Vehicle Code § 14601, states that “No person shall drive a motor vehicle at any time when that person’s driving privilege is suspended or revoked….”

What the People Must Prove

To prove that the Defendant guilty of Vehicle Code § 14601, driving on a suspended/revoked license, the People must show that:

  • 1. the Defendant drove a motor vehicle; and
  • 2. When the Defendant drove, his/her driver’s license was suspended/revoked; and
  • **If any exemption might apply, the People must also show that the Defendant was not excused from driving on a suspended/revoked license.
  • **It is conclusively presumed that you knew that you were driving on a suspended/revoked license if a notice was mailed to your last reported residence as it is your responsibility under California law to report every change of address.


A “motor vehicle” includes a passenger vehicle, motorcycle, motor scooter, bus, school bus, commercial vehicle, truck tractor and trailer, etc.

What Evidence the Defendant Must Produce

The California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) states that “Whether the defendant was properly licensed is a matter within his/her own knowledge”. The defendant must produce evidence tending to show that he/she did not have a suspended/revoked driver’s license. If the evidence raises in [the jury’s] mind a reasonable doubt about whether the defendant’s driver’s license was suspended/revoked, [the jury] must find the defendant not guilty of [California Vehicle Code § 14601].”

What if you have a valid driver’s license in a different state or country?

Under Vehicle Code § 13551(a) and (b), whenever the department revokes or suspends the privilege of any person, whether they are a resident or a nonresident, to operate a motor vehicle, the revocation or suspension shall apply to all driver’s licenses held by that person. Any nonresident that operates a motor vehicle in this state after his/her driving privilege has been suspended/revoked is violating Vehicle Code §14601.

Defenses to California Vehicle Code § 14601

Some Defenses to California Vehicle Code § 14601 are listed in Vehicle Code § 14601.2 and § 14601.5, and include such things as you had no knowledge that your license was suspended/revoked and/or the suspension/revocation having not been lawful in the first place. You should ask your criminal defense attorney whether any of the exemptions may apply in your case.

Punishment for violating California Vehicle Code § 14601

Vehicle Code § 14601 is considered a misdemeanor. If it is your first offense, then you face up to 6 months in a county jail, up to a $1,000 fine, possible informal probation for up to 3 years, and possible impounding of your vehicle for up to 6 months. If it is your second offense within 5 years, you face up to 1 year in a county jail, up to a $2,000 fine, possible informal probation for up to 3 years, and possible impounding of your vehicle for up to 1 year. If you continue to be a repeat offender, the punishments will increase and your vehicle could be subject to forfeiture as a nuisance.

Driving on a suspended/revoked license due to a DUI

If your license is suspended/revoked because of a DUI conviction and you are charged with violating Vehicle Code § 14601, then the court will enforce the same punishments as the ones listed above along with requiring the installation of a certified ignition interlock device on any car you own for up to 3 years.

Immigration Consequences of a Vehicle Code section 12500(a) conviction

Criminal convictions can have drastic immigration consequences, such as deportation, denial of naturalization, exclusion from admission or denial or re-entry. Therefore, if you are not a U.S. citizen and you are charged with driving without a license, it is critical that you speak to a knowledgeable criminal/immigration attorney about your specific immigration status, your current criminal case, and your entire criminal history, to find out what effect a public intoxication conviction would have on your immigration status.