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Penalties for driving without a license in California

A person caught by California authorities driving without a license issued by the state could face penalties ranging from a fine to jail time. The exact circumstances determine the severity of the punishment.

Someone who has a valid license but did not physically have it when stopped by police could receive an infraction. The person must bring the valid license to the court and pay a fine up to $250. The court will then dismiss the charge, and the person will avoid a criminal record.

People caught driving with an expired license or an out-of-state license after moving to California could potentially face a misdemeanor charge. Prosecutors, however, could reduce the charge to an infraction and give an offender the chance to acquire a valid license. Someone who never obtained a license but was driving anyway might receive a similar outcome.

When police encounter people driving with canceled, suspended or revoked licenses, more serious penalties could apply. A misdemeanor charge will result, and a court might impose anywhere from five days to six months in county jail. Costly impoundment of a vehicle and up to three years of probation might occur as well. People who lost their licenses due to DUI convictions could expect to serve a minimum of 10 days in jail after their first offenses.

An alleged traffic offender who needs to maintain driving privileges and keep a clean record could seek the representation of an attorney. A criminal defense attorney familiar with misdemeanors or traffic citations could recommend how to control the consequences and achieve compliance. The advocacy of an attorney might convince a court to reduce a charge and grant an opportunity to restore driving privileges.

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John Patrick Ryan has been practicing law for over 20 years. Experienced in criminal law. U.S. Navy Veteran.