If you have been charged with driving on a license that was suspended for a DUI conviction in Coachella Valley, California or surrounding areas, you may be looking at relatively severe consequences — more severe than for driving on a license suspended for any other reason.
It is in your best interests to avail yourself of a defense lawyer with deep experience in this very specific practice area. Not all DUI lawyers are familiar with the legal details and special courtroom dynamics and processes that apply in these types of cases. At The Law Office of David J. Givot, however, we have successfully defended against numerous charges of driving on a license suspended for DUI in the past, and we can do the same for you.
Driving On a License Suspended for DUI
California Vehicle Code Section 14601 covers the full spectrum of reasons why a person's driver's license might have been suspended, including for DUI.
The statute specifically criminalizes the act of driving on a suspended license regardless of why it was suspended, but it does not assign the same degree of sentencing severity to each category.
Thus, while you might have your license suspended/revoked for being a negligent driver or for a mental/physical incapacity to safely operate a motor vehicle, driving on a license suspended for DUI (VC Section 14601.2) is the most serious violation in 14601.
The most common reason for a California license suspension is wet or dry reckless driving, but remember that reckless driving is a charge that DUIs are commonly reduced to in plea bargains.
Another distinct but possibly related reason for license suspension is being a "habitual traffic offender." This designation applies when, within a one-year period, you are convicted of two or more "serious" traffic violations, such as DUI, reckless driving, or excessive speeding.
If it was a DUI for which your license was suspended, note that it does not matter if it was for a .08% BAC, a DUID, a .04% for a commercial driver, or a .01% for an underage drinker — it still counts as the same crime. Also in this category are instances of driving on a license suspended due to refusal to submit to a BAC chemical test or a PAS breathalyzer test.
The Elements of the Crime
Unlike most crimes, the elements of driving on a license suspended for DUI are very few (only two): That the defendant's California driver's license was indeed suspended while he/she was operating a motor vehicle; and that the defendant was aware of the suspended status of his/her license.
The first element of the crime is normally easy to prove by simply accessing DMV records. Unless there was a mistake and the wrong license was entered on the list or unless it was a case of mistaken identity, where your vehicle was stolen or being lent to a friend or family member, the prosecutor will have little trouble proving this element.
The second element, that of knowledge of the suspension, is the crux of nearly every case. And, in many cases, there is a "legal presumption" that the defendant had knowledge of the suspension, which break down into two broad categories:
- If the DMV mailed a written notice of your license's suspension to your most recent address and that notice was not returned to sender or left to idle at the address where it arrived, there is a presumption of knowledge of the suspension.
- If a law enforcement officer gave you a written and/or verbal notice of your license being suspended at the time of arrest, or if a judge gave you a verbal notice of the suspension at the time of your sentencing or during a DMV hearing, the presumption of knowledge applies.
However, realize that though a "presumption" of knowledge of the suspension amounts, in most cases, to a presumption of guilt and puts you at a disadvantage, it does not mean your case is unwinnable. It is still very possible that this presumption can be overcome with other evidences, and what the presumption does mean is that you are especially in need of top legal representation.
Possible Punishments for VC 14601.2
Regardless of why your license was suspended, driving on a suspended license is never a felony (but always a misdemeanor), which means while you may face fines and jail terms, you cannot be sent to state prison as part of the sentence.
You can, however, receive a more severe sentence based on your past criminal record, your driving record, and on the particular details of the case.
Below, we look at punishments for a first-time conviction of driving on a suspended license, but note that repeat offenses will increase the sentences:
- License suspended for DUI or refusal to take a chemical test: 10 days to six months in jail and a fine of $300 to $1,000. Mandatory installation of an IID on your vehicle at your own expense is also possible.
- License suspended for reckless driving, alcohol/drug addiction, or negligent driving: five days to six months in jail and a $300 to $1,000 fine.
- License suspended for being a habitual traffic offender: up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Also note that a suspended license does not simply automatically become valid again after the suspension period ends, but there are steps that must be taken to reinstate it, such as paying a fee, paying for additional auto insurance coverage, and formally applying for the reinstatement. To drive on a license past the suspension period but that has not actually been reinstated yet still counts as a violation of 14601.2, provided you were aware the license was still technically suspended.
Common Defense Strategies
At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we handle numerous cases of driving on a license suspended for DUI every year, and we are familiar with the most common and the most successful defense strategies against this charge. These defenses can be used at the DMV hearing or in court, as needed, though it is far better to win the DMV hearing and end the case there.
Here are some of the most common defenses we use in defending 14601.2 cases:
- Lack of knowledge: Your license was suspended, but you were unaware of that fact. It may be the notice was mailed to an old address or got lost in the mail. It may also be that no judge or arresting officer ever verbally informed you of the suspension.
- You had a restricted license: If you had a restricted license and were driving to or from work, school, a DUI class, or anywhere else the judge allowed for, you did not drive on a suspended license. If so, the charges will likely be dismissed.
- Your license suspension was "invalid:" In some cases, if there was erroneous evidence used to get you the conviction that led to your license suspension, it may be possible for a skilled defense lawyer to get the charge of 14601.2 dismissed.
Finally, note that even when a conviction cannot be outright avoided, a good defense lawyer will know how to secure a favorable plea. Oftentimes, we get charges of driving on a suspended license reduced to such lesser violations as "driving without a valid license" or even a mere traffic infraction.
Call Us Today
At The Law Office of David J. Givot, our range of experience in DUI cases extends into the realm of driving on a license suspended for DUI. Attorney David J. Givot understands what it takes to win these cases. He can win you the best possible outcome in each instance, whether that be a dismissal, an acquittal, or a reduced charge and/or sentence.
To learn more or for a free consultation, feel free to contact David J. Givot anytime 24/7 at 888-293-0396. We serve the whole Coachella Valley including Palm Desert. Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, La Quinta, Indian Wells and look forward to helping you win your case.