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If you have been arrested or are in legal trouble for driving on a suspended license in California, you should seek help immediately. The criminal lawyers in Los Angeles at Lluis Law are specialists in all types of vehicular crimes.

This is equally valid for cases where the driver has an expired license or is driving without a license. 


In this article we explain the reasons why a driver’s license is suspended or cancelled. As well as the consequences and sanctions contemplated in the law, the possible defenses and we will answer frequently asked questions.

Are you allowed to continue driving on a suspended license in California in 2022?

Under Vehicle Code 14601.1(a) VC, it is illegal to drive in California with a suspended or revoked license. 

Although it is considered a misdemeanor, it can carry a sanction of up to 6 months in prison. In addition to a fine of up to $1,000 and payment of court costs.

driving without insurance accident

Sometimes the license suspension is for drunk/drugged driving (DUI) or driving without insurance and getting into an accident. In any case, you will need an expert lawyer to guide you to avoid the repercussions of this type of crime.

Reasons to suspend a driver’s license

A license may be suspended or canceled by the California Department of Motor Vehicles for any of these reasons:

  • DUI conviction.
  • Failing to submit to a DUI chemical, urine, or blood test after being stopped under the influence.
  • Have a warrant for your arrest or fail to appear in court.
  • Being a habitual offender of traffic regulations and having accumulated too many points. 
  • Mental or physical impairments to drive.
  • Not paying a traffic fine.
  • Failure to attend a traffic citation.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Failing to report to DMV an accident in which you were involved.
  • Refusal to pay compensation after a trial for a car accident.
  • Driving without car insurance.
  • Refusal to pay court-ordered child support.
  • Hit-and-run from the scene of the accident.

If you have been given a traffic ticket, in our traffic ticket lawyers in Los Angeles section you will find extensive information on the consequences and possible defenses.

Illegal use of a driver’s license

Under California Vehicle Code Section 14610(a) VC, it is a crime to unlawfully use or alter a driver’s license. This also carries significant significant penalties. 

A person can be charged with this crime if:

  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license.
  • They alter or duplicate a license.
  • Lend their driver’s license to someone else.
  • Allows another person to illegally use a license to drive a vehicle they own.
  • Refuses to give the suspended license to an authority.
driving through the California desert

Can I drive to work with a suspended license?

In some cases it is possible. But it will depend on the type of work you do. If you’re a bus or truck driver, chances are you won’t be allowed. But sometimes you can process and get a restricted license.

With this document, as its name indicates, you will be able to carry out some specific activities that require driving. Such as driving to work, take the kids to school and others while the license remains suspended.

What happens if you are caught driving on a suspended license in California?

The sanction imposed by the authorities for a violation of the traffic law will depend on several factors. The reasons for which the driver’s license was previously suspended will be taken into account. 

Likewise, if it is a case of recidivism or if they committed another crime in parallel. If the person is caught driving with a suspended license it is clear that they will be immediately arrested. 

The law that sanctions this crime is the California Vehicle Code.

Penalties for driving on a suspended license

The California Vehicle Code (VC 14601.1(a), provides different penalties for this crime, depending on the circumstances. 

If the driver had their license suspended/revoked for:

  1. Reckless, negligent or incompetent driving (mental or physical disability). In these situations, a driver could receive the following penalties:
    1. Informal probation for up to 3 years.
    2. Custody in a state prison for 5 or 6 and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 
  2. Conviction of DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs). The statute contemplates the following penalty: 
    1. Informal probation for up to 3 years.
    2. Prison sentence in a county jail ranging from 10 days to 6 months. Plus a fine of up to $1,000, and/or installation of a vehicle ignition interlock device. 
  3. Committing traffic offenses regularly. The sanctions provided include: 
    1. Informal probation for up to 3 years.
    2. Custody in county jail for up to 30 days, and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 
  4. Refusing to take the chemical test/driving with an illegal BAC (.08 or more). The vehicle statute establishes a penalty of:
    1. Informal probation for up to 3 years.
    2. Custody in county jail for up to 6 months and/or fine up to $1,000. 
  5. License suspended or revoked for other reasons. The penalties in these cases includes:
    1. Informal probation for up to 3 years.
    2. Custody in county jail for up to 6 months and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 

The penalties that apply for a second, third or more DUI offenses increase considerably. Re-offending a DUI case in California carries a 2-year license suspension. 

