Driving on a suspended license in California

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

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

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

Is driving on a suspended license in California allowed in 2020?

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 penalty of up to 6 months in prison. In addition to a fine of up to $ 1,000 and the payment of court costs.

Sometimes the license suspension is for drunk / drugged driving (DUI) or a driving without insurance 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 can be suspended or canceled by the California Department of Motor Vehicles for any of these reasons:

  • DUI conviction.
  • Failure to undergo DUI blood, urine or chemical testing after being detained under the influence.
  • Have an arrest warrant or not appear in court.
  • Being a regular violator of traffic regulations and having accumulated too many points. 
  • Mental or physical impediments to driving.
  • Not paying a traffic ticket.
  • Failing to attend a traffic citation.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Failure to report to DMV an accident in which you were involved.
  • Refusing to pay compensation after trial for a car accident.
  • Driving without car insurance.
  • Refusing to pay court ordered child support.

Illegal use of a driver’s license

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

A person can be charged with this crime if he or she:

  • Drives with a suspended or revoked license.
  • Alters or duplicates a license.
  • Lends his/her driver’s license to someone else.
  • Allows another person to illegally use a license to drive a vehicle that he/she owns.
  • Refuses to deliver the suspended license to an authority.

Can I drive to my workplace with a suspended license?

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

With this document, as its name implies, you will be able to carry out some specific activities that require driving. This may include driving from home from work and viceversa, taking children to school and others while the license remains suspended.

driving with revoked lincense in Los Angeles

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 he committed another crime in parallel.

If the person is caught driving on a suspended license in California it is clear that he/she will be arrested immediately. The law that penalizes this crime is the California Vehicle Code.

Penalties for driving with a suspended license

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

If the driver had the license suspended / revoked by:

1. Reckless, negligent, or incompetent driving (mental or physical disability). In these situations, a driver could receive the following punishment:

  • Informal probation for up to 3 years.
  • Custody in a state prison for 5 or 6 and / or one of up to $ 1,000. 

2. DUI conviction (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs). The statute contemplates the following penalty: 

  • Informal probation for up to 3 years.
  • Jail term in a county jail ranging from 10 days to 6 months. Plus a fine of up to $ 1,000, and / or installation of the vehicle’s ignition interlock device. 

3. Commit traffic crimes regularly. The planned penalties include: 

  • Informal probation for up to 3 years.
  • 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 illegal BAC (.08 or more). The vehicle statute establishes a punishment of:

  • Informal probation for up to 3 years.
  • 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 punishment in these cases includes:

  • Informal probation for up to 3 years.
  • Custody in county jail for up to 6 months and / or fine of up to $ 1,000. 

The penalties that are applied for a second, third or more DUI offenses increase considerably. Recidivism in a California DUI case carries a 2-year license suspension. A third DUI will be sanctioned with a license suspension for 3 years and a minimum of 120 days in jail.

In our “Dui lawyers in Los Angeles” section you have extensive information on this crime.

What is the California DMV Point System?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles point system is a method of penalizing violators. 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, DMV could suspend the license for 6 months for being a negligent driver.

Consequences for immigration procedures

Keep in mind that certain crimes in the United States have immigration consequences. However, driving with a suspended license in California is not one of them, therefore it will not affect your immigration status. 

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

In that case, the accused may face deportation proceedings or be declared inadmissible. If you need an expert Los Angeles immigration attorney, 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 must demonstrate that the client was aware that his license was suspended or revoked. 

An experienced criminal defense attorney can demonstrate errors in wrong address notification. Even that he or she was never warned by the corresponding authority or by a court that he or she had lost his right to drive. 

  • Restricted license. Another possible defense may be to demonstrate that the client was driving with a restricted license, but not suspended. Therefore, driving was allowed, although with limitations.

Restricted licenses allow the driver to travel from home to work or to 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 in which people can commit a crime but to avoid further harm or to safeguard their own lives.

For example, driving a vehicle illegally due to a health emergency of yourself or someone else. The offender sought to avoid “significant bodily harm or malice,” driving to a hospital or seeking help to prevent a crime. 

However, there are other defense options for drivers with 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.  

How long does it remain on your record that you drove with a suspended license in California?

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

1. Cleaning a DUI criminal record

With the help of an expert criminal defense attorney, it is possible to know  how to clean a criminal record for DUI. This can be accomplished after successfully completing the probationary period. If the conditions of parole are violated, you will not be able to request the removal of the record from the judicial record.

Generally, the fulfillment of the conditional period takes 3 to 5 years from the date of the DUI conviction. The DUI background check allows:

  • Withdraw a guilty plea or non-allegation.
  • File a not guilty plea again
  • Close the case. 

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

After the DUI is removed 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, for example, it will reappear there. A DUI conviction removed from a record can still be alleged against a candidate.

2. 10 year period to erase the DUI

A DUI can be “removed” after 10 years. It means that if you are convicted of a second or third DUI, you cannot be considered as a repeat offender. 

Does my license automatically reset 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 licensee must fully comply with the sentence that was issued to you.

You will then be required to submit documents to the DMV showing that you have successfully completed your traffic education programs. This includes proof of insurance, alcohol or drug programs and so on.

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

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

Although there is a legal recourse that allows drivers after a DUI arrest to continue driving when released. For this, the DMV must be notified during the first 10 days following the arrest.

driving through the California desert

This notice indicates that you will continue to drive invoking the right to a prior hearing, before it is definitely suspended. Failure to do so will result in DMV suspending your license 30 days after the date of arrest.

The law allows the police officer to take a driver’s license when formally arrested for DUI. As long as the charge is related to driving with an illegal blood alcohol degree.

It is not worth the simple presumption of the arresting officer that the driver was driving under the influence of drugs or prescription drugs. In that case he is prohibited from retaining your driver’s license.  

How to check the status of my license?

You can apply to the DMV in person by submitting an application with form INF 1125. Also through an online application for which a fee is paid. If you prefer, you can request an update of the license status by mail and it will be verified there.

Can I get my suspended driver’s license returned?

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.
  • Approve the mandatory courses on Drug and Alcohol Education, among others.
  • Attend the DMV and provide the requested documentation (vehicle registration, insurance policy and others).
  • Pay fees for issuing or restoring the license.

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

Committing a crime or infraction is always a challenge, especially when the driver’s job is to drive. If an employer allows his employee to violate the law within the company, he is complicit in the crime.

It is assumed that a valid license is required to drive any motor vehicle. 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 also suspend or revoke your license.


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