction without your consent, did they rob you of your right to a jury trial? Did they rob you of your right to apply for the public defender? Did they rob you of your right to challenge the illegal stop in a separate hearing prior to the date of trial under authority of Penal Code section 1538.5?

      • Kyle says:

        Thanks for replying so quick. They said that day they they were droppibg all similar cases to an infraction that day. They gave me the option of keeping it as a misdemeanor if I so chose. But I chose to have it as an infraction. I now think I should of kept it as a misdemeanor and hoped the da would not pursue it. I guess now its just me the judge and the officer in traffic court. Going to have to hope the officer doesn’t show up and make up some story.

        I also just got my license reinstated. If I lose do you know whether or not this would be grounds to suspend it again?

  13. Adam says:

    Q.) It is 2:18 am in California and I just walked in the door. Earlier this evening I was driving another persons car and an office pulled me over claiming I ran a stop sign. Upon further investigation it was found that my license had been suspended, which was new information to me. The officer then asked me to step out of my car, put handcuffs on me, and placed me in his police car. He then proceeded to search the vehicle I was driving in. After several minutes of them searching my vehicle they pulled me from the rear of the police cruiser and told me the vehicle was going to be impounded. The officer cited me for CVC 22651(p). Once home I did some research and found that supreme court ruling recently upheld that a police office in california, once handcuffed and in the rear of the cop car, no longer had the right to search a vehicle. Further more, I was never read my miranda rights at the time of arrest and the office was using a hand held recording device the entire time during my arrest.

    It seemed a little over kill to handcuff me and place me in the cop cruiser when I did nothing but ask the officer what I was being cited for and then when being handcuffed I asked him why I was being handcuffed and arrested and he would not tell me. It wasn’t until they had searched my vehicle and let me out that the informed me that I was being arrested and cited for Driving on a suspended license.

    In the police cruiser the office did show me where the DMV record showed that the paperwork notifying me had been sent to my address however, it also noted that the item had been returned to the DMV undelivered. So I never received the notification that my license was suspended.

    Any information you provide me with would be very helpful. I feel like the police did not follow the letter of law in this particular instance. I am not trying to say I wasn’t wrong, had I known my license was suspended I would have take the necessary action to correct the problem.

    Thanks for your time!


    • Adam,

      A police officer can do an inventory search of a vehicle he/she is impounding. And they can search for your identification, insurance and registration info. And if they have reason to believe there is another crime in progress, like possession, they can search for more evidence.

      You can challenge an illegal search to get evidence suppressed, but if they did not find anything, there is nothing to challenge.

      A lack of actual knowledge of a drivers license suspension is a defense in court, but not at the side of the road. A driver in CA is required to notify DMV of his/her current address at all times. There is a presumption in the law that says if DMV sent the notice to you, you got it. It is a rebuttable presumption, but that fact will not help you get your friend’s car back.

      Moral of this story? Be careful who you loan your car to.

      The officer is not required to tell you why you are under arrest. The fact that they did not read you your rights really doesnt matter – unless you confessed, and you want to try to suppress that confession in court.

      Frequently a person in this situation can get a good outcome by getting their valid drivers license back, and then using it to negotiate a plea agreement for some charge other than the typical driving on a suspended drivers license charge which is a real crime and brings 2 negligent driver points to a Driver History Report in CA.

      Hiring an attorney to do the work for you may be a good idea. The attorney can find and appear at the case that you blew chunks on to get your drivers license reinstated, and then can go to court for you on the driving on a suspended drivers license case while you sit at home watching sports center. If everything goes well on a (set of cases) case like this, the skilled Defense Attorney can do all the work for you without you having to go to court at all.

      Unless you want a trial. If you want a trial, a lot more work is involved.

      The fact of “Defendant did not have actual knowledge of the suspension and that lack of knowledge is reflected in teh DMV record of the notice mailing,” is helpful and may present a triable issue that you can use to get a favorable plea agreement to something like . . . and infraction Veh Code 12500(a)???or were those just the old days?

  14. Robert Fitzgerald says:

    Hi there my question is: I was driving to work one day and a car decided to pull in front of me and total my vehicle. I was driving on a suspended license but I was going to two different courts one gave me the ability to drive the other didn’t. I am being charged with a 14601.2 and I have court tomorrow and I’ve been looking everywhere to see what I could do to have a possible defense. My question is, what could I do to possibly lessen the charge to an infraction or bring it down enough to avoid any jail time? Also, what is a demurrer and could I use it in my case? Any help would be most appreciated, thank you.

    • Robert,

      Good questions. I’ll try to give you real, free details. I have handled hundreds of Veh Code 14601.2 cases in more than a dozen CA County Superior Courts in the last 10 15 years.

      A violation of Vehicle Code section 14601.2 is commonly known as driving on a suspended drivers license that was suspended due to an alcohol related crime. The 14601.2 violation is a misdemeanor crime itself, and actually has a minimum jail sentence – which means you have to do some jail time if convicted.

      And every time I hear 14601.2, I think: “This person is probably on probation also for a DUI offense. And because of this, this person probably also has a separate probation violation / revocation case coming down the pipe – maybe in the same court, maybe in a different court.”

      A court cannot give you the right to drive in CA. In fact, no one can give you the RIGHT to drive. Driving is not a right, it is a privilege that can be taken away.

      In California, only the Department of Motor Vehicles can give you the privilege to drive. If you did not have a valid drivers license from the Department of Motor Vehicles, you are not allowed to drive at all, no matter what the court says.

      So I do not see any defense there.

      A Demurrer is basically a Motion (request to the court) for a ruling that the Complaint fails to state a proper violation (also called a “Cause of Action”.

      No, a Demurrer will not work in your case and has absolutely no application to a Veh Code 14601.2 case.

      More detail? OK – When a person gets charged with a common misdemeanor crime in California, the District Attorney (or City Attorney in some areas) files a document called a Complaint with the Court to start the criminal case. Those documents are nearly always written correctly, because in reality they just open the Complaint from the last 14601.2 case and insert the new name of the next victim Defendant. And all they really have to say is “On such on such and such a date, defendant did knowingly drive with a drivers license that was suspended and thereby violated vehicle code section 14601.2. No demurrer problem there.

