Vehicle Code 14610 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to unlawfully use a driver's license. Unlawful use is when a person:
- Possesses a suspended or canceled license;
- Lends a driver's license to another person;
- Refuses to surrender a suspended license;
- Allows a person to unlawfully use a license; and,
- Duplicates or alters a license.
- Jose ignores a driver's license suspension notice from the 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 a person can raise if accused of a crime under this section. These include showing that an accused party:
- 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 highlight the following in this article:
- 1.The Legal Definition of the Unlawful Use of a Driver's License
- 2. Legal Defenses
- 2.1. No Notice or Knowledge of License Suspension
- 2.2. No Possession
- 2.3. Did Not Lend or Knowingly Permit
- 3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing
- 4. Related Offenses
1. The Legal Definition of the Unlawful Use of a Driver's License
According to California Vehicle Code 14610 VC, a person cannot unlawfully use a driver's license. A person unlawfully uses a license when he:
- Displays or Possesses any canceled, revoked, suspended, or fraudulently obtained license;
- Lends his driver's license to someone else or knowingly allows another person to use it;
- Displays or represents any driver's license not issued to him as being his license;
- Fails or refuses to surrender a suspended license to the DMV;
- Permits any unlawful use of a driver's license issued to him;
- Photographs or duplicates a driver's license
- Possesses a photographed or duplicated license; and/or,
- Alters a driver's license.1
Under VC 14610, a driver's license includes a temporary permit to operate a motor vehicle.
2. Legal Defenses
A person accused under Vehicle Code 14610 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get 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.
2.1. No Notice or Knowledge of License Suspension
A party is guilty of a crime under 14610 VC when he fails to surrender a suspended license to the DMV. However, please note that prior to surrendering a license, the DMV must first give that party notice that he has to surrender his license. This notice is typically sent to a person via regular mail.
Thus, a solid defense is for a person to assert that he never received proper notice, and therefore, had no knowledge that his license was in fact suspended.
2.2. No Possession
Recall that a person unlawfully uses a license when he possesses a canceled or suspended license. California law requires a prosecutor to prove possession.
Possession is when a person holds a license or has immediate access to it (when, for example, it is in a pocket or bag). If no immediate access to it, a person can still have possession of a license if he has control over it. An example of control, is when a license is in a person's car or at his home. If a prosecutor cannot prove possession, beyond a reasonable doubt, then a defendant has a solid defense.
2.3. Did not Lend or Knowingly Permit
Vehicle Code 14610 VC says that unlawful use of a license occurs if a person lends his driver's license to another, or knowingly allows another person to use it. This means that a defendant must perform some act showing that he either gave his license away or gave another person permission to use it. A defense, therefore, is for an accused party to show that he did not lend his license or allow someone to use it. For example, an accused could assert that another person stole his license.
3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing
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 for a person to knowingly drive with a suspended or revoked driver's license.3
California law presumes a person knows of a driver's license suspension or revocation if ALL of the following three things are true:
- The California DMV mailed a notice to a party informing him that his license had been suspended or revoked;
- That notice was sent to the person's most recent address, as reported by that person to the DMV; and,
- The notice was not returned to the DMV as undeliverable or unclaimed.4
A person can be guilty of driving on a suspended license if his license was suspended or revoked for any number of reasons, including:
- Being declared a negligent operator for too many points on his license,
- A mental or physical disability, and/or
- A conviction for California DUI.
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 a person's 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 a 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.
Were you accused of the unlawful use of a driver's license in California? Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Vehicle Code 14610, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAWFIRM.
California Vehicle Code 14610(a)(1)-(a)(8) VC.
California Penal Code 19 PC.
California Vehicle Code 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.
California Vehicle Code 14606(a) VC.