A third DUI will result in a 3-year license suspension and a minimum of 120 days in jail. 

DUI lawyers in los angeles

In our section of Dui Lawyers in Los Angeles you will find extensive information about this crime.

What is the California DMV point system?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles point system is one method of punishing offenders. As traffic violations increase, points are added to the driver’s record.

A license will be suspended if the driver accumulates:  

  • 4 points in a year,
  • 6 points in two years or;
  • 8 points in three years.

In any of these cases, the DMV could suspend the license for 6 months for considering the offender a negligent driver.

Consequences for immigration procedures

Keep in mind that certain crimes in the United States have immigration consequences and are in fact deportable offenses. However, driving on a suspended license in California is not one of them, so it will not affect your immigration status. 

Unless this crime is associated with another, such as leaving the scene (Los Angeles hit-and-run). Especially if after the car accident there are injured or dead people. 

In that case, the defendant may face removal proceedings or be declared inadmissible. If you need an expert immigration lawyer in Los Angeles, at the Lluis Law firm we can also help you.

Possible defenses for driving without a license 

Some of the most common defenses at the Lluis Law firm for our clients in these situations are:

  • Lack of knowledge: The police/prosecution will need to show that the client knew that their license was suspended or revoked. An experienced criminal defense attorney can prove errors in the wrongful address service. Even that the defendant was never warned by the corresponding authority or by a court that they had lost their right to drive. 
  • Restricted license: Another possible defense may be to show that the client was driving with a restricted license, but not suspended, so driving was allowed, albeit with limitations. Restricted licenses allow the driver to travel from home to work or school to take their children. If that is the case, then the driver will not have broken the law. 
  • State of need: There are situations where people can commit a crime but to avoid further harm or to save their own life. For example, driving a vehicle illegally due to a health emergency for yourself or someone else. The offender was seeking to avoid “significant bodily harm or wrongdoing,” by driving to a hospital or seeking help to prevent a crime. 

Additionally, there are other defense options after driving on a suspended license in California. If you need advice on this matter, contact any of our criminal defense attorneys. We are always available to clarify the doubts of our clients.  

driving with revoked lincense in Los Angeles

How long does a penalty for driving on a suspended license in California remain in your record?

A DUI conviction on a person’s criminal record can remain for years or decades. However, there are some forms of possible relief in these cases, through:  

1. DUI criminal record expungement

With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, it is possible to clear a DUI criminal record. This can be accomplished after successfully completing the conditional period and probationary period. 

If the conditions of probation are violated, you will not be able to apply for the record to be expunged from the court record.

Generally, the fulfillment of the conditional period takes from 3 to 5 years, counted from the date of conviction for DUI. The cleaning of judicial records for DUI allows:

  • Withdraw a guilty plea or no plea.
  • Enter a plea of ​​not guilty again.
  • Close the case. 

However, if a thorough investigation is conducted, a DUI conviction is likely to appear. However, the law prohibits any employer from alleging this against the worker to fire them or deny them a job. 

After the DUI is cleaned from the court record, it is as if it never existed. But if you need to process a driver’s license or a professional license, it will reappear there. A DUI conviction expunged from a record can still be argued against a candidate.

2. Period of 10 years to expunge the DUI

A DUI can go away or be “expunged” after 10 years. It means that if you are convicted of a second or third DUI, it cannot be used against you as a repeat offender. 

Is my license automatically reinstated at the end of the suspension?