      Sometimes a Defendant will be charged with a “Citation” instead of a Complaint, but as long as that Citation is on the CA Judicial Council Form for a Promise to Appear (standard traffic ticket) and signed by the officer – there is no demurrer problem.

      I get the Demurrer question a lot and I dont understand where it comes from. Probably from some hack who didnt go to law school tweeting from the county jail.

      Anyway . . .

      You have pretty much zero chance of getting an infraction out of a VC 14601.2 case. Unless there is some kind of miracle.

      The secret to those cases is staying out of jail if possible, and you have 2 problems: 1) minimum jail time on the 14601.2; and (I assume, but hopefully not) 2) a probation violation problem that can result in more jail time.

      When I handled these, I try and drag out the case as long as possible so that the Defendant can get a valid drivers license. Hopefully. Sometimes it doesnt work, and the Defendant cannot get a drivers license because of too many negligent driver points, and DUI suspension, and IIE device, and insurance problems, etc –

      But if my client can get a drivers license I try to use it to negotiate something without a mandatory minimum jail term – like . . . like . . . like . . here’s the secret, maybe I should not be telling people this . . .

      A substituted charge of Vehicle Code section 14601.5 instead of 14601.2.

      Why does that make a difference? No Jail Time required.

      Then, once that is done, I try to end the probation violation case (if any) without new jail time if possible. But it does not always work. Judges hate probation violations sometimes.

      How does an attorney get the prosecutor to change the charges from 14601.2 to 14601.5 with a drivers license? Magic persuasion. Sales skills. Charisma. Smoke and mirrors. Efficiency arguments. Etc.

      How does a defendant negotiate a plea agreement without an attorney? You cant. The prosecutor is not allowed to talk to you directly, and you have zero leverage because your threat to make the prosecutor stay up all night on the week ends preparing for a crazy jury trial is not credible. The prosecutor knows you cant win a jury trial on your own, and so there is no motivation to reduce the charges.

      What if you cannot get a drivers license and you are charged with 14601.2 and the judge will not give you more time? Time to pack your toothbrush.

      There are other problems that make these cases difficult. Even if you do get a drivers license an attorney may not be able to get a reduction in the charges. Sometimes the prosecutor is a prik. And if you end up with a 14601. conviction, you get another 2 negligent driver points on your DMV driver History. And when those 2 points are combined at DMV with the 2 points you got the DUI conviction, the DMV can add a brand new, separate suspension for having too many points. So some times people in this situation are able to spend a crap load of money to get their drivers license back, only to lose it again a few days later.

      My best advice? Hire the best defense attorney you can, and call DMV driver safety office today to figure out exactly what you need to do to get a valid drivers license and when that might happen. Go from there.

      How much would I charge for a Veh Code 14601.2 case in a court I like to work in? $1100 so long as no jury trial is required (quote good until 12/10/12). And I would require that you sign a fee agreement which says “Dort told me I am probably going to jail for a little while no matter what he does”.

      What if it were in my favorite court by the sea? $800 maybe. $700 if the surf is good the first time I have to go. Maybe.

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  15. Tarah riley says:

    I just have one simple question that I can’t find the awnser to. My licences will be suspended tomorrow for noncomplanice on insurance. What I need to know is can someone with a drivers licences drive my car that has the suspended plates without getting into any trouble?

    • Tara,

      If your drivers license gets suspended, it does not affect a license plate on any car. If the car is registered and insured, any licensed driver can use the car.

      If your registration is suspended (that is a totally different thing) no one can driver the car legally. If you get caught driving with a suspended registration, the government is going to take your car away.

      • Tarah riley says:

        Well no my registration isn’t suspended my drivers licences got suspended today and I just didn’t know if my fiancee driving my car if that would show up by reading my plates…last I checked my regerstration is fine. Thank you

        • Tarah riley says:

          Well I got online to look up my suspension and online it says drivers licences suspended as of 11/20/2012 then below all that states that my registration priviledges have been supsended..but right now my car is registered legally till febuary I’m a little confused on what that means does that mean my registrationhas also been suspended or that just can’t get a car registered in my name till I’m a valid driver again?


          • Tarah,

            If DMV has suspended or cancelled your Vehicle Registration, the stickers on your license plate and that paper in your glove box are garbage. DMV can cancel your registration with a computer no matter what your stickers say. Will the cops know? Yes, they have license plate scanners that pull up the current DMV records as they drive behind you.

        • Tarah,

          If you are not 100% certain that your vehicle is legally registered, and 100% sure that anyone driving it is fully insured, you should not let it be driven at all.

          If a person drives a car that you own without insurance, and gets into an accident – you are on the hook for the damages, including pain and suffering.

    • Veronica says:

      Can I be charged with driving while suspened if I was not pulled over? Hypothetically speaking: if I drove my car to my home…got out and was going to enter my house and an officer walked up to me and arrested me….could I be arrested for suspened license? And would my fourth amendment right be violated?

      • Instant Complete Warrant Search


        In that fact pattern, I would say that if the officer simply walked up to you and immediately arrested you without any discussion or investigation, it would probably be an illegal arrest.

        But . . if the officer knows you, knows what you look like, and has reasons to believe that your drivers license is in fact suspended, and actually sees you driving, and then gets you before you enter your house, . . .

        probably a legal arrest.

        A police officer who witnesses a misdemeanor crime may arrest the person on the spot.

        It’s all about whether or not the officer witnessed a crime, and whether or not he / she saw you commit that crime.

  16. Brett says:

    I was given a speeding ticket in Florida about a year ago didn’t pay it my licence was suspended later after the year I was pulled over I was stopped again in Michigan for window tint arrested me for suspended licence they told me inhave to pay my 500$ reinstatement fee on my court date witch is in 2 weeks do you think that is all ill have to pay to have my licence back ? Or will I have to pay the Florida ticket also reason for not paying it on time didn’t have 400$ but I do work now so would that give me any leeway to receive a restricted licence to get to work and from ?

