Anytime you see an Oakland Police Department vehicle in your rearview mirror, you may feel nervous even if you aren't doing anything wrong. If the officer pulls you over, you may go through a mental checklist to find out why you are being stopped. Were you speeding? Did you miss a stop sign? Is your registration expired?
After a traffic stop, you may find out you are being arrested for something you were never aware of. This is common for drivers arrested for driving on a suspended license. Your license may have been suspended without your knowledge. How can you challenge an arrest for something you didn't know about?
The police and prosecutor are not very sympathetic to claims that you didn't know you were doing anything wrong. Instead of trying to explain the situation to the prosecutor or judge, talk to an attorney. An experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney can defend your rights and help you avoid a criminal conviction.
Why Was My Driver's License Suspended?
Your California driver's license can be suspended for many different reasons. Your license to drive is considered a privilege in California, not a right. You can have your driving privileges taken away for various violations, including:
Driving without insurance
Failure to report an accident
Driving under the influence (DUI)
Refusing a chemical test after a DUI arrest
Too many points on your record
Failure to appear in court for a traffic citation
Failure to pay child support
What Are the Penalties for Driving on a Suspended License?
Under California Vehicle Code 14601, “no person shall drive a motor vehicle at any time when that person's driving privilege is suspended or revoked.”
Driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor. The penalties for getting caught driving on a suspended license include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in county jail. A second violation has increased fines and a possibility of up to one year in jail.
If you are driving your car or someone else's vehicle, the vehicle can be impounded. You will have to pay the impound fee and any storage fees to get the vehicle back. You may also have to show a valid license and insurance if you want to get the vehicle out of the impound lot.
I Never Received Notice of the License Suspension
If you try to tell the judge that you never knew your license was suspended, it may not be enough to avoid the criminal penalties.
As the driver, you are conclusively presumed to have notice of a license suspension if the notice was mailed to you. If you say you didn't get the notice or didn't know about the suspension, you can still be charged if you are presumed on notice.
If the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) mailed the notice and the notice was returned as undelivered, you may be able to show the court that you never had notice of the suspension. However, this may depend on the reasons for the suspension.
If your license is suspended because of a drunk driving arrest, you are given notice of the pending suspension during the arrest procedures. When the police officer takes your license and gives you the paper permit, the permit provides notice that your driving privileges will be suspended in 30 days.
How Do You Get Your License Back After a Suspension?
No matter why your license was suspended, you need to get your license back. You need to address the reasons why your license was suspended in the first place. For example, if you didn't have car insurance and were in an accident, you have to pay the reissuance fee and file proof of financial responsibility (SR-22).
If your license was suspended because of a DUI, to reinstate your license you have to complete all the terms of probation and the DMV requirements, including:
Wait out the suspension period
Pay all court fines and fees
Provide an SR-22 proof of financial responsibility
Complete DUI school
Pay the driver's license reissue fees
Can You Stop a License Suspension After a DUI?
Most drivers just assume their driver's license will be suspended after a DUI. If you don't do anything after the arrest, then your license will be suspended. However, your attorney can stop the automatic license suspension with one simple phone call.
If you are arrested for a DUI in the East Bay, the police will generally take your license and give you a temporary permit. The permit is only valid for 30 days. After that, your driving privileges will be suspended. Look more closely at the permit. You can put a hold on the automatic suspension if you request an administrative hearing.
You only have ten days to request an administrative per se (APS) license suspension hearing. You have to make the request in writing to the appropriate DMV office. However, if you act quickly and contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer, they can request the hearing so your license won't automatically get suspended.
After a hearing request, your suspension will be paused until after the hearing. Your attorney can also represent you at the DMV APS hearing. Your attorney can show why the DMV should not suspend your license and may be able to keep your driving privileges.
Can a California Defense Attorney Help Clear My Suspended License?
Trying to explain the situation to the judge may not get you very far. The judge has heard it all. You can claim you never got your mail, your mail was stolen, or you moved and never got the notice. Unfortunately, just claiming you never got notice may not be enough.
An experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney understands what the prosecutor has to prove and how to challenge the elements of the offense. Your California defense attorney can also help you avoid a suspended license in the first place. If your license is never suspended, you never have to worry about losing your driving privileges.
East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 40 years of criminal defense experience and understands the challenges California drivers face every day. Contact a local criminal defense lawyer who understands how to negotiate with the court to help you stay out of jail.