Vehicle Code § 14610 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime to use a driver’s license for an unlawful purpose. A conviction is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1000.00.
The language of the statute reads as follows:
14610. (a) It is unlawful for any person:
(1) To display or cause or permit to be displayed or have in his possession any canceled, revoked, suspended, fictitious, fraudulently altered, or fraudulently obtained driver’s license.
(2) To lend his driver’s license to any other person or knowingly permit the use thereof by another.
(3) To display or represent any driver’s license not issued to him as being his license.
(4) To fail or refuse to surrender to the department upon its lawful demand any driver’s license which has been suspended, revoked or canceled.
(5) To permit any unlawful use of a driver’s license issued to him.
(6) To do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required by this division.
(7) To photograph, photostat, duplicate, or in any way reproduce any driver’s license or facsimile thereof in such a manner that it could be mistaken for a valid license, or to display or have in his possession any such photograph, photostat, duplicate, reproduction, or facsimile unless authorized by the provisions of this code.
(8) To alter any driver’s license in any manner not authorized by this code.
(b) For purposes of this section, “driver’s license” includes a temporary permit to operate a motor vehicle.”
- Jose ignores a California driver’s license suspension notice from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and continues to use it.
- Michelle lends her license to her younger sister, so she has a fake ID.
- Peter makes an exact duplicate of his license and gives it to a friend.
Luckily, there are several legal defenses that you can raise if accused of a crime under this section. These include showing that you:
- Had no notice or knowledge of a license suspension;
- Did not have possession of a suspended or canceled license; and,
- Did not lend a license.
As a misdemeanor, the crime of unlawful use of a driver’s license is punishable by:
- Imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months; and/or,
- A fine of up to $1,000.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. What are the unlawful uses of a driver’s license?
- 2. Are there defenses to a Vehicle Code 14610 VC charge?
- 3. What is the punishment if I’m convicted?
- 4. Related Offenses
1. What are the unlawful uses of a driver’s license?
According to California Vehicle Code 14610 VC, you cannot unlawfully use a driver’s license. You unlawfully use a license when you:
- Display or possess any canceled, revoked, suspended, or fraudulently obtained license;
- Lend your driver’s license to someone else or knowingly allow another person to use it;
- Display or represent any driver’s license not issued to you as being your license;
- Fail or refuse to surrender a suspended license to the DMV;
- Permit any unlawful use of a driver’s license issued to you;
- Photograph or duplicate a driver’s license;
- Possess a photographed or duplicated license; and/or,
- Alter a driver’s license.1
Under VC 14610, a driver’s license includes a temporary permit to operate a motor vehicle.
2. Are there defenses to a Vehicle Code 14610 VC charge?
If you are accused under Vehicle Code 14610, you can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed.
Please note, however, that it is critical to hire an attorney to determine and assert the most effective defense.
Three common defenses accusations are:
- No notice or knowledge of license suspension;
- No possession; and/or,
- Did not lend or knowingly permit.
(Other potential defenses involve police officer misconduct, such as finding the license through an unlawful search.)
2.1. No notice or knowledge of license suspension
You are guilty of a crime under 14610 VC when you fail to surrender a suspended license to the DMV. However, please note that prior to surrendering a license, the DMV must first give you notice that you have to surrender your license. This notice is typically sent to you via regular mail.
Thus, a solid defense is to assert that you never received proper notice, and therefore, had no knowledge that your driving privileges were in fact suspended.
2.2. No possession
Recall that you unlawfully use a license when you possess a canceled or suspended license. California law requires a prosecutor to prove possession.
Possession is when you hold a license or have immediate access to it (when, for example, it is in a pocket or bag). If there is no immediate access to it, you can still have possession of a license if you have control over it.
An example of control is when a license is
- in your car or
- at your home.
If a prosecutor cannot prove possession beyond a reasonable doubt, then you have a solid defense.
2.3. Did not lend or knowingly permit
Vehicle Code 14610 VC says that unlawful use of a license occurs if you
- lend your driver’s license to another, or
- knowingly allow another person to use it.