  17. Monica C says:

    I was just arrested for failure to appear to court for suspended license back in 1995! I was never personally stopped. I believe someone used my information because they gave an address that I never had issued on my license.. My license has been suspended in the past but I have valid license now. I do not understand how I was able to obtain my license and this not show up. How can I prove myself because I am innocent. I reside in Lakewood NJ.

  18. Kwame says:

    Like everyone else, I was stopped and cited for 12500(a) CVC and 4000(a)(1). I would like to know the best way to fix the situation with some additional questions.

    I live in Los Angeles, Ca. and Sacramento, Ca. with Sacramento as my primary residence. The license expired in late May and I was cited in early August. In September the court date was changed to October and it conflicts with a school day that if i miss will result in failing the class. How can I reschedule the date?

    I had previous gone to the DMV and taken care of all fees owed so my registration was paid but incomplete. They also insisted that I could not validate my driver’s license or registration without a form that was mailed to Sacramento. Upon receiving the citations, the officer instructed me step by step how to circumnavigate that and clear up the situation. I was stopped at 11pm. Then next morning I was at the DMV and with his steps everything was cleared up by 10am.

    Aside from 2 parking tickets I haven’t gotten an actual ticket since early 2010 for going 10 mph over the speed limit. I am not sure how to represent myself ie. not guilty or guilty with explanation. I understand that correction does not exonerate me so how can I best get this case dismissed or at very least reduced to an infraction?

    • Kwame,

      After only 2 sentences of your comment I feel compelled to thank you for the good ?s. I wish everyone wrote comments like this.

      Back to reading.

      This is a great question. This might be the best question of the year.


      1. Go to Court several days early at 8 am and ask for a walk in appearance. Once in court, ask for more time to get your proof of correction together. No problemo. Just go early.

      2. Proof of correction is not required to end this case. A court appearance may not be required. Contact the court clerk to see if you can just plead guilty by mail and pay a fine. They do not want you in court. If you choose this option, do it in writing, get proof you paid. Pay in person. Early.

      Having to go to school is not a defense to a failure to appear charge. The court expects to be the #1 priority in your life, because they are the government. And the person who told you to go to court probably had a loaded gun. That should tell you something about how to calendar the event. Example:

      Court Deadline
      xxx county

      Alarm? Yes.

      Notes: Dude had a gun.

      So you have to do something before that date on the citation by your signature. Early. Go in person.

      I would go tomorrow at 8 am. At for a walk in arraignment. Ask for more time. If the judge says no, plead not guilty, and get more time that way to collect your proof of corrrection.

      Proof of correction, if you get it, will help lower the cost, but is not required.

      Do not try to get a continuance at the last minute by phone. It will not work.

      Dont write to them for a continuance, it will not work.

      • Kwame says:

        Haha.thank you for your timely response and wit. I plan to go in tomorrow morning to request a walk-in. Once there, how do I play my cards and plead to gain a minimum fine, reduction of my charge to an infraction, or even get it dismissed?

        1) I have proof of correction for both offenses (got them both done the very next day based upon step-by-step directions from the citing officer) and a clean record.
        2) I know that I am guilty of the charge (combination of DMV misinformation and my negligence still makes me guilty). However, I want the minimum fine possible and absolutely no jail or probation.
        a) If I plead guilty am I a fool and as such get hit with the book ($1000 fine, points on my license, etc) or does it help me by making me look somewhat honorable? or
        b) If I plead not guilty, am I a fool insulting the court’s intelligence or a genius that stands a better chance of reduced sentence and even (fingers crossed) dismissal through litigation?

        Thank you again for your guidance.

  19. Jacinda says:

    I was involved in a accident, where I rear ended a woman. The police were not called, but i contacted my insurance agency. Apparently I have a hold on my DL and its been suspended. I was not aware of that, and of course I find out I owe 2 tickets from 2010 and 2011. I tickets have since gone to collections, and I contacted right away to set up a payment plan, since the tickets are old I was told I could not go to court. I would have to pay them off before I could get the hold off my DL. I moved recently and have not had a chance to change the address with the DMV. My question is, what legal issues will I be facing now. Once the claim is filed, the other party has not contacted my insurance agency yet. I will not be driving until I get my valid DL back, thats for sure. What would I be charged with if at all? Thanks for your help.

    • Jacinda,

      If the police did not respond, you probably will not have any new charges in traffic court for the accident.

      But I would suspect that your insurance policy was cancelled when your drivers license suspended.

      Hopefully that other drivers doesnt develop chronic back paid and herniated disks (common problem in low speed rear end crashes).

      If it was a collection agency that told you you have no rights in court for the old traffic tickets, they may not have been telling you the truth. You should have gone to the courthouse in person to deal with the cases.

      Get proof you paid. Once the court releases the FTA holds on your drivers license, go to DMV in person.

  20. Tom says:

    How feasible is it to argue no cause to be pulled over for a suspended license? I notice the article says generally a cop can’t pull you over for that alone — but, can’t it be easily argued that if a query of the license plate returned info on a driver with a suspended license, that they can be pulled over??

    • Tom,

      That is a great question. I would say that you should contest the legality of the stop.

      At trial, you would need to expect the officer to state: “The plate came back registered to a person with a suspended drivers license. I observed the person driving, and determined that he matched the description of the suspended license holder.”

      Or . . . "I'll pulled up Tom's picture on the screen and there he was . . . driving on a suspended drivers license."

      But if the officer just says: “I discovered the owner of the car had a suspended drivers license. She should not be driving. So when I saw Tom driving, I wanted to know if he had suspended drivers license too……” then you probably have an illegal “pre text stop” that violates the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution.

