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Driving Without a Valid License in Your Possession

Drivers who are caught driving without a valid drivers license in their possession are subject to California Vehicle Code Section §12500.

It is illegal in California to drive a motor vehicle without a valid drivers license in your possession. This charge is a misdemeanor. California Vehicle Code Section §12500 is different than driving on a suspended drivers license, which is California Vehicle Code Section §14601. Drivers that are discovered to be driving without a valid drivers license face potential penalties of 6 months in jail or a $500 fine.

This code section encompasses a number of different situations. One situation might be that the person never got a drivers license. For example, a recent client, of Hoffman & Associates, from Ukraine was visiting temporarily. She is not a United States citizen and therefore, not being a citizen she did not have the right to get a drivers license. When she was caught driving she was charged with driving without a valid driving privilege.

Another scenario is where someone had a valid drivers license but did not have it in their possession at the time they were stopped. California Vehicle Code Section 12500 covers this situation. Although this might seem quite minor, the consequences are not necessarily minor, including large fines and probation.

An experienced traffic court lawyer, like the lawyers at Hoffman & Associates, have years of experience preventing convictions of these types of charges. Our strategies include: having clients obtain (if they don’t already have them) reinstatement of their driving privilege from the Department of Motor Vehicles) and show them to the prosecutor and get the charges totally dismissed or reduced to an infraction. The result is no probation and sometimes no charge meaning, possible no consequence. Understanding the legal system and implementing effective strategies is essential to creating excellent solutions to our client’s legal problems.

California Vehicle Code Section §12500 states:

  1. A person may not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license issued under this code, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code.

  2. A person may not drive a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license or endorsement issued under this code for that class, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code, or those persons specifically authorized to operate motorized bicycles or motorized scooters with a valid driver's license of any class, as specified in subdivision (h) of Section 12804.9.

  3. A person may not drive a motor vehicle in or upon any offstreet parking facility, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license of the appropriate class or certification to operate the vehicle. As used in this subdivision, “offstreet parking facility” means any offstreet facility held open for use by the public for parking vehicles and includes any publicly owned facilities for offstreet parking, and privately owned facilities for offstreet parking where no fee is charged for the privilege to park and which are held open for the common public use of retail customers.

  4. A person may not drive a motor vehicle or combination of vehicles that is not of a type for which the person is licensed.

  5. A motorized scooter operated on public streets shall at all times be equipped with an engine that complies with the applicable State Air Resources Board emission requirements.