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California Vehicle Code 14601.5 VC – Driving On A Suspended License For Refusal Or High Bac


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerCalifornia Vehicle Code § 14601.5 VC makes it a criminal act to operate a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license when the revocation or suspension was the direct result of a refusal to submit to a chemical test or driving with an excessive blood alcohol concentration.

Refusing to undergo a chemical test while subject to a lawful DUI arrest leads to the automatic suspension of the accused’s driver’s license. Under these circumstances, driving on a suspended license could result in a misdemeanor charge, with penalties depending on the individual’s specific situation, which may include fines, jail time, and a permanent mark on their record.

In the case of driving with an excessive blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, a license suspension occurs as a part of the DUI conviction process. Under such circumstances, a criminal charge could be instituted against the accused under California Vehicle Code § 14601.5 VC.

Elements of Crime – Vehicle Code 14601.5

To secure a conviction for this offense, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant operated a vehicle.
  • The defendant’s driving privileges were previously suspended or revoked due to either failing a chemical test or driving with an unlawful blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
  • The defendant was aware that their driving privileges were suspended or revoked.

The threshold for triggering an administrative suspension of a driver’s license is typically a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher for individuals who are 21 years of age or older and not on probation for any DUI sentence. However, for individuals under the age of 21 or those on probation for DUI, a BAC of 0.01 or higher would be sufficient to initiate a license suspension.


Please note if the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) mailed a notice of suspension to the accused, it is presumed that they had knowledge of the suspension.


Here are two examples of violation of California Vehicle Code Section 14601.5 VC:

A woman has her driver’s license suspended due to unpaid traffic fines. She continues to drive her car to work, knowing that her license is suspended until she pays the fines. She is pulled over by a police officer and charged with driving on a suspended license in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 14601.5 VC.

A man is arrested for DUI and his license is suspended for six months. During the suspension period, he drives a rental car while on vacation in California. He assumes that his license has been reinstated once the suspension period is over. However, he receives a citation for driving on a suspended license as the DMV did not receive proof of financial responsibility and did not lift the suspension. He is charged with violating California Vehicle Code Section 14601.5 VC for driving while his license was suspended.

Penalties – California Vehicle Code 14601.5(a)

A violation of California Vehicle Code 14601.5 is classified as a misdemeanor offense. Specific penalties can vary depending on the circumstances of the case and the judge’s discretion during sentencing.</span

For a first-time conviction of this offense, the potential penalties include:</span

  • Imprisonment in a county jail for a period of up to six months; and/or
  • A fine ranging from $300 to $1,000.

If an individual commits the offense a second time within a five-year period from the first offense, the potential penalties may include:

  • Imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year; and/or
  • A fine between $500 and $2,000.

It is important to note that instead of imprisonment, a judge may exercise discretion and impose misdemeanor probation, which is also referred to as “summary” or “informal” probation.

In addition to the above penalties, an individual charged with a DUI or driving on a suspended license could also face an Administrative Per Se (APS) suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicles, which means the accused might be prevented from operating a vehicle or exercising their driving rights for a specified period.

Defenses to Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License Caused by Refusal or Specified Blood Alcohol Level

If a person is accused under VC 14601.5, they have the opportunity to challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A strong defense can potentially result in a reduction or dismissal of the charge

Common defenses to VC 14601.5 accusations are:

  • No knowledge of suspension: To be guilty under Vehicle Code 14601.5, the accused must have known that their driving license was suspended. Therefore, a strong legal defense is for the defendant to show that they had no knowledge of the suspension. However, it’s important to note that “knowledge” is presumed if the DMV mails a notice of suspension, so the accused must demonstrate that the DMV failed to send the applicable notice.
  • Incorrect Suspension or Revocation: If the DMV made an error or the suspension/revocation was not properly processed, it may be a valid defense. This could include situations where the DMV incorrectly recorded the suspension or revocation, or failed to update their records after a reinstatement.
  • Falsely accused: Unfortunately, false allegations are not uncommon, and people can be wrongly prosecuted based on motives such as jealousy, revenge, or anger. It is a valid defense for the defendant to claim that they were falsely accused of violating Vehicle Code 14601.5.
  • Necessity: If you had to drive to prevent a greater harm, such as in cases of emergencies or medical needs, the defense of necessity may apply. However, it is essential to provide evidence supporting the claim of necessity.
  • Not “driving”: A person is only guilty under this code section if they were actually driving with a suspended license. Therefore, it can be a solid defense for the accused to show that they were not physically driving a car. For example, they can argue that they were merely sitting in the driver’s seat without the engine running.

Please note that these defenses are for general information and should not be considered legal advice. It’s important to consult with a qualified attorney to analyze your specific situation and determine the best defense strategy.

Immigration Consequences

While specific immigration consequences can vary in each case, a conviction for driving with a suspended or revoked license under California Vehicle Code 14601.5 VC may be considered a criminal offense. Certain criminal offenses, including some misdemeanors, may have negative immigration consequences, potentially leading to deportation or denial of entry or naturalization. If you or someone you know is charged with this crime, consult with an immigration lawyer. If you do not have or know of an immigration lawyer, the Tabibnia Law Firm can refer you to one.

Related Crimes:

  • DUI – VC 23152;
  • Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License – California Vehicle Code Section 14601 VC
  • Driving with a suspended license after a DUI conviction – VC 14601.2; and,
  • Driving on a suspended or revoked license causing bodily injury – VC 14601.4.
  • Driving without a License – California Vehicle Code Section 12500 VC

Speak With Criminal Defense Lawyer From Tabibnia Law Firm

Driving on a suspended license in California exposes the accused to significant legal and financial consequences. If you are facing such charges, it is advisable to seek counsel from an experienced DUI and criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and mitigate the potential penalties you may face.

Legal References:

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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