  21. Sarah rose says:

    I got pulled over at a random check stop. They were just checking my license but it came back suspended for unpaid tickets. The ticket was driving without insurance but it was because I left my wallet home not because I didn’t have insurance. I was arrested and got a Desk appearance ticket for tomorrow and another ticket for obstucted view because of a airfreshner cause he didnt want to give me a ticket for not having a license. The tickets still are unpaid and my license still suspended cause I don’t have 800 to pay for the tickets. Should I plead guilty at my appearance and pay the fines or do you think I’ll have a harsher sentence cause the tickets are still unpaid and my license is still suspended. What’s the worst sentence to expect for someone who doesn’t have any other record besides this.

  22. cemal unal says:

    my question is i got my license back – and i have a notice from dmv “post office returned unclaimed.

    i got my license back and my question is how can i use my valid driver license and notice of unclaimed on court trial. i just saw this website and i have a court in 7 hours. i hope i get some feed back. thank you.

    my Driver History Report


    PROOF REQ:V/07-27-12*TERM:07-27-15*
    DRV LIC PROB/SUSP*EFF:12-07-08*THRU:06-06-09*ORDER MAILED:11-03-08*
    AUTH:14103 *
    ACTION ENDED 12-07-09*
    AUTH:16484 *
    ACTION ENDED 06-07-12*
    DRV LIC REVOKED *EFF:07-27-10*ORDER MAILED:06-23-10*
    AUTH:13353 ,23612 *
    DRV LIC REVOKED *EFF:07-27-10*ORDER MAILED:06-23-10*

    AUTH:13353 ,23612 *
    05-31-08 07-16-08 23103 VC 8T03402 34470

    08-05-09 01-29-10 22356B VC 1780001 40410 5ZWA296

    01-08-10 06-21-10 22349A VC 0890137 07480 3SJV438

    05-30-10 05-23-11 146011 VC 1080278 43470

    23103A VC

    08-31-10 01-06-11 146015 VC S372052 41470


    • cemal unal says:

      actually i forget to put i got a ticket on 4-25-2012 for vc 14601.5(A) and vc 23123(A) which is being on the phone. this is the court trial on 8-7-2012

  23. Ramon says:

    I got a vc 14601.1(a) but I don’t have a license to begin with I missed my first court date a warrant and got arrested and now I got a new court date which happenes to be tomorrow. What would be the best thing to do??

    • DortLaw says:


      The CA Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend the DRIVING PRIVILEGE even if you never had a CA Drivers license. The effect of such a suspension is that if you are caught driving you can be charged with driving on a suspended VC 14601.1 instead of VC 12500. The 14601.1 brings possible jail time. And 2 “negligent driver points” on your driver history report, even if you think you do no have one.

      Obviously you made it worse. Too bad you didnt contact me a week ago.

      I’d say you need to get an attorney’s help. You are not doing a good job of problem management on your own. Hire an attorney today if you can. It’s possible. If not, show up on time. As for the court to appoint a public defender to your case if you think you are indigent (broke) . You can ask the judge for time to consult with an attorney and I am pretty sure they will give it to you.

      Unless they “remand” you, which means keep you.

      For everyone else: You can avoid the worst consequences for a warrant case by taking voluntary action before they arrest you.

  24. EBONY says:

    i have two or three driver without a license tickets .1)one in moreno valley,another i got in hemet,ca i had got into a car accident and they gave me a ticket for driving without a license,and i was susposed to appear in court and i didnt because the van i was driving at the time,that van got inpounded the day of the accident,so i had no way to court.the next ticket i just recently got in september 2011,in san bernardino county,for driving on suspended license.but i never ever gotten my license but they suspended it because i didnt apear in court for the accident i got in which no one was hurt.and because i didnt pay my tickets fines.but the judge in san bernardino county told me if i get my license he will dimissed that ticket i got,the problem is i cant get my license because i have to pay $1,310.00 and appear in riverside and temecula court,before i can get my license and get the suspension tooken off.the main problem is i dont have no job,no income.and i explained that to the judge in san bernardino,but he wants me to show up to court to show proof of a valid driver license.what can i do.i dont have no criminal record and i never been to jail and i dont want to start going.

    • DortLaw says:


      A drivers license is not required to resolve those cases in court. It could help a little. But maybe not. Don’t wait for a drivers license before YOU GO TO COURT IN PERSON ON EACH OF THE CASES STARTING TODAY at 8:30 (you are going to have to go to court in person on all of the cases).

      There is no other option, you need to get to court, and ask the court clerk to put the case(s) on the court’s schedule.

      A second offense driving on a suspended drivers license brings a minimum jail term.

      Wish I had better news for you. How many cars have you lost? Friend’s car? Mom’s car?

      I think the government is trying to send you a message. I can decode it for you. Without the cryptic government code, the message reads: “STOP DRIVING”.

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      • EBONY MURRAY says:

        ok,do u think i will have a chance of going to court and asking for either a restricted license or community service do u think he will give it to me.i willing to do all that i can besides go to jail.and i dont drive now cause i dont have no transportation.i just want to get all this resolved.

        • DortLaw says:


          I wish I had better news for you. But based on what you wrote, I would say your chances of getting a restricted license is zero. There is no such thing as a restricted license in CA for a person with a VC 40509.5 suspension (failure to appear or pay suspension). And even if you did not have that problem, I suspect you have way too many negligent driver points to qualify for a valid drivers license. I cant be sure, however, and I could be wrong. So go to DMV right after you get out of court today and ask them in person.

          Some courts will allow an indigent defendant (super poor) to do community service in place of a fine. But that does not always happen, and will not help with a jail sentence.

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  25. alvaro alvarenga jr says:

    Hey Chris..ive had bad luck this past year..lost my job..and have recieved 2 driving with suspended license …one in Los angeles n another in yucaipa..they just cited me for driving no impound or arrest..question i have for you is that i went to los angeles court for FtA warrant ..summond to 10 days in jail..but i also have the one in yucaipa to go see the judge about ..can i do jail time for same reason just different counties ?

    • DortLaw says:


      Thank you for the comment. I like how you start: “I’ve had bad luck this year.”

