There are many reasons why a clients’ driving privileges may be suspended (Vehicle Code sections 14601, 14601.1, 14601.5, 14601.2). These reasons may include:
- failure to appear in court
- incurring too many points on the driving record
- failure to maintain insurance
- excessive blood alcohol
- driving when license suspended due to DUI conviction
- failure to pay child support
Depending on the actual license suspension charge, as well as the existence of any prior convictions, the penalties for these misdemeanor offenses will often include a term of informal probation, as well as 0-365 days in county jail, and fines/fees. Significantly, anyone convicted of such an offense will suffer two points on their driving record (which cannot be erased by traffic school!)
The primary requirement for such violations to be proven is that the driver possessed knowledge of the suspension. In some cases, it may be difficult for the prosecutor to establish the “knowledge” requirement, especially if the written notice informing the driver of the suspension was sent to an old address, or there exists no record of the driver being provided notice. However, where there is evidence that the driver did have knowledge (or “should’ve known”) of the suspension, and if the defendant has no prior convictions, the prosecutor may be persuaded to offer a lesser charge.
For first offenders (and not a violation of 14601.2(a), if the driver can get his/her driving privileges reinstated by the DMV (paying outstanding traffic fines or fees, providing proof of insurance, or payment of child support, etc), then it is possible to persuade the prosecutor to reduce the charge to “driving without a valid license” (Vehicle Code section 12500(a)). It may take a substantial amount of time to accomplish this, but an experienced attorney can help identify the DMV obstacles and how they can be overcome.
Additionally, the penalties for a violation of section 12500(a) are much lower and do not impose any points on the driver’s record. Alternatively, if the driver suffers from prior convictions for driving on a suspended license, but is able to have his/her driving privileges reinstated, then the prosecutor may be persuaded to dismiss the at least the prior conviction and thus lessen the penalties. Finally, for a driver whose license is suspended due to a DUI conviction (VC 14601.2(a) which requires a mandatory 10 days of jail)), but is able to get his/her privileges reinstated, then the prosecutor may be willing to reduce the existing violation to a different violation that has no jail time requirement! In any scenario, and with a proper strategy, an experienced and local attorney can help a driver minimize very harmful consequences.