California has a negative reputation regarding the number of vehicle accidents reported in the state each year, as well as the number of underinsured and uninsured drivers. It is risky to drive in busy metropolitan areas, and all drivers must know their rights when seeking accountability for the harm done by others. However, it is equally important for them to know their responsibilities for maintaining their driving privileges.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may suspend or revoke a driver’s license for many reasons. If a driver wants their license back, they must typically complete whatever sentence has been issued to them in traffic court, pay all associated fines and court fees, and meet other criteria before they can qualify for reinstatement.

Driving Without a License in California

Common Causes of Driver’s License Suspension

Under California law, a driver’s license may be suspended or revoked for many possible reasons, including:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. Along with license suspension, a driver convicted of DUI can also face a heavy fine and jail time. If they hurt anyone while they were driving under the influence, these penalties escalate significantly. If a driver is convicted of DUI multiple times within a few years, they could face long-term or permanent loss of their driver’s license.
  • Reckless driving. Excessive speeding, tailgating, and other risky maneuvers behind the wheel not only endanger the reckless driver and all others around them but may also lead to criminal prosecution. If a driver is charged with reckless driving, it is very likely that a driver’s license suspension or revocation will be an element of their sentencing.
  • Failing to report an accident. State law requires a driver to call 911 to report any car accident resulting in property damage, injury, or death. Failure to do so could easily lead to suspension or revocation of their driver’s license.
  • Outstanding warrants. If a warrant is issued for a person’s arrest, the DMV will likely initiate an automatic suspension of their driver’s license.
  • Driving without auto insurance. State law requires all drivers to carry auto insurance. If a driver is stopped and cannot provide proof of insurance, their license will be suspended until they can show proof that they have purchased appropriate coverage.
  • Nonpayment of child support. When a parent owes child support and refuses or fails to repay what they owe, a family court judge may suspend their driver’s license and issue other penalties based on the details of the case.

Once a driver’s license is suspended, the driver will face criminal charges if caught driving without a license. Under California law, driving without a valid license is a “wobbler” offense. This means it “wobbles” between two levels of severity. Driving without a license could qualify as an infraction or a misdemeanor. The designation of the offense typically hinges on why the driver lost their license in the first place. For example, if they only lost their license due to failure to have auto insurance, but they were compelled to drive for a good reason, they may only face an infraction. On the other hand, if their license was suspended for a DUI conviction, it is more likely that they will face a misdemeanor charge for driving without their license.

Even if you are only charged with an infraction for driving without a license, the penalties for this offense could be more severe than they seemed at first. You could face heavy fines along with an increase in your car insurance premiums. Whatever your situation entails, it is best to consult an experienced traffic violations attorney as soon as possible to determine your best options for resolving the situation and avoiding further penalties.

FAQs

Q: What Is the Most Common Reason for Driver’s License Suspension?

A: A driver could face losing their driving privileges for many reasons. The most commonly reported causes of driver’s license suspension in California include DUI, reckless driving, and negligent operation. If your license is suspended, you can consult your attorney to determine whether you have any grounds to seek a restricted license that will allow you to drive to and from work or for emergencies.

Q: Can You Drive in California Without a State License?

A: Many people who live outside the state drive through it for many reasons every day. It is perfectly legal to drive in the state with an out-of-state license as long as the license is valid. However, if you move to California from another state and establish a new residency, you must obtain a California driver’s license within a reasonable time.

Q: Is It Worth Fighting a Traffic Ticket in California?

A: Do not assume that paying the fine for your recent traffic ticket resolves the matter. Drivers accrue demerit points on their licenses when they commit traffic violations, and if a driver accrues too many in a short time, they could have their driver’s license suspended. Therefore, it is always worth consulting a traffic violations attorney to determine whether it would be worth contesting your recently issued ticket.

Q: Can You Permanently Lose Your Driver’s License?

A: It is possible for a driver to permanently lose their driver’s license as a penalty for certain felony DUIs and other serious offenses. If a driver has a criminal record of multiple DUI convictions, multiple hit-and-run violations, or other extreme traffic violations, they could lose their driver’s license with no chance of ever getting it back. It would also be difficult, if not impossible, for them to obtain a new driver’s license in another state if they decide to move.

Easton & Easton has a team of experienced attorneys handling all types of personal injury claims for our clients. When you have been hurt in a traffic accident, the at-fault driver could face losing their license along with liability for your damages. If you recently experienced a traffic accident caused by another driver or any other personal injury, contact our team to schedule a consultation and learn more about the legal services we can offer in this situation.