      It reminds me of one time I was in a meeting with a potential witness in a case. David was the witness. When asked by a supporting defense attorney “have you ever been arrested?” David replied: “No. Except in ’94. That was a bad year for me. I got a DUI in January, news years eve.

      Attorney: “Well, that’s common. Anything else?”
      David: “it was a bad year . . . I got another DUI a week later. Then I had a domestic violence charge.”
      Attorney: “Anything else?”
      David: “Well it was a bad year. There was a restraining order, and I …”
      Attorney: “Ok. Got it. Thanks for coming.”
      David: “Yea, that was a bad year. Everything OK now. Thank you. See ya.”

      To answer your question, yes, you can get sentenced to jail on each separate case – even if they are all the same type of charge. If they are in the same court, you can ask a judge to allow you to serve “concurrent” sentences – which means all at the same time (1 year on 2 different cases would be 1 year instead of a “Consecutive” 2 years.)

      If you have that many cases that may lead to jail – and you already have a jail sentence – you need to hire an attorney to help you sort through it all.

      A second offense driving on a suspended drivers license has a mandatory jail sentence.

      You need help.

      Request a free attorney case review to get a quote for the work.

      Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

      Free Attorney Case Review

  26. salvador says:

    on thursday april 26 2012 i was stopped and charged with a 14601.1, my license was suspended due to outstanding child support (arrears) later in the week i got a ammended citation and it was changed to a 14601 (a) the reason the officer said he pulled me over was that i looked nervous, i was whereing a “sons of anarchy” hoody thats a tv show, he emediatly insisted i was affiliated with the “hells angels” i have a history with drugs but over 11yrs ago been clean and sober since jan 2001 never ever had any affiliation with the biker club, never even owend or ridden a harly, but my car is white with red intirior. of course he searched my car with my permission, i dont do drugs so i have nothing to hide, and he found nothing, i had a t-shirt that i bought at a street festival that said support daly city chapter of hells angels, just liked the shirt, he made me throw it in the garbage, i wasnt speeding or breaking any traffic laws, my car is registered and insured and i was fully coopertive, so what is the probable cause for pulling me over? looking nervous? or being profiled? would appreciate any help. thank you, sal

    • Salvador,

      OK, sounds like you think you might be the victim of an illegal stop.

      All warrant-less stops of vehicles are per se illegal under the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution. The government has the burden to prove that the stop was justified legally if you challenge the issue.

      The way to do it is by filing a (in CA) Motion to Suppress under Penal Code 1538.5. I wrote a template form for self help education.

      The charge you are facing is one that could lead to jail time (assuming a misdemeanor). And it carries 2 points on your DMV driver history report. (Same as a DUI)

      Once you file the motion (unless they reduce it to an infraction) you are entitled to a hearing on the Penal Code section 1538.5 motion. The officer must testify in the hearing to justify the stop.

      The details of the law on that issue – what is required for the stop to be legal – are in my form.

      But I have to warn you – it is VERY UNLIKELY THAT the officer’s justification will match your memory. And the officer is going to be trained on exactly what to say in that PC 1538.5 motion.

      You should have a skilled Criminal Defense Attorney do it for you. If you win – you probably win the entire case immediately.

      If it is a traffic court infraction, try it yourself. File it with the court clerk 2 weeks prior to your trial date, send a copy to the cop’s office with proof of delivery required from US Postal.

      Show up at the trial. Demand a pre trial hearing on your motion because it will be “DISPOSITIVE”. Yes, that is a sort of real word. Try to use this word too: “EXCULPATORY”.

      If the citation has only 1 violation listed on it – the VC 14601.1 or whatever, you have a great argument that the officer had no legal justification for the warrant-less detention which started immediately when the officer turned on his lights and you were no longer free to leave. What did the officer know at that point? And where is it written down?

      If you want to ask the officer questions about it – just ask the officer to read to you all of the violations he noted on the citation. And ask: is there anything else there? Any moving violations? Any speeding? Did any of the ink you put on that citation come off later?


      Want More Detail? Get a 1Hr. Attorney Conference.

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  27. Claye says:

    I wish I had found this sight earlier, as my court date is tomorrow morning. Hopefully you can respond quickly. So here’s my situation…

    I was visiting tahoe when I got pulled over for not having current registration stickers on my plates. Upon reviewing my NY license, the officer said it was still suspended in CA from a dui conviction 18 months prior. I completed all programs and paid all fines, but since I was moving back to New york, I didn’t have to file the sr-22. So because this $20 filing was not on record, my license was still reflecting suspended in california. I had no knowledge of this and upon researching it more after my citation, the california dmv literally told me not to file this form until I move back to california. So, I am now living out west and successfully obtained a california license. How should I approach my court appearance tomorrow when I had no knowledge of wrongdoing? Is there hope for all this to go away easily?

    Please advise asap if you can. Thank you

    • Claye,

      I cannot tell what you are charged with.

      But I can say this:

      Sounds like you are guilty of driving on a suspended drivers license. If your driving privilege in CA is suspended, you cannot drive in CA at all. It does not matter that you had a drivers license from another state. You can forget about that part of the story.

      Paying the fines and finishing the court ordered DUI classes has nothing to do with this problem. This is a suspended drivers license problem that originates from a DMV action.

      You may be charged with a VC12500a, or V 14601.1 or VC14601.2

      They all start out as misdemeanor crimes. All of those charges can be reduced or dismissed with skillful negotiations and a valid license in court, but without an attorney, the prosecutor will not even talk to you. And they are sure not going to just give you a freebee dismissal.

      VC14601.2 is the worst charge – because it carries a 10 day minimum jail sentence. (plus 2 negligent driver points on your CA DMV history – which is the same # of points as a DUI)

      I’d say hire an attorney to do the work for you and to maximize your chances of avoiding a criminal conviction.

      You can hire me today to handle the case for you. I can appear for you tomorrow while you sit in a hot tube looking at the Lake. It would probably take me 2-3 appearance to work hard to get a good result. You probably would not have to go to court at all.

