California Vehicle Code 14601.1(a) VC: Driving on a Suspended License 2300

Under California Vehicle Code § 14601.1(a) VC: Driving on a suspended license, motorists are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle if they know their driver’s license has been revoked or suspended. They could be charged with a misdemeanor, be fined $1,000, spend up to six months in jail, and be found liable for victim’s damages in civil court if they cause a collision.

All motorists are legally required to have a valid driver’s license when operating a motor vehicle. If someone’s driver’s license is suspended or revoked, and they operate a vehicle anyway, there are several potential consequences. If you were involved in a collision with a driver whose license is suspended or revoked, you may be anxious to hold them accountable. Depending on why their license was suspended and whether they knew they were prohibited from operating a vehicle, you may have the right to demand maximum compensation for your damages and suffering.

However, the claims process may be more challenging than you think, particularly if the driver that hit you is also facing criminal charges related to the accident. Fortunately, with the legal guidance and support of a highly experienced California car accident lawyer from Text Kevin Accident Attorneys, you can explore your legal options further. Learn more about how car accident lawsuits work, the impact of CVC 14601.1(a) on your claim, and what to expect as you navigate the claims process when you contact our office to request a 100% free consultation.

“14601.1. (a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle when his or her driving privilege is suspended or revoked for any reason other than those listed in Section 14601, 14601.2, or 14601.5, if the person so driving has knowledge of the suspension or revocation.

Knowledge shall be conclusively presumed if mailed notice has been given by the department to the person pursuant to Section 13106. The presumption established by this subdivision is a presumption affecting the burden of proof.”

Table of Contents

It Is a Crime to Drive With a Suspended License Under CVC 14601.1(a)

Prosecutors may be able to pursue criminal charges under VC 14601.1 if the driver knew that their driving privileges had been suspended or revoked, and they did so anyway.

The state will presume the motorist knew their driver’s license was suspended or revoked if the California Department of Motor Vehicles notified the driver of their suspended or revoked license status by mail to the most recent address, and the notification was not returned to the DMV as unclaimed or undeliverable.

Generally, if this is a first offense, the prosecutor’s office may not opt to prosecute under 14601.1 VC. If the driver that hit you has multiple violations within the last 24 months, it may be more likely that they will be tried.


Have your car accident attorney conduct an extensive investigation into how your accident occurred. Even if the driver that hit you does not face criminal charges, you can still hold them accountable if the evidence shows they are responsible for causing your injuries.

The Penalties for a 14601.1(a) VC Conviction May Vary

A violation under 14601.1(a) is typically considered an infraction or misdemeanor. If convicted, it is at the judge’s discretion to sentence the defendant to summary probation in lieu of jail time. However, they can also opt to sentence the defendant to as much as six months in county jail and order them to pay fines as high as $1,000.

These penalties could increase depending on the reason for the original license suspension.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs – VC 14601.2

If the driver that hit you had their driver’s license suspended or revoked because they were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, under VC 14601.2, they may receive additional sentencing enhancements. In addition to up to six months in jail and $1,000, defendants could also be required to install a court-approved ignition interlock device (IID) and be placed on informal probation for as much as three years.

Refusing to submit to a chemical test or driving with an unlawful BAC – VC 14601.5

If the driver that hit you had their driver’s license suspended or revoked because they refused to submit to chemical testing or were driving with BAC levels that reached or exceeded the legal limit under CVC 14601.5, punishments could include:

  • Six months in county jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • A maximum of three years on informal probation

Reckless, negligent, or incompetent driving – VC 14601

If the motorist’s driver’s license was suspended or revoked due to reckless, negligent, or incompetent driving under VC 14601, penalties could include between five days and six months in county jail, three years of summary probation, and fines or court fees.

Potential Collateral Consequences

The driver that hit you may also be subject to collateral consequences. Even after fulfilling the terms of their sentence, collateral consequences continue to punish them. Since a violation under CVC 14601.1(a) is generally considered a misdemeanor, motorists will not need to worry about the risk of deportation or losing their firearm rights. However, there are several collateral consequences that could impact them, including:

  • Child custody or visitation
  • Being passed over for jobs
  • Trouble finding housing
  • Losing federal student aid
  • Community service requirements
  • Probation requirements

A CVC Conviction May Be Eligible for Expungement

Even if the driver that hit you is convicted under 14601.1 VC, they may have the right to get their record expunged according to the Orange County Superior Court of California. However, the judge will likely only grant their expungement request if they:

  • Completed the terms of their probation
  • Completed their jail sentence
Pro Tip

Consider crimes related to CVC 14601.1(a). If the driver that hit you was in violation of other California Vehicle Codes, we may be able to use this evidence to support your case for liability. Some of the most common criminal charges associated with CVC 14601.1(a) include:

  • Failing to present a valid driver’s license under VC 12951
  • Unlawful use of a driver’s license under VC 14610
  • Without a license under VC 12500

Negligent drivers may find themselves facing stacked criminal charges. This means the driver that hit you could be charged with a violation under 14601.1 VC, 12951 VC, 14610 VC, and 12500 VC, concurrently.

