Effective January 1, 2023, the penalty for driving without having a valid license has been reduced. The reduction applies in specific scenarios when an individual has not been issued a valid California driver’s license.
Before the amendment to the law, California law prohibited a person from driving a motor vehicle on a highway unless that person held a valid driver’s license. The code section in question is Vehicle Code section 12500.
A violation of Vehicle Code section 12500 was a misdemeanor. The amendment to the law now makes a first violation an infraction. Multiple violations of Vehicle Code section 12500 can be charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction.
There are two different violations that apply when an individual drives without a valid California license in their possession. Vehicle Code section 12500 applies when an individual has never been issued a license. Vehicle Code section 12591 applies when an individual has a valid license but does not have the license in their possession.
With the change in the law, a violation of Vehicle Code section 12500 is now punished as an infraction by a fine or one hundred dollars.
The violation is a misdemeanor or an infraction if a person has a prior driver’s license suspension for violating certain other vehicle code provisions.
With the change in the law, individuals who could not obtain a license are no longer subjected to harsh criminal sanctions and fines.
Other Vehicle Code offenses will still apply when an individual drives on a license that has been suspended or revoked following a conviction for driving under the influence. In those situations, the person can be charged with violating Vehicle Code sections 14601.1, 14601.5 or 14601.2. These offenses can be punished by custody time and fines that exceed $1,000.00.
If you find yourself charged with a driving offense and have questions, call us.