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Vehicle Code 12500 Driving Without a License

California Vehicle Code Section 12500 VC prohibits driving without a driver's license. This includes drivers who never got a license as well as drivers who let their license expire. Unfortunately, driving without a license can be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor. It can also result in getting your vehicle towed away at your expense.  

Drivers who move to California are supposed to get a local driver's license within 10 days. Of course, going to the DMV is not always a priority after moving to a new town. However, failure to get a license after getting pulled over by the police could result in VC 12500 charges. If you were charged with driving without a license or other vehicle violation, contact a local East Bay criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. 

12500 VC Driving Without a License

Under California Vehicle Code Section 12500

“A person may not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license.”

Similarly, a person may not drive a motorcycle unless the person holds a valid driver's license or endorsement issued for motorcycles. 

Exceptions to a Driving Without a License

There are some exceptions to driving a vehicle without a license. Some of those exceptions include: 

  • US government employees in a government vehicle or on government business
  • Nonresidents over the age of 18 with a valid driver's license issued by a foreign jurisdiction or a diplomatic license
  • Visitors with a license issued by their home state or country

California Residents Have 10 Days to Get a License

Under California Vehicle Code Section 12505, a driver's residence is their state of domicile. Any person who is domiciled in California has to get a California driver's license within 10 days of becoming a resident. Evidence of residency may include: 

  • Voter registration
  • In-state resident tuition at a college or university
  • Property tax records

If drivers are only temporarily living in California, this may not count as their domicile. For example, if a student from Arizona goes to Cal State East Bay but they intend to return to Arizona after they graduate, they may still be considered a resident of Arizona, even if they live in California for most of their college years. Domicile and residency can be tricky and may impact in-state tuition, income taxes, and the need for a driver's license. 

Penalties for Driving Without a License

Driving without a license can be charged as an infraction or as a misdemeanor. As an infraction, the penalties include a fine of up to $250. If driving without a license is charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties may include up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 

Failed to Renew a Driver's License

Most drivers are eligible for an online renewal with the California DMV but some drivers may have to go in person to renew their license. In some cases, a temporary paper extension may be used until the driver receives their new driver's license in the mail. Driving with an expired driver's license can result in an infraction or misdemeanor charges under VC 12500.

Many California drivers fail to renew their driver's license and do not realize it until they are pulled over for a traffic stop. Notices to renew a license are generally sent out in the mail 2 months before the expiration period. However, a notice can easily be misplaced, sent to an old address, or stolen by mail thieves. 

If your license expired within 60 days, you can still renew your license. However, if your license expired more than 60 days prior, you may have to apply for a new license, including taking the written test, vision test, and getting a picture taken, with all the associated fees. 

Vehicle Code 12951 VC Failing to Present a License

It is not uncommon to be driving when you realize you left your wallet or driver's license at home. Under California Vehicle Code Section 12951, it is a violation to drive without a license in your possession. It is also a violation to refuse to show your driver's license to an officer enforcing a vehicle code. 

There are plenty of valid reasons why a driver may not have their license with them. The driver could have lost their license or had their wallet or purse stolen. Unfortunately, the police will likely issue you an infraction if you do not have your license in your possession while driving. However, it may only be a “fix-it ticket” if you can show evidence of your license, so you can avoid further penalties or fines. 

If the police make a traffic stop for a traffic violation and the driver refuses to show their license, it may result in misdemeanor charges under VC 12951(b). This can result in penalties including up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 

Help After Driving Without a License Charges

Driving without a license may not seem like a big deal but it can result in criminal charges. If you were pulled over and had an expired license, suspended license, or simply left your license at home, talk to your local criminal defense attorney for help. 

Your experienced attorney can explain your options, challenge the criminal charges, and fight to keep your driving privileges. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 35 years of criminal defense experience. Contact East Bay defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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