Defending Against California Vehicle Code 14601.1(a)

The defendant will likely attempt to avoid criminal charges and liability in civil court by using one or more of the following defenses:

Their driver’s license wasn’t suspended

If the defendant can show that they had a valid license when they were driving the vehicle, charges under Vehicle Code 14601.1 may not apply. However, your car accident attorney with Text Kevin Accident Attorneys can request copies of the defendant’s driving record to establish that their driver’s license was suspended or revoked at the time of the accident.

They didn’t know their driver’s license was suspended

Motorists can only be convicted of a violation under CVC 14601.1 if they knew their driver’s license was suspended or revoked.

For example, let’s say the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued a license suspension after Joe received a traffic citation that added too many points to his driving record. The DMV would send a notice to Joe’s most recent address. However, if Joe had moved in the last couple of weeks and did not receive this notice, he may not be guilty of a 14601.1 VC violation.

It was absolutely necessary for the driver to drive with a suspended license

Under certain circumstances, the defendant may have driven with a suspended or revoked license out of necessity. Also commonly described as the “guilty with an explanation” defense, if the driver suffered a medical emergency, needed to transport a family member to the hospital, or was forced to operate a vehicle by a third-party against their will, they may be able to avoid a conviction.


Drivers who can successfully defend against violations under 14601.1 VC can still be found liable for your damages in civil court. Their license status has nothing to do with the fact that they caused your collision, and should be responsible for compensating you for your damages in full.

CVC 14601.1a FAQs

Is 14601 a misdemeanor?

While charges under California Vehicle Code 14601 can be tried at the misdemeanor level, it is actually a wobbler offense. Depending on the circumstances of your case, motorists could receive an infraction, which is handled essentially the same way a traffic ticket would be.

Do you get arrested for CVC 14601?

It is possible to be placed under arrest if a driver is stopped for suspicion of violating Vehicle Code 14601(a) driving on a suspended license. At the scene of the traffic stop, law enforcement officials will determine whether the driver should be arrested based on the aggravating and mitigating factors.

For example, if they did not know their driver’s license was suspended, police may be more willing to allow them to call someone to meet them at the traffic stop and drive the vehicle home instead of placing the driver under arrest and impounding their car.

Conversely, if their criminal record demonstrates multiple instances where their drivers license was suspended or revoked, the police may be less willing to work with them and more likely to take them into custody.

How to get my car out of the impound after CVC 14601?

If a driver’s car is impounded due to a violation under Vehicle Code 14601 VC, they will need to visit the impound lot to get their vehicle back. For the tow company to release the vehicle, the driver must be able to show that the vehicle is registered or that they have a one-day moving pass under VC Section 4002. Motorists will also need to pay a release fee of up to $245.

According to California Vehicle Code Section 14602.6, if a vehicle is impounded because the driver was operating the vehicle with a suspended license, the company is required to hold the vehicle for a minimum of 30 days. The impound lot will only be able to release vehicles if the registered owner has a licensed driver with them who can operate the vehicle legally.

Can you get car insurance with a suspended license?

Drivers with a suspended license may still be able to get car insurance, as it is not the driver who is being insured, but the vehicle itself. However, drivers with a suspended or revoked license may find their auto insurance rates significantly increased.

This is because insurance companies will often consider motorists who have suspended or revoked driver’s licenses to be riskier or dangerous drivers. However, motorists should prepare to either apply for a hardship license per the California DMV or include another party as the insured driver to secure auto insurance coverage as required by the California Department of Insurance.

Will my insurance cover me if my license is suspended?

Drivers who have a suspended license should still be covered by their auto insurance policies. If, at any point during the suspension or revocation, the vehicle is stolen or damaged through no fault of the registered owner, they may still have the right to file a claim against their insurance policy. However, if a motorist cannot legally drive, it may be more difficult to maintain auto insurance coverage.

Will insurance cover an accident if your license is suspended?

Insurance coverage can cover an accident even if the driver that hit you has a suspended license. It depends on the liable party’s insurance coverage. If there was no lapse in coverage, the defendant’s auto insurance should still apply. That does not mean the insurance company will not attempt to pushback on your claim, but with help from a powerful car accident attorney, you can hold the insurance company accountable.

However, if the liable party’s insurance policy includes stipulations that the insurance company will not cover damages if the driver is operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license, you may need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to get your damages covered.

Consult a Top-Rated Car Accident Attorney for Help Today

When the driver that hit you was operating their motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license due to suspension or revocation, you may be left feeling frustrated by the claims process. The defendant could be charged with a misdemeanor crime which could delay the processing of your personal injury lawsuit. This is just one of the many reasons why you should not attempt to demand justice on your own. With a respected California car accident lawyer from Text Kevin Accident Attorneys advocating for your rights, you can feel confident that insurance negotiations and your claim in civil court will be resolved as quickly as possible given the circumstances of your case.

Do not let a conviction under Vehicle Code 14601.1(a) VC: Driving on a suspended license prevent you from recovering maximum compensation for your losses. When you are ready to take charge of your finances but are unsure of where to begin, look no further than our legal team. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation as soon as today when you call our law office or complete our secured contact form to get started.

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