Committing offenses under the California Vehicle Code result in severe consequences for the affected party, particularly after the prosecutor proves your guilty involvement. Consequently, you risk facing jail time, mandatory fine payments, and probation terms, among other outcomes. While the criminal justice system is designed to ensure that accused persons are rightfully convicted, you may have been accused based on inaccurate findings. If so, you want to fight the legal charges pressed against you to prevent you from accruing a criminal record. You want to partner with a qualified criminal defense attorney to help you strategize on the best defenses.
Furthermore, your lawyer will play a pivotal role in helping you gather sufficient evidence to discredit the prosecutor’s findings, making you less likely to receive a harsh penalty, if any. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we aim to provide the best criminal defense services for clients facing accusations of driving with a suspended license in Anaheim, California. Thus, with our help, you can look forward to increased chances of a positive case outcome.
The Nature of Driving With A Suspended License Offense
Driving with a suspended license attracts criminal repercussions because of the reasons behind your license suspension or revocation. Typically, a motorist will have their license suspended because of prior misconduct while on the road, primarily if the misconduct puts other road users in danger.
Therefore, section 14601(a) of the California Vehicle Code prohibits drivers from operating vehicles using a suspended or revoked license. Failure to observe the regulations will attract various penalties, depending on the offense you committed and driving with an invalid license.
Although the offense does not necessarily amount to a serious criminal violation, arrest and prosecution often follow for suspects because they will have contravened the law. Nevertheless, the prosecutor handling your case must first establish that your criminal engagements fall within the category of prosecutable issues. If findings reveal that your case is not prosecutable, the prosecution team will find alternative solutions to deter you from repeating the crime.
Instances Where Prosecution Occurs
Persons charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license will need to have engaged in previous traffic offenses that resulted in the initial license suspension or revocation. Consequently, the prosecutor will research your track record upon your arrest and booking to determine the charges that accompanied your license invalidation.
The team will then apply the details to your current case and establish whether you qualify to face trial. Usually, the two main requirements to satisfy are:
- The suspect is a repeat offender-specifically for a traffic-related offense
- The subsequent offense occurred within two years of the initial charge
Once the prosecutor determines that your case involves these two elements, they will open a case file in your name, meaning that the case proceeds to a court trial. Hence, you want to make adequate preparations for the upcoming court proceedings, as your ability to present strong defenses could make a significant difference in the case outcome.
Elements of Crime for the Prosecutor to Prove
Both parties must observe criminal trial procedures after the case proceeds to the hearing stage, as they are set to promote a fair outcome backed by legal justifications. Therefore, the prosecutor must ensure that they work within the legal confines and procedures in various statutes, mainly when handling the burden of proof.
Legal practice and applicable laws in the criminal law practice area impose the burden of proof on the prosecutor, meaning that they have to show you are guilty of the charged offense. Moreover, the burden of proof is set to a specific standard that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, the presiding judge and jury will only decide against you if the prosecutor successfully presents a case that leaves no doubt about your criminal activities.
Since the burden and standard of proof are set high, the prosecution team works closely with investigation officers and other parties closely involved in your case. These may include witnesses, court staff, and experts who can provide credible entries that prove you are guilty of driving with a suspended or revoked license.
You should also note that the prosecution team will have to prove your guilt based on all elements of crime associated with the offense. Therefore, you want to fully understand the elements of a crime necessary to fully convict you of driving with a suspended license. With the information, you will have the chance to draft valid defenses that increase your chances of acquittal or a lower sentence.
You Operated a Motor Vehicle
Firstly, the prosecutor must prove that you drove a motor vehicle and that you were in control of it at the time of arrest despite having an invalid license. Providing evidential sources for this element demand fairly straightforward presentations, as the prosecutor will only need to show you were driving.
Hence, witness statements and testimonies from parties who saw you driving before your arrest are relevant because they will strengthen the prosecutor's claims against you. Further, surveillance footage from highway cameras or patrol stations is also an acceptable evidential source that may help strengthen the prosecutor’s case.
Reports from the arresting officer will also specify if you were behind the wheel when apprehended, which will be useful in showing that you violated the law. The prosecutor will exercise discretion in determining the most suitable evidential sources in a case-by-case system, as each matter presents different circumstances.
Your License Was Revoked or Suspended When You Were Driving the Vehicle
Secondly, the prosecutor will need to prove that your license was invalid during our arrest after being found driving illegally. This is a crucial element to prove because it provides the basis for your prosecutor and the reasoning behind you being a repeat offender.