This means that you must perform some act showing that you either
- gave your license away or
- gave another person permission to use it.
A defense, therefore, is to show that you did not lend your license or allow someone to use it. For example, you could assert that another person stole your license.
3. What is the punishment if I’m convicted?
Under Vehicle Code 14610 VC, the unlawful use of a driver’s license is a misdemeanor offense.
As such, it is punishable by:
- Imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
- A fine of up to $1,000.2
In lieu of imprisonment, a judge has the discretion to impose misdemeanor probation, or “summary” or “informal” probation.
4. Related Offenses
There are three crimes related to the unlawful use of a driver’s license. These are:
- Driving with a suspended license – VC 14601;
- Having a fake driver’s license or identification card – PC 470(b); and,
- Employment of an unlicensed person to drive a vehicle – VC 14606(a).
4.1. Driving with a Suspended License – VC 14601
California Vehicle Code 14601 VC makes it a crime to knowingly drive with a suspended or revoked driver’s license.3
California law presumes you know of a driver’s license suspension or revocation if ALL of the following three things are true:
- The California DMV mailed a notice to you informing you that your license had been suspended or revoked;
- That notice was sent to your most recent address, as reported by you to the DMV; and,
- The notice was not returned to the DMV as undeliverable or unclaimed.4
You can be guilty of driving on a suspended license if your license was suspended or revoked for any number of reasons, including:
- Being declared a negligent operator for too many points on your license,
- A mental or physical disability, and/or
- A California DUI conviction (driving under the influence)
Driving on a suspended license is a California misdemeanor. The potential punishment includes a county jail sentence and substantial fines.5
However, the exact penalty for VC 14601 driving on a suspended license will depend on why your license was suspended or revoked in the first place.
4.2. Having a Fake Driver’s License or Identification Card – PC 470(b)
California Penal Code 470(b) PC makes it a crime to either display or possess any fake identification with the intent to use that fake ID to commit a forgery.6
“Intent to use that fake ID to commit a forgery” means an intent to use the ID to commit fraud—that is, deceive another person, in order to cause loss or damage to a legal, financial, or property right.7
Commission of a crime under Penal Code 470(b) is what is known as a California “wobbler.”
This means that it can be charged as either a
- California misdemeanor or
- California felony,
depending on the circumstances.8
The misdemeanor penalties for this crime are
- up to one year in county jail, and/or
- a fine of up to $1,000.9
The potential felony penalties are
- sixteen months, two years or three years’ imprisonment, and/or
- a fine of up to $10,000.10
4.3. Employment of an Unlicensed Person to Drive a Vehicle – VC 14606(a)
California Vehicle Code 14606(a) is one of California’s laws regarding the negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle.
VC 14606(a) states:
A person shall not employ, hire, knowingly permit, or authorize any person to drive a motor vehicle owned by him or her or under his or her control upon the highways unless that person is licensed for the appropriate class of vehicle to be driven.11
A violation of Vehicle Code 14604(a) is an infraction.
The penalties are:
- A fine of $238.00; and,
- One point assessed on the offender’s DMV driving record
For additional help…
If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Vehicle Code 14610, we invite you to contact us by phone or through our contact form for a consultation.
Our criminal defense lawyers serve clients throughout California, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Riverside, Torrance, Pomona, Glendale, and more. We fight to get your charges reduced or dismissed to keep your criminal record clear.
- California Vehicle Code 14610(a)(1)-(a)(8) VC. See also People v. Molina (Cal. App. 2d Dist., 1992), 5 Cal. App. 4th 221, 6 Cal. Rptr. 2d 736.
- California Penal Code 19 PC.
- California Vehicle Code section 14601-14601.5 VC.
- Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) 2220.
- See California Vehicle Code 14601 VC – 14601.5 VC.
- California Penal Code 470(b) PC.
- Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) 1921
- California Penal Code 470b PC.
- See same.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 14606(a) VC.