      How much would I charge for a last minute 14601.2 case in El Dorado, Placer or Alpine County if I were hired today? Hum . . . I have to go there anyway. Hum . . well, I dont have any thing scheduled for tomorrow. Hum . . . . 3 appearances . . . probably going to snow for at least one of those . . .hum . . .$1400 flat fee so long as no trial is required.

      Some Attorneys would charge less. But you can hire me via email Fee Agreement and pay by credit or debit card, on line or over the phone or even PayPal Account.

      You’d have to contact me by noon, and hire me by 2 pm, but we can do it. Done it many times. Email me if you want cdort(at)

      My goal would be to get you an infraction as a final result if possible. If charged with 14601.2 and you have no defense, we’d be looking for a 14601.5 misdemeanor instead to avoid the minimum jail sentence.

  28. Adrian Pardillo says:

    Hi, i was pulled over for Driving on a Suspended License and speeding in a 65mph zone. I told the office I received my DUI in July of 2010 and thought my 6 month suspension ended in February.

    I recently went to court for my hearing and they told me i was being charged for speeding and they reduced the 14601.1 to an infraction. They also informed me i was eligible for traffic school. At the time i thought i had the right to an attorney but they told me it wasn’t being charged as a misdemeanor.

    I have two questions. First being should i try to reduce the 14601.1 to a 12500. Secondly, does traffic school clear both speeding and the 14601.1. I’ve researched that 14601.1 charge two points to you driving record and cannot be cleared with traffic school. In this case it is being charge as an infraction. Can it be cleared? Any help would be greatly appreciated. thank you.

  29. Brian Birch says:

    I was pulled over in LA and told I had a suspended license for a failure to appear and had notification by signing the ticket that stated on the back that an FTA could result. The police searched my truck without asking and found nothing. They impounded my truck and cited me for driving on suspended and failure to signal. I asked the officer when did I not signal? and he said when I pulled you over (after he lit me up) I was with my girlfriend who is witness to this. The other part of this is to get my truck back I had to take care of the ticket with the FTA at GC hell to get my licence and get my truck out. Then after vowing to stay out of LA I did not appear on the turn signal suspended ticket (Yes I Know) this resulted in a hold on my licence. Now trying to get legal I thought I could go to court on the matter as I can not afford the huge amount Gc wants as I am disabled GC told me that when I took care of the first ticket to get my truck they set another court date and because they have combined the violations from the different dates to one case number I am not elegible to see the judge on the other case. Is there any way to see the Judge?

    • Brian,

      When the police know they are going to impound a vehicle, they always search it, and there is nothing you can do about it. It’s called an “inventory search”, and has been upheld as legal by the supreme court. See my article on Court Approves Impound Searches and Expands Police Powers.

      Now comes the important part of my response: Driving on a suspended license (Vehicle Code section 14601.1) is a misdemeanor crime that carries jail time as a penalty. DRIVING ON A SUSPENDED LICENSE is not traffic court problem, it is a criminal case. You may have received a citation for it that looks like any other traffic ticket, but it is a real crime. And it carries 2 points on your drivers license record (the same as a DUI conviction).

      Because of this, your driving on a suspended license case will not go to a Collection agency after a failure to appear. A Court appearance is not only possible, it is mandatory, because it is a misdemeanor crime. And once you fail to appear on the case, the prosecutor will add a new crime to the case, a failure to appear as a misdemeanor (Vehicle Code section 40508(a).).

      So, you have a different problem then you think you have.

      I always tell people in your situation the same thing, and they never like to hear it because they are in denial – but here it is anyway:

      In my professional opinion, you should not spend one second worrying about your truck in impound right now. You should not spend a single dime trying to get it out, until you: 1) take care of the criminal case that results from a VC14601.1 charge; and 2) get a valid drivers license.

      Your truck is useless without a drivers license. You cannot drive at all. Work on getting out of trouble first, worry about your truck later.

      I strongly recommend that you contact Mr. Mark Gallagher, our local Sponsor Defense Attorney for LA. Send your contact info to him at Email: AttorneyGallagher[at] (see also to get details on how to solve the problem correctly.


      • m.b says:


        I agree with you that driving on suspended license is not a traffic court problem – upon information and belief – traffic court does not handle violations that carries prison or jail-time penalties.

        Now, what if the D.A from Criminal Court didn;’t want to prosecute you on driving on suspended license – but the traffic court is wanting to prosecute you for the same case?

        where they ignored your demand for proof of subject matter-jurisdiction and proceeded without your consent for the traffic commissioner to hear your case, and entered a judgment without putting proof of subject matter jurisdiction on the records.

        can the traffic commissioner and the rest of the court officers who conspired to enforce a “void judgment” be sued for trespass and due process right violations?

  30. Jay says:

    I fail to appear in court and refuse to sign the citation. I fail to appear in court because I did not receive the hearing date in a timely manner. I refuse to sign because I was not speeding, mearly keeping pace with the triffic and not passing anyone. What is my recourse? And what is the statute of limitation for speeding ticket in Delaware?

    • Jay, I apologize in advance, but I have to make fun of you in order to teach the rest of the readers a lesson: Refusing to sign a citation is just plain stupid. No wait, it’s Slightly Stoopid. No, wait, that is my favorite band. Stupid is the right word. When you sign a ticket, you are not admitting guilt, you are just promising to appear in court to address the citation. By signing the promise to appear, you prevent an immediate trip to the court via handcuff limo. Why in the world did you think that would help? When you sign a citation, that is not an admission of guilt – so saying that you did not sign the promise to appear because you were innocent is just plain Slightly Stoopid, no wait, that is the band again, I mean stupid. So what happened next? Did you go to jail, or did the cop just laugh at you and walk away? Sounds like he just walked away laughing, because you say you did not have notice of the court date. Earth to Slightly Stupid: Of course you did not have notice of the court date, because you failed to sign and accept the promise to appear.

      Answer to your question: You have no defense. You are luck if they did not take you to jail (yet).

      Moral from this story:

      Refusing to sign a ticket is like refusing to give a breath, blood or urine sample when a police officer pulls you over and asks you to. The refusal only makes matters worse, and only makes sense if you are drunk.

