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How to defend against or avoid penalties for driving with a suspended license

A person who knowingly operates a vehicle with a suspended or revoked driver’s license may be charged with a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to six months in jail, fines and other expenses that can cost $1,000 or more. Driving with a suspended license is a traffic violation under California law and can be triggered by many situations, including:

  • DUI traffic stop
  • Driving without insurance
  • Reckless driving
  • Failing to report an accident
  • Refusing to take a drug or alcohol test
  • Failing to show up for a court appearance

What are some common defenses?

While these cases may appear to be straight forward, there are legitimate legal defenses, such as:

  • The driver was not aware that their license was suspended
  • Their license was not suspended or revoked at the time they were pulled over
  • The defendant had no choice but to drive due to an emergency or other extenuating circumstances

When a defendant claims they did not “knowingly” drive with a suspended license, prosecutors must prove that these three conditions are true:

  1. The California Department of Motor Vehicles mailed a notice informing the defendant that their license has been revoked or suspended
  2. The DMV sent the notice to the defendant’s most recent address
  3. The notice was not returned as “undeliverable” or “unclaimed”

Defendants may be eligible for pretrial diversion

In some cases, first-time nonviolent misdemeanor offenders may be able to avoid penalties through pretrial diversion. It’s advisable to work with an experienced San Diego defense attorney who understands how diversion works and can negotiate with prosecutors.

Diversion often results in a defendant attending education classes or doing volunteer work in return for the charges being dropped and having their record sealed. This can help avoid potentially damaging personal and financial repercussions.

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