It all depends on the reasons why your driver’s license was suspended. When it is for DUI, the license holder must fully comply with the sentence that was handed down.

You will then need to provide the DMV with documents proving that you have successfully completed the traffic education programs. This includes proof of insurance, alcohol or drug programs among others. 

How to reinstate a suspended license in California?

To return to driving you need to have your suspended license reinstated by the Division of Motor Vehicles.

To do so, you must meet the requirements listed below. Please note that the delay for license reinstatement will depend on the cause of the suspension.

  • Complete the suspension period.
  • Pay the license reinstatement fee ($31) in person, online, or by mail.
  • Submit evidence of completion of a required course (traffic school or DUI/substance abuse course).
  • Submit proof of auto insurance and SR-22 certificate.

Sometimes it is necessary to retake the written test or driving test depending on the reason for the suspension.

How long does it take for my license to be suspended or canceled after a DUI arrest?

Right after you are arrested on a DUI charge, your license is immediately suspended. A police or traffic officer will require you to surrender your license and will provide a “pink slip” to notify you of the suspension.

Although there is a legal remedy that allows drivers after a DUI arrest to continue driving upon release. For this, notification must be made to the DMV within the first 10 days following the arrest.

Said notice indicates that you will continue driving, invoking the right to a prior hearing, before it is definitively suspended. If you fail to do so, the DMV will proceed to suspend your license 30 days after the date of arrest.

driver's license revoked in los angeles

Can the police hold my license upon arrest?

Yes. The law allows the police officer to take your driver’s license at the time you are formally arrested for DUI. As long as the charge is related to driving while intoxicated with an illegal degree of alcohol in the blood.

The simple presumption by the arresting officer that the driver was driving under the influence of drugs or prescription medication does not apply. In that case they are prohibited from retaining the driver’s license. 

How to check the status of my license?

You can apply to the DMV in person by submitting an application using form INF1125. Also through an online application for which a fee is paid. If you prefer, you can request a license status update by mail and check it there.

Can I get my suspended driver’s license back?

When the suspension period ends, it is possible to request the return of the suspended license.

Before, however, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Payment of all fines and penalties.
  • Successfully serve the prison sentence.
  • Pass the mandatory Drug and Alcohol Education courses, among others.
  • Attend the DMV and provide the requested documentation (vehicle registration, insurance policy and others).
  • Pay license issuance or reinstatement fees.

Can I lose my job for driving on a suspended license?

Committing a crime or infraction is always challenging, especially when the driver’s job is to drive. If an employer allows their employee to violate the law within the company, they become an accessory to the crime.

Driving any motor vehicle is assumed to require a valid license. This is also a basic requirement for any employee who works as a driver in a company. 

Whether or not the employer is aware of the violation, a court will still suspend or revoke their license.

Is it possible to achieve a reduction in crime?

Yes. Through a well-negotiated plea agreement with an attorney, it is possible. A person charged with a felony could see the charges reduced to a misdemeanor or a simple traffic violation.

The prosecution usually does this to save time and resources and if the defendant has a clean criminal record. 

Offenses related to the charge of driving with a suspended license

There are at least three criminal offenses that are related to the charge of driving without a license in California:  

  • Driving without a license – Vehicle Code 12500. It does not necessarily have to be from the state, you can present the one from the state or country of residence.
  • Illegally using a driver’s license – Vehicle Code 14610. Includes:
    • Possess a suspended or canceled license,
    • Presenting the driver’s license to another person.
    • Refusal to surrender the suspended license.
    • Lending another person the license for its illegal use.
    • Falsify (duplicate or alter) the license.
  • Failure to present a driver’s license – Vehicle Code 12951. Including:
    • Driving without a valid license in possession of the driver, or
    • Refusal to show the license to the police.

In any of these cases, the lawyers at Lluis Law will know how to resolve your situation. If you or a loved one is facing charges for driving on a suspended license in California, we can help.