By establishing this criminal element, the prosecutor will have shown that you contravened the law by establishing this criminal element, specifically section 14601(a) of the Vehicle Code. Thus, they will rely on various argument points and evidential sources to establish your involvement in the offense.
Reliable sources often come from the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records that include your driver’s license status. Since the DMV is tasked with updating the status to suspended or revoked following a court order, they will appear in court as a reliable source of evidence to prove that you did not have legal access to your driving privileges.
On top of this, the prosecutor can also trace the initial court determination that issued a license suspension or revocation order as additional proof of the license status. Since your case is most likely presented to the same court location where the initial matter was heard, the prosecutor will have an easier time locating the records and preparing them for court presentation.
Your criminal attorney can help ascertain that the court records are accurate by requesting a copy of the proceedings during the discovery hearing. The initiative to confirm the previous documents goes a long way in ensuring you do not receive unfair accusations and delays based on inaccuracies of the information presented by the prosecutor.
The arresting officers will also be key witnesses to help establish that your driver's license was suspended or revoked at the arrest. They may appear in court to provide oral testimony or prepare affidavits and police report copies to support the prosecutor’s claims. You want to note all the evidence relied upon by the prosecutor to help you prepare helpful defenses or counterarguments that introduce doubt.
You Knew that Your License has Expired or Revoked When Driving
Lastly, the prosecutor should prove the element of knowledge, as it is crucial to conclude your case and inform the judge’s determination. All criminal cases must show that the suspect was aware they were breaking the law yet proceeded with the crime regardless.
Thus, California law requires the prosecution team to show that the suspect knew the suspended or indisputably revoked license. Since the prosecutor is tasked with ensuring the quality of their presentation is likely to win the case, they rely on the following guidelines to establish knowledge:
You Received a Notice of Suspension or Revocation from the Department of Motor Vehicles
As discussed, the DMV is responsible for making any follow-up action based on court-issued orders that affect a motorist’s driving privileges. Hence, they update the license status in their system and ensure that the affected party receives a notice of their license suspension or revocation on time.
Posting the notice through the mail is the most efficient way of ensuring that the recipients access the document, as it is posed to their home address. The DMV can rely on the argument that the notice recipient could not have missed it, as it was delivered to their house.
This provides a more substantial surety of receipt than other communication means like phone calls, emails, fax, and texts. The targeted person may argue that their phone was off, they lacked access to a fax machine or any other reason. On the other hand, delivering the notice to their residence informs them of any excuse they may have for not accepting it.
The Notice Delivery was Made to Your Current Address
Furthermore, the prosecutor should show that you were well-positioned to receive the notice, as it was delivered to your current address. Proving this element is especially important for the prosecutor, where the accused denies having received the notice documents by claiming they moved houses.
Often, the prosecutor will call on the DMV personnel tasked with sending the notice to your house to testify on how they made the delivery. When they provide the address details they referred to when sending you the notice, the prosecutor will compare it to any relevant documents that indicate your current place of residence. For example, the prosecutor team may liaise with investigation officers to find receipts or banking details that include your residence.
If the addresses match, the prosecutor will have established that you were untruthful about changing your address, making it easier to prove your guilt. Conversely, if proof of a different home address is available, it can be enough to absolve you of any criminal repercussions, as you will have proved your lack of knowledge on having an invalid license.
No Returns Were Made to the DMV for Non-Delivery
Lastly, proof of your knowledge and receipt of the suspension notice may come from the lack of returned documents to the DMV. The standard procedure requires the person delivering the mail to return it if they are unsuccessful in finding your residence or any other location where you may be found, like your workplace.
Therefore, the presiding judge will rely on an implied motion to establish that you received the license suspension/revocation notice if the DMV did not report an unclaimed document. However, your attorney may argue that an unknowing or malicious third party received the notice and retained the information, leading to your lack of prior knowledge. If so, the prosecutor will have to reevaluate their case or concede and allow you to receive a favorable case outcome.
Applicable Defenses to Your Case
After the prosecutor concludes their case, you will have a chance to present your defenses and cast reasonable doubt on the arguments brought before the court. You should note that the defense hearing is essential for you, as it may influence the judge to decide in your favor. However, if the counterarguments are not well-founded, your case will likely conclude by having you found guilty.
Hence, your criminal defense attorney will engage you in developing applicable defenses and conduct thorough research on your behalf. Once all the necessary details are available, your attorney will compile them and prepare a court presentation.
You want to be as involved as possible in the defense development stage, as your input can help your attorney improve on the initial findings. Therefore, if you have additional details to provide after viewing the complete draft of the statement of defense, you want to inform your attorney as soon as possible.