  31. jeff says:

    I’m trying to get one straight answer to this question. If I am issued a ticket by a police officer in the state of Oregon for a DWS, a crime, is the date on the bottom ticket a valid subenoa, or am I legally entitled to a notice in the mail. ie, if I didn’t get the notice, can I still be found in contempt for failure to appear. I have heard that since the cop is not an officer of the court, the court date, and the ticket he gives me is not valid procedure for informing me of a court hearing.

    • Jeff, this is a wacky question. Sounds like you talked to someone who sounds like they think they know what they are talking about, but who does not actually know anything about what they are talking about.

      First off – a citation (also known as a promise to appear) is not a subpoena. A subpoena is something totally different. In most jurisdictions, a court is not required to send you anything after you sign and receive a citation from a sworn peace officer (also known as a cop). Once you sign, you must appear or face failure to appear charges.

      A police officer is legally authorized to issue a “promise to appear” citation and once signed by the defendant, it is effective. Read your citation where your signature appears – you’ll see your signature binds you to appear in court.

      If you refuse to sign the officer’s promise to appear, he/she can actually handcuff you and take you to jail and then take you to court in person. How’s that for an effective subpoena? A personal escort to court in handcuffs. By signing a citation and promising to appear in court, you are actually avoiding a free ride to jail.

      If you want to experiment to see if a cop can actually force you to go to court, just refuse to sign your next ticket and see what happens.

      Then there is this issue: if you fail to appear on the date and time listed on the citation you signed, you don’t have a “contempt of court problem” – you have a failure to appear problem, which is different. Contempt is a charge of violating a court order. A citation is not a court order.

      A failure to appear is a crime that occurs when you miss a scheduled court date (with or without a court order).

      If you are charged with a failure to appear, and you feel you have a complete defense to the charge (such as you had defective notice of the date), then the correct remedy is to plead not guilty to the charge and demand a jury trial.

      The wrong thing to do if you have a defense to a failure to appear charge is to ignore the problem and pretend like it will never catch up with you.

      But if you signed the citation, and failed to appear on the date listed on the citation, you’d probably lose a trial and get hammered by the judge.

  32. Michael Sullivan says:

    I was in a fender bender with a suspended license in Sacramento California. a police report was made and the officer told me he would report my driving with a suspended license, but he did not give me a citation. i was not in the car at the time and the vehicle was parked and off. i was advised not to drive home and he left after that. i am also a licensed driver in the state of new south wales in australia, and i had that license on me when i was driving. i am wondering what kinda of defense i can make. my original suspension was for felony speeding but i was only given an infraction for it with a fine and 30 day suspension. other than that my driving history is clean, and i have a clean record in all other areas.

    thank you very much,

    • This is a very common driving on a suspended license scenario (or vehicle code section 14601.1 problem). The problem is this – your privilege to drive in California can be suspended even if you never had a CA drivers license. If this happens, it does not matter at all if you have a license from another state or country. You cannot drive in CA.

      And if it was obvious you were driving because you admitted it, or the other driver saw you, you are screwed.

      The fact that the cop did not give you a citation does not mean much, because the district attorney can file charges independently once they get the police report. And when it happens that way, they may issue a warrant to get you into court. You need to check with the court ASAP to see if you have a pending case.

      So the bad news is that you probably do not have a good defense. But my recommendation would be to clear up the CA suspension (go to DMV), then go to court and try to negotiate a reduction to VC 12500a (driving without a valid license). That will reduce the penalties. I typically charge $800-$1200 to handle a VC14601.1 case (with no trial required) and its worth the money to send a pro to get the reduction. And, with an attorney, you can skip going to court yourself. – c. dort

  33. christopher dahl says:

    I was pulled over for a tail light out I don’t remember if the cop read me my rights fist, then he proceed to give me a field test because he thought i was intoxicated.

    I agreed because i was not drunk.

    He then took about ten mins after that to run my license and it came up suspended. Now I was convicted of a DUI last Oct, but though my license was fine because my lawyer sent it back to me with some money he owed me.

    He asked me if it was suspended i said no and when he told me it was I was shocked. well then I had to take a ride to jail were he then gave me a breathalyzer test and it came up under the legal limit .006. I wanted to know how i could get his records for pulling people over because i don’t think he had pulled people over for a tail light out before. and I felt he was just looking for a reason to bust me for something because he searched my vehicle and I didn’t consent to it.

    I live in Tennessee and any info on how I could defend myself would be great. It happened in the town my grandma lives and I am here to work on her house so i am not making any money. I have been here since march. So I have no money and feel that I have no hope.

    I would like to see the video of my arrest also. right befor he pulled me over he was playing chase with one of his friends i believe becuse he had pulled into the gas station and was on the guys rear. and I had herd him talk about how that guy he was folling was doing 80 in a 55 and nothing was done to him . If you could email me it would be great thank you chris.

    • Chris,

      Here is the bottom line – if you were convicted, your case is over. In general, police do not need to read you your rights when they pull you over – only after you’ve been arrested or, in some cases, formally detained. And if they don’t read you your rights, it’s not an automatic defense. It might seem like it on TV – but that is not how the real world works.

      And if the officer pulled you over because your tail light was out – it does not matter at all if he had pulled over other people for the same reason. All that matters on the question of whether or not the stop was legal is whether or not your tail light was working at the time.

      Instant Complete Warrant Search
  34. Ron Johnson says:
    Instant Complete Warrant Search

    No Citation Evidence of Illegal Arrest?

    I was stopped by chp for speeding on 5/17/08.There was a warrant for 14601 in another county in ca. I was detained for the warrant,I have learnd now that I’m being charged for suspd license and there is no sign of the speeding ticket.I was told by a court clerk that the officer has 1 year to file this ticket. If I go to trial, is that ticket admissable as evidence of the seizure?-I was arraigned only for 14601 with 2 priors.

