California Vehicle Code 12500 VC – Driving Without a Driver’s License

California Vehicle Code Section 12500 VC makes it a crime to drive without a valid driver’s license in the State of California. A violation of VC 12500 can be charged as either an infraction or as a misdemeanor. To be in compliance with the law, every driver must hold a valid driver’s license, and residents of California must have a valid California Driver’s License. For residents who live outside of California, but are visiting California, any valid driver’s license from any other State or country satisfies the requirements of the law.

That said, if you have been charged with misdemeanor driving without a valid driver’s license, you should be aware that a conviction of this crime carries a maximum jail sentence of up to six months in county jail.

So, if you have been charged with violating VC 12500, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The H Law Group to defend you and fight for you. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience necessary to achieve the best possible results for you. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

Text of California Vehicle Code Section 12500 VC

According to California Vehicle Code Section 12500 VC, A person may not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver’s license issued under this code, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code. Also, A person may not drive a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver’s license or endorsement issued under this code for that class, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code, or those persons specifically authorized to operate motorized bicycles or motorized scooters with a valid driver’s license of any class, as specified in subdivision (h) of Section 12804.9.”

Note: The prosecution typically charges persons with violating Vehicle Code 12500, when a person has never obtained a driver’s license and drives a vehicle without a license, when a person has a license but has failed to renew it, and when a person moves to California, becomes a resident, but continues to drive using an out of state driver’s license.

Proving a Person Guilty of Violating 12500 VC – Driving Without a Valid Driver’s License

For the prosecution to convict a person of driving without a driver’s license in violation of 12500 VC, the prosecution need only make the allegation that the defendant was not licensed at the time he drove a vehicle. The burden then shifts to the defendant to show that he had a valid driver’s license at the time he was driving.

The prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant drove a vehicle on a public highway or street
  • The defendant did not have a valid driver’s license or the defendant came to California and should have obtained a California State Driver’s license but failed to do so

Note: Not every driver must have a California issued driver’s license to drive. Those who are visiting California are not required to hold a California issued driver’s license. However, residents of California must obtain a California issued driver’s license. If a California resident drives without a valid driver’s license issued by the State of California, he can be charged with violating VC 12500.

Penalties for a Person who is Convicted of Driving Without a Valid Driver’s License

If the prosecution convicts a person of misdemeanor driving without a valid driver’s license in violation of Vehicle Code 12500 VC, the person faces the following potential consequences:

  • Conviction of a misdemeanor offense
  • Imprisonment for up to six months in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000

Note: If a violation of 12500 VC is charged as an infraction, the person need only obtain a California State Driver’s License and pay a $250 fine. Being charged with an infraction is much less serious than being charged with a misdemeanor violation of VC 12500.

Defense for Driving Without a Valid Driver’s License

If you have been charged with driving without a valid driver’s license, there are a variety of defenses that your attorney can make to defend you. Here are some of the defenses that your attorney may be able to make to defend you:

  • The defendant was only visiting California and he had a valid driver’s license at the time the police officer stopped his from driving without a valid driver’s license
  • The defendant was not driving on a public street or highway
  • The defendant had a valid driver’s license but the license was not within his possession at the time of the stop

Examples of Driving Without a Driver’s License

John moved to California. A few months after John makes California his new home, he’s pulled over for speeding. The police officer asks him for his driver’s license, and so John provides the police officer with his Arizona Driver’s license. The police officer arrests John for driving without a valid driver’s license. John can be charged with and convicted of driving without a valid driver’s license because John should have obtained a California issued driver’s license to drive legally in California within 10 days of making California his new home.

Matt was 17 years old, and he had not applied for a driver’s license. Matt can be charged with and convicted of driving without a valid driver’s license.

Molly has lived her entire life in California and has a valid California issued driver’s license. She forgot to renew her driver’s license. When the officer pulls her over, he finds out that her license is suspended, and so he cites her for driving without a valid driver’s license.

Misdemeanor vs Infraction Driving Without a Valid Driver’s License

When deciding whether to charge a person with misdemeanor vs infraction driving without a driver’s license largely depends on the defendant’s criminal history. For example, if a person has been charged with an infraction driving without a license in the past, and he continues to drive without a license, the prosecution is more likely to bring misdemeanor charges against the defendant. If you have been charged with this crime, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer so that he can attempt to have the misdemeanor charge against you reduced into an infraction.

Offenses Related to VC 12500

The offense that’s most closely related to driving without a valid driver’s license is California Vehicle Code Section 14601Driving on a Suspended or Revoked Driver’s License. Driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license is a significantly more serious crime than driving without a valid driver’s license.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with driving without a driver’s license in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 12500, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The H Law Group to defend you and keep you from going to jail for a long period of time. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to achieve the best possible results for you. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

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Charged with a Crime?


Act now to protect your legal rights.