Los Angeles Criminal Attorney handles cases such as driving offenses for clients in Los Angeles, CA. If the crime is your first-time and there are no serious or aggravating factors, you may be charged with a misdemeanor driving offense, which carries lesser penalties compared to felony charges. You may also face an infraction, and be required to pay infraction fees. Our attorneys are experienced in handling these charges, whether you are facing a felony or misdemeanor driving offense. We may also possibly help you get your felony or misdemeanor charges reduced to a lesser driving offense.
Misdemeanor Driving Offenses
Traffic offenses often range from the very minor infractions to misdemeanor offenses and the more serious felonies. However, most offenses are minor and can be fixed with a ticket since they are non-moving violations. Most misdemeanor offenses are less serious and are not treated as a criminal violation. Defendants’ facing these charges will get a maximum penalty of one year in county jail. The misdemeanor could be either status or moving violations. The most common misdemeanor driving offenses include:
(California Vehicle Code 12500 (a)) Driving Without a License
Pursuant to Vehicle code 12500 of California, people who are driving on highways should be in possession of a California driver’s license. However, there are individuals who are exempted to this law including people driving farming tractors, the government officials operating government controlled vehicles, visitors over eighteen years who possess their home state driving license, non-residents of California who hold a diplomatic license for a car similar to that they are driving, and non-residents over twenty-one years transporting hazardous material from another state or Canada.
For a prosecutor to charge you with driving without a license, there should be proof that you were driving on a street or highway, and you did not possess or produce a valid driver’s license or you were required to legally obtain a California driver’s license. The license does not necessarily need to be issued by the DMV for it to be valid. If it is currently issued by another state and it is for the specific vehicle you are driving, you cannot get charged with driving without a license. During the case hearing, the prosecutor is required to prove all the elements without a reasonable doubt. In a VC 12500 case, the prosecution does not have a duty to prove you drove without a license. It is your duty as a defendant to prove that the allegations are false and show that you did have a license.
Most charges of driving without a license arise from the failure of the defendant to obtain a driver’s license, failing to renew your expired driver’s license on time and establishing California residency and not obtaining the license within the stipulated time. In the case where you possess a valid license but fail to produce it when asked to do so by traffic officers, you will get arrested and charged under Vehicle Code 12951. This offense is treated as a non-criminal infraction and the penalty is a fine of $250.
If you are convicted for driving without a valid driver’s license, you will get punished by up to three years’ probation, a fine of up to $1000, spending up to six months in a county jail and impoundment of your vehicle for a period of 30 days if you had a prior conviction for VC 12500. The defendant’s criminal history is the main determinant of how the offense will get charged. For a first time offender, driving without a license is charged as an infraction, but for subsequent offenses, you will get charged with a misdemeanor.
(Vehicle Code 22350 VC) California Basic Speeding Law
The California speeding law requires drivers to drive at a reasonably safe speed. Speed is deemed reasonable depending on the circumstances such as the type of road you are driving on and the population of the area. Vehicle code 22350 outlines two different speed limits and the law of their violation is treated differently.
Absolute Speed limit
The absolute speed limits restrict drivers from driving with a speed exceeding 70 miles per hour on ways marked for the specific speed, 65 miles per hour on highways, and 55 miles per hour on undivided highways with two lanes. In the case where you violate these laws, you are automatically considered as violating vehicle code 22350.
“Prima facie” Speed Limits
The California presumed limits are set in the vehicle code 22352. These speed limits are 15 miles per hour in rail crossings, alleys, highways whose visibility is less than 100 meters, and 25 miles per hour around schools or residential areas. Since these speed limits are presumed, exceeding them doesn’t necessarily mean you violated the law.
The possible penalties for violating the California speed limits include receiving a speeding ticket. The exact amount charged for the ticket will depend on the speed with which you were driving and will include penalty assignment and fines, the risk of driver’s license suspension, and additional points to your driving record. If a driver’s speed exceeds 100 miles per hour, the offense will attract a fine of $500 or a possible 30 days license suspension for a first offense and $750 ad a six-month license suspension for a second offense. A third offense will result in $1000 fine and a license suspension of up to one year.
(California Vehicle Code 14601) Driving on a Suspended License
Your driver’s license can get suspended due to reckless driving, a health condition (both physical or mental) that can affect your driving, being an incompetent motor vehicle operator, and conviction for driving under the influence of drugs.
You are considered to have violated Vehicle code 14601 if your driver's license was revoked or suspended and you went ahead to drive your vehicle with the knowledge that you didn’t have driving privileges.
You would be aware of the license revocation or suspension if the DMV had mailed a license suspension notice to your latest reported address and did not get it back as unclaimed.
Since the knowledge fact is presumed, you can challenge that presumption and increase your chances of getting a case dismissal if you actually did not know of the suspension. Even when the period of license suspension is over, you can get charged with violating vehicle code 14601 if you haven’t followed the correct procedure to reinstate your license.
Driving with a suspended license is always treated as a misdemeanor. However, the exact penalties will depend on the reason your license was suspended as well as your driving history in regard to the prior license suspension. If your license was revoked or suspended for reckless driving, you will pay fines of up to $1000 and spend between five days to six months in jail. For a DUI license suspension, you will pay $1000 of fines, spend up to six months in county jail and a compulsory installation of an ignition interlock device if convicted.
Felony Driving Offenses
Although the largest number of traffic offenses in California are minor, there are a few more serious acts which are treated as felonies. For an offense to get treated as a felony it must have caused a great bodily injury, severe property damage or even led to death. According to the California criminal law, felonies are punishable by a sentence of over one year in prison and hefty fines. However, the exact penalty will depend on the particular offense committed and the amount of damage caused.
