California Driving Law - The Difference between Driving without a License and Driving without a License in Your Possession

Posted by Neil Shouse | Nov 23, 2009 | 0 Comments

Although this difference seems obvious, people often mistake the non-criminal infraction of driving without a license in one's possession for the more serious misdemeanor offense of driving without a valid license.

California Vehicle Code 12951 penalizes driving without a license in your possession. As previously stated, this is a non-criminal infraction that prosecutors must dismiss if you later prove that you were validly licensed at the time of your offense.

California Vehicle Code 12500 VC driving without a valid license is typically charged as a misdemeanor. This offense is charged when…at the time you are caught driving…the California Department of Motor Vehicles — or the DMV from another state — hasn't issued you a license.

As a misdemeanor, California Vehicle Code 12500 VC driving without a license subjects you to a six-month county jail sentence and a maximum $1,000 fine. However…if after you are charged with this offense…you take affirmative steps to secure a valid driver's license, your VC 12500 misdemeanor will likely be reduced to a non-criminal infraction or dismissed altogether. (See our article, "What are the penalties for driving without a license in California?")

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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