VC 14601.1 (a) – Driving Vehicle on a Suspended License
There are several different ways a person can be charged with driving on a suspended license. The most common charge is 14601.1(a), which is usually charged because of an unpaid traffic ticket. The key element to prove a charge of driving on a suspended license is knowledge. The prosecution must prove that the person knew his or her license was suspended at the time they were driving. When a license is suspended because of an unpaid ticket, often the person has no idea that his or her license was suspended. In that case, the person is not guilty of driving on a suspended license, however they are probably guilty of the lesser included offense of VC 12500(a), unlicensed driver. Both VC 14601.1(a) and VC 12500(a) can be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction.
A conviction for driving on a suspended license in Orange County carries a minimum base fine of $300 up to a maximum base fine of up to $1,000. After penalty assessments and fees are added, the actual amount owed on the minimum $300 base fine is over $1,200. A conviction also results in two points on his or her driving record, and those two points remain there for seven years. This is very harsh, as a typical one-point driving offense such as a stop sign or speeding ticket remains on the record for only three years. If the case is charged as a misdemeanor, it will also mean a permanent mark on the criminal record. It is also possible to be sentenced to jail for up to one year on a conviction for a VC 14601.1(a). However, unless a person is a habitual offender, or has a lengthy criminal record, it is very unlikely that any jail time would be required.
There are many ways to fight a driving on a suspended license charge. The first element that can be challenged is the knowledge of the suspension. If the driver can show that there is a reasonable doubt that he or she knew about the suspension, the case should be dismissed or reduced to an unlicensed driver charge. A conviction for an unlicensed driver (VC 12500(a)) usually carries a much lower fine and does not result in any points on a driving record. Another common way to fight a driving on a suspended license charge is to participate in a deferral program offered by the district attorney. There are several different such programs in Orange County. A person must have a limited criminal history to participate in a deferral program. Generally, a deferral program allows a defendant to “earn” a dismissal of the case. Every case is different, and the programs vary from court to court.