(Vehicle Code 20002 VC) ‘Hit and Run’
If you are involved in an accident that causes damages, you have three duties to fulfill. You should stop your vehicle immediately, provide your identification information to the other parties and share your vehicle and driver’s license registration details. In case you were driving someone else’s car, provide their current address and information. You are required to perform these duties even if you were not responsible for causing the accident. Regardless of where the accident occurs and the type of property you damage, these duties remain the same.
Under California Vehicle code 20002, hit and run occurs when you were driving a vehicle and caused an accident. As a result, you damaged someone’s property or caused bodily injury to someone else, then you willingly fled the scene without doing your duty of helping the injured people and talking with the police. Most drivers who hit and run have the aim of evading justice and responsibility for their actions. It is crucial to understand that even when you stopped after the accident but failed to provide the correct information of the occurrences to the police, you can still get convicted for hit and run. However, on the occasion where you flee but decides to return to the scene, the prosecutor’s decision to file charges against you is dependent on your criminal record.
If you are convicted for hit and run, you will face penalties including up to three years of informal probation, a period not exceeding six months in jail, requirement to compensate the individual whose property was damaged or suffered injury, two points on your driving record as per the California Department of Motor vehicle and fines of up to $1,000. Unless the circumstances were aggravating, such as driving under the influence of drugs, a defendant of hit and run will not spend any significant amount of time in jail. The court will allow them civil compromise, whereupon compensating the individual who suffered the damages, the criminal charge of a hit and runs misdemeanor may be dismissed.
If you are facing hit and run charges, it is crucial to seek legal representation from a criminal attorney. With the help of this attorney, you can present common defenses such as
The only property damaged was yours. This could be used in the case where you were driving a small car and hit a larger car, causing damage to your car and the other one was left unharmed. Similarly, if you hit someone’s fence and the fence was undamaged, you don’t have the liability to stop.
Lack of knowledge. With the help of your attorney, you can argue that you were not aware that you caused an accident when you did, hence, you did not flee the accident scene. If you were driving a larger vehicle, the impact on smaller vehicles may not be felt.
(California VC 23152-23229.1) Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
California DUI laws prohibit all drivers from operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. You will get arrested and prosecuted for DUI if you are driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more for adult drivers and 0.04% for commercial drivers. Also, there is a zero tolerance for underage drinking and driving, hence, a BAC of 0.01% or more will get you arrested. This applies to drivers below the age of 21 years.
The traffic officers will stop your vehicle if they have a reason to believe that you are intoxicated. This may be due to behavior they observed such as swaying from one lane to another or avoiding the red lights. After stopping, you will be required to take Breathalyzer tests which show the percentage of alcohol through your breath. You are asked to take field sobriety test which may include supporting your body on one leg or walking in a straight line. Upon reaching the police station, your blood alcohol content will be taken.
Blood alcohol content is the most reliable way to prove intoxication, and the amount of alcohol required to reach the legal limit is dependent on the driver’s body size, the strength of the drinks taken, gender, the health condition of the individual and the period between consumption and testing. The BAC calculator is used to obtain the estimate.
If the prosecutor manages to prove that you were driving under the influence of alcohol, the penalties will vary depending on the circumstances such as your blood alcohol content at the time of arrest, your criminal history. The penalties include:
If you get convicted for driving under the influence of drugs you will speed up to six months in jail for a first offense, one year for a second offense and 120 days to one year for a third DUI offense.
Getting arrested for DUI will trigger both a criminal case and a case with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Before you even go to court for your criminal case, the DMV will begin a process to suspend your driver’s license. After the arrest, the officer will take away your license and it is upon you to file for a DMV hearing within ten days to reinstate your license. If you dot file for the hearing, your license will get automatically suspended for four months.
Apart from the jail time served, a DUI conviction can attract probation of up to five years. During the probation period, you will not be allowed to drive with even the slightest amount of alcohol in your blood and you are required to attend driving under the influence program.
Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
Upon conviction for DUI, the law mandates the installation of an ignition interlock device in your car for a period not less than five months. The IDD prevents your car from starting with the slightest detection of alcohol thus restricting you from driving while intoxicated.
(California Penal Code 192(c)) Vehicular Manslaughter
Unlike other forms of homicide, vehicular manslaughter occurs when you are operating a motor vehicle. You are guilty of vehicular homicide if due to your driving behavior, you caused an accident which resulted in death. However, the prosecutor is required to show that you acted with negligence by acting on a decision which is not expected from a reasonable individual according to the law. To get arrested and charged for this crime, the death of the victim must be in relation to the direct consequence of your actions. Pursuant to penal code 192(a), your act of negligence doesn’t have to be the only cause of death. If your actions were the main contributor to death, you will get arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter.
If you get charged with Vehicular homicide as a felony, you face formal probation of up to three years, fines amounting to $10,000 and imprisonment ranging from two to six years depending on the extent of damage done.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Violation of driving laws in California can cost your freedom and also affect your driving privileges, which you want to avoid at all cost. If you get arrested and charged for any driving offenses, you can seek help from our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney. We are a dedicated team of criminal defense attorneys ready to defend the rights of our clients. We defend different types crimes for our Los Angeles clients such as sex crimes, gun offenses, domestic violence, among others. Call us today at 424-333-0943 and allow us to pursue the best possible outcome for your case.