You Drove the Car with an Invalid License Out of Necessity
Sometimes, emergencies may compel you to contravene legal provisions, specifically those prohibiting you from driving with a revoked or suspended license. This may be because you are the only person available to respond or in cases where you try to salvage yourself from a harmful situation.
For example, if your loved one was hurt and required urgent medical attention, you may have needed to transport them to the hospital by the fastest means possible; by driving. Thus, your actions are justifiable, even if they still contravene legal provisions. Alternatively, you may have had to escape a dangerous situation, with your only option being to drive off. Similarly, your actions may be technically unlawful, but they will be justifiable.
Despite this, you should note that the court expects you to provide proof of the urgency that required you to drive with a suspended or revoked license. For example, if you claim that you or a loved one requires immediate medical attention, you must show that you went to the hospital and received the needed treatment.
You can consolidate various documents like parking receipts at the hospital, medical reports like prescription sheets, and other doctor’s reports. It is advisable to have these documents in their regional format to dispel any claims or suspicions of fabricating evidence. Although the process may seem long and demanding, it is better than inducing any doubt on your end, as the prosecutor will have already introduced the facts alleging your guilt.
Once your criminal defense lawyer presents the urgency to drive as a defense, the presiding judge will decide based on the findings. Usually, most case outcomes will lower the penalty you face instead of making a full acquittal.
This is based on the findings that you still contravened the law despite having valid reasons. With an experienced attorney, you can have your penalties reduced to the minimum, provided the defense is well-founded and your attorney’s bargain is successful.
You Were Unaware of the License Suspension or Revocation
Since having knowledge of your revoked or suspended license amounts to deliberate contravention of the law, you will need to provide sufficient proof for claiming you were unaware of the notice. Noteworthy, it can be challenging because parties are summoned to the DMV or in court before their licenses are suspended. Therefore, claiming not to know the fact is not easy to prove unless valid reasons are provided.
When working on your case, you can request your attorney to consolidate any information that shows you did not receive the suspension notice, nor were you summoned by any officials to answer for previous violations. You will also need to make separate investigations to determine whether a mistake of identity is the reason for inconsistencies that prevented you from learning of your license suspension.
Upon finding the relevant details, your attorney should present them by forming a credible case and well-structured arguments. Any signs of inconsistency are enough to warrant the judge to issue a verdict against you, so taking time to undertake your due diligence is necessary.
There Was no License Suspension or Revocation
Finally, you can present a valid argument that disputes the entire case basis, meaning that you will deny having your license revoked or suspended. It is advisable to pursue the defense only if you strongly believe your case was founded on a mistake or inaccurate accusations. Furthermore, you want to ensure sufficient proof, as relying on this defense will contradict the prosecutor’s entire case.
Therefore, you will need to have your criminal attorney fully engaged with access to resources and evidence that can help solidify your claims. For example, if the matter is founded on mistaken identity, you can liaise with the DMV to match the correct identity with the issued license suspension or revocation orders. Alternatively, if you claim that misconduct through false accusations resulted in the current case, you should provide evidence of it.
Doing so will help build credibility and even prompt the presiding judge to issue orders on further investigations. This is because determining your claims of unfair accusations would otherwise amount to an unfair court determination.
Penalties for Driving With A Suspended License
After presenting your defenses, the presiding judge will need to exercise discretion while referring to various legal guidelines to reach a determination. Usually, the bottom line in reaching a case outcome is checking whether the prosecutor delivered on the standard of proof. This means that you will only be found guilty of driving with a suspended or revoked license if the prosecution team proved all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
The judge will consider the initial offense that resulted in your license suspension or revocation when issuing a sentence, as different violations attract varying penalties. Therefore, you want to learn about the various outcomes beforehand to help you prepare for the outcomes as required.
Driving with a suspended or revoked license amounts to a misdemeanor in California, meaning that penalties may range from jail sentences to court fines. Parties whose license was suspended because of a prior DUI face up to six years in county jail or a court fine of $1000.
Further, if the reason for your license suspension was driving negligently or incompetently, you may face informal probation lasting up to three years, a $1000 maximum court fine, or a county jail sentence ranging between five days to six months.
Contact a Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
When you or a loved one faces criminal accusations for driving with a revoked or suspended license, you want to seek legal assistance as soon as possible to help you avoid the subquery legal repercussions. An experienced attorney will present strong defenses on your behalf and help you seek justice, or avert harsh penalties, so you want to find the best team available. With California Criminal Lawyer Group, you will benefit from excellent legal skills and experience. We have partnered with hundreds of clients in Anaheim, California, helping them fight off criminal accusations for driving with a suspended license. For more information on our services, call us today at 714-766-0965.