Driving Without a License


Driving without a License (12500 (a) vc):

There may be several reasons as to why a person may be charged with driving without a valid license. It is illegal to drive a vehicle in the State of California if you never obtained a driver’s license, failed to renew your license upon expiration, or the state has deemed you ineligible to obtain a license (for example, if you are an illegal immigrant).

Penalties (VC 12500 (a) vc):

Driving without a license in California is a “wobbler”. Depending on the circumstances, the prosecutor has the discretion as to charge this offense either as a misdemeanor or a non-criminal infraction. More than likely, the prosecutor will use your driving history to make a decision. However, if in the process of being charged with this offense you are eligible to obtain a valid driver’s license, the prosecutor may dismiss the charges against you.

If convicted with a misdemeanor (12500 (a) vc), you may face up to six months in county jail, be placed on informal probation for a period up to three years, pay fines up to $1,000, with the possibility of your car being impounded.

Legal Defenses (VC 12500 (a) vc):

The burden is on you to prove that you are, in fact, a licensed driver. If possible, the best method in resolving this charge is to obtain a license before your court date. We can help you postpone your case to latest date possible so that you are able to obtain a license. Unless you are a repeat offender, most prosecutors will allow you to do so.

California Vehicle Code 12500 a vc prohibits people from driving in California without a valid driver’s license.

To be valid, a drivers license doesn’t necessarily have to be issued by the California Department of Vehicles. It just must be (1) a valid driver’s license from the state in which you live, and (2) for the type of vehicle (car, motorcycle, commercial truck, etc.) that you are driving.

If the police gave you a citation for driving without a license, then you (or your attorney, if you hire one) must go to court on the scheduled court date. If neither you nor your lawyer show up, the judge will issue a California bench warrant for your arrest.

Although driving without a license is a relatively minor offense, it’s still a misdemeanor. A conviction, if you suffer one, will appear on your criminal record.  The best way to avoid this outcome is to consult with a California criminal defense lawyer who can help get this charge reduced to an infraction or dismissed altogether.

The police can charge you with Vehicle Code 12500 vc if you get caught driving in a situation where:

  • you have never obtained a driver’s license,
  • you failed to renew your driver’s license after it expired,
  • you established residency in California but failed to obtain a California driver’s license, or
  • you are ineligible for a drivers license in this state (if, for example, you are an illegal immigrant…the ramifications of which are discussed below).

In order to understand better California’s driving laws…specifically with respect to Vehicle Code 12500 a vc “driving without a license”…our criminal defense attorneys will address the following topics: