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California Self Help Articles > Dealing With Vehicle Code section 12500a Violations
Dealing With Vehicle Code section 12500a Violations
Summary: Vehicle Code section 12500 defines the misdemeanor of Driving without a Valid Drivers License. It is less serious than a charge of driving on a suspended drivers license, and can be treated as an infraction in some cases.
    This article on Vehicle Code section 12500 violations was written by California Attorney Christopher Dort and is intended for general traffic court self help educational reference and information only. It is not meant to be advice on any specific case.  This information is believed to be current as of 04/2009, but is subject to change and should not be relied upon as the sole source of information.

Dealing With Vehicle Code Section 12500(a) Violations

California Vehicle Code section 12500a, is also known as "Driving Without a Valid License".  It can be a misdemeanor or an infraction. 

Violations of Vehicle Code section 12500(a) usually come in the form of a ticket or citation after a person is stopped by a peace officer. The violation will typically be listed in the officers writing on the citation as "VC 12500a".

Vehicle Code 12500a is a violation that is "correctable" in many courts, which means the penalties for driving without a valid license can be reduced if the problem is corrected by showing proof of a valid drivers license.

Driving without a valid license is not as serious as driving on a suspended license (VC 14601.1), which is always a misdemeanor, and can lead to mandatory jail time, arrest and impoundment of your vehicle, and 2 negligent driver points on your DMV Driver History.

In contrast, a VC 12500 violation can be a misdemeanor or infraction, and is generally punishable by fines only. However, the cost of the fine, and the damage to a Driver's background record varies greatly between the misdemeanor version and the infraction.

The infraction version is always preferable, so generally the goal is to get the violation corrected and reduced to an infraction if it was charged as a misdemeanor.

How to Tell