Driving on a Suspended License

Driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor offense in all states including California. If convicted, you can be sent to jail.

Reasons for Suspension 

The Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend your driver’s license for many reasons. The most commons reasons are:

  • reckless driving
  • driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • physical or mental disability that could impair safe driving
  • negligent operation
  • refusing to submit to a blood or chemical test when stopped for DUI

Administrative Action

The action to suspend your driver’s license is an administrative action independent of the lawsuit against you for the underlying reason for the suspension. You may be entitled to reinstatement of your driver’s license if you comply with certain requirements which can vary depending on the underlying reason for the suspension. The outcome of the lawsuit against you will have no bearing on the administrative action to suspend your driver’s licenses and courts seldom interfere with the suspension.


If you are caught driving a vehicle on a suspended license, you will be charged with an offense under the California Vehicle Code. If convicted you can be sent to jail and made to pay huge fines. The severity of the penalty will depend in the underlying reason for the suspension. If it is your first time, the jail term can vary from 5 days to over 6 months. The fine can vary from $300 to $1000. In case of a second offense within 5 years, the jail term will vary between 10 days and more than one year while the fine can range between $500 and $2000. If you are granted probation for the second offense, then you can be confined to 10 days in a county jail as a condition of probation. Besides the underlying reason for suspension, the court will also consider other factors such as your driving record and your criminal history while sentencing.

Fighting a Suspended License Ticket in Court

In the lawsuit against you for driving on a suspended license, the prosecution must prove that you were driving on a suspended license and that you had knowledge that your license has been suspended. UnderCalifornialaw, you are presumed to have knowledge of the suspension of your driver’s license if the Department of Motor Vehicle sent you a notice of the suspension by first class mail. You will also be presumed to have knowledge of the suspension if the police officer who arrested you for the violation that resulted in the suspension informed you of the suspension or the judge hearing your case for the underlying violation informed you about the suspension at the time of sentencing. The prosecution bears the burden of proof – prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. If you can dispute the prosecution’s claim that you had knowledge of the suspension, then you may be able to fight the charge of driving on a suspended license.


You may have defenses available to the charge of driving on a suspended license. The defenses will depend on the circumstances of your case. Sometimes the suspension of your driver’s license itself may be illegal. In such cases, you can use it as a defense. If your driver’s license has been reinstated by the time your case goes to trial, you may be in a position to use it as a defense.

Plea Bargain

If you cannot fight the charge against you, you can enter into a plea bargain or enter a no contest plea. If you enter a no contest plea, the court will proceed to sentence you based on the evidence before it. If you want to enter into a plea bargain, you must negotiate with the prosecution attorney. In a plea bargain, you can plea guilty to a lesser charge. You can even try and convince the prosecution to drop the charges against you. Even when you plead no contest or enter into a plea bargain, the court can order you to install an ignition interlock on your vehicle for up to three years.

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