    Answer: This is a great question. It’s some what tricky, because it seems like if there was not citation or ticket, there should be no violation. But that’s not true. You can have facts that establish a vehicle code violation without a citation, and a citation is only one form of evidence to the facts of a situation that a judge will consider.

    The court will assume that the detention or arrest was lawful unless the defendant challenges it in a “suppression motion” (Generally Penal Code section 1538.5). If the arrest or detention is challenged, the judge hears the motion and evidence, and decides whether it was legal under the 4th Amended to the US Constitution.

    If a defendant does not make a motion to suppress based upon an illegal arrest or detention, the court will not consider the issue.

    Unfortunately, it’s not the ticket or citation that the prosecution needs to establish a lawful arrest or detention. It’s the evidence of FACTS that lead to probable cause to detain or arrest. Paper documentation of facts in a report or citation is helpful to a prosecutor, but not required.

    Regardless of whether an officer cites a person for a violation, the arresting officer can (and has a legal duty to) appear at a suppression hearing to testify as to the facts of the contested arrest. If an officer comes into a hearing and testifies under oath that he or she saw you speeding, generally, you’re screwed.

    So the fact that an officer does not cite a driver for a violation does not mean the officer cannot appear in court and testify as to the facts of the situation. It does not mean that there will be no evidence of a vehicle code violation that can lead to a lawful arrest.

    Not getting a citation is good luck, but not proof of an illegal arrest.

    A good trial attorney would try to use the lack of a citation in cross examination to get the cop to admit that he/she really didn’t see a speeding violation. After all, can she/he remember the color of the driver’s shirt? The age of the passenger? And if she/he cannot remember those details, how can the officer remember why he/she didn’t write down the fact that you were speeding? Why not? What was it about the situation that made him or her think you did not need to pay a fine for speeding? How can they remember it now with no paperwork?

    In that way, the lack of a citation could be argued to help show the officer is not telling the truth.

  35. johny why says:

    I checked California Vehicle Code 14601.1, and I do NOT see anything in 14601.1 which confirms the above statements by Traffic Court Pros.

    I find NOTHING in the code which says I had to be in violation of the law BEFORE I was pulled over, or that the case can be dismissed if the stop was not justified.

    • Johny,

      It’s hard to explain because I have no idea how much you know about how the law works, but here is my best shot at a summary of a complex subject.

      The rule prohibiting an unlawful stop of a vehicle or arrest is not found in the California Vehicle Code.

      It is found in the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution (Federal Law – not state law), and declared with more detail in section 1538.5 of the California Penal Code (and the case law relating to that section).

      Essentially, you were looking in the wrong place.

      But here is how it works in a nutshell.

      The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits any federal or state government or government agent (police) from engaging in any “Unreasonable” searches or seizures.

      Over the last 200 years, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that:

      1. Any seizure (arrest or detention) by the government without a warrant signed by a judge is per se “UnReasonable” under the 4th Amendment, and therefore illegal;


      2. that the stop of a vehicle by a police officer during a traffic stop qualifies as a “seizure “under the 4th Amendment requiring a warrant – Or an exception to the warrant rule.

      This means that all stops of a vehicle by the police without a warrant (or exception to the warrant rule) are – by default – unconstitutional, and therefore illegal.

      Instant Complete Warrant Search

      To stop a vehicle legally, the police must either have: 1) a warrant; or 2) an exception to the warrant rule.

      If they do not, any stop is made in violation of the 4th Amendment, and the seizure is therefore unconstitutional.

      When a seizure is unconstitutional, all evidence that comes from it cannot be used in court. And without evidence, the cases usually must be dismissed.

      There are many exceptions to the warrant rule. The exception that applies with nearly all vehicle stops is that the police are not required to get a warrant to stop a car if they witness a violation of law in progress.

      The case law over time has developed the following requirements for a police officer to stop a car legally without a warrant using the violation of law in progress exception:

      The officer must have specific and articulable facts that would lead a reasonable officer in the same situation to believe that:

      1) a violation of law has been committed; and

      2) that the person (or vehicle) they are detaining was involved in the violation.

      Thus, if they see you speeding, they have witnessed a violation of the California Vehicle Code, and have an exception to the warrant requirement. With that exception, they can stop the car without a warrant.

      If the police do not witness a violation, and do not have a warrant, they cannot pull over a car, because it would be an unreasonable seizure under the fourth amendment.

      So in VC 14601.1 cases (suspended license) it works like this:

      There is no way for the police to know that the driver does not have a valid drivers license before pulling the car over. In fact, they have no way of knowing who is driving.

      If they just pull someone over without specific and articulable facts leading them to believe there is a violation, it is an unconstitutional stop.

      So, generally, there is no way for the police to make a legal stop of an unlicensed driver unless they witness another violation, such as speeding, to justify the seizure.

      Frequently, the police will pull over a car for some reason, and find out that a person has a suspended drivers license after the seizure has started. They then the write a citation, or make an arrest for the 14601.1 charge without ever documenting the legal reason for the stop in the first place.

      When there is no warrant, and no documented exception to the warrant rule, an attorney can make a motion to the court to dismiss the case under Penal Code section 1538.8, and the court will hold a hearing to determine if the police office had a legal justification for the stop. The police officer testifies at the hearing as to the reason for the seizure, and if the officer has no valid reason (or a defendant can prove the officer is lying or fabricating the reason for the stop), the stop should be ruled illegal.

      OK – that is a summary of how it works. The bottom line is that there is much more to an illegal arrest than just Vehicle Code 14601.1. And defenses to a Veh Code 14601.1 charge may be found in other codes, statutes and laws.

      If you have a case where this may be an issue, I recommend hiring an attorney who has made and won Penal Code section 1538.5 motions.

      It’s probably not something you can expect to do well without a law degree and courtroom experience.

      I won my first Penal Code section 1538.5 suppression motion 10 years ago working as a public defender. In that case, the officer claimed he saw a knife in the car through a back window. We proved he could not see anything through the window, and the judge ruled the stop was illegal, even thought the driver had a suspended license. Case dismissed because of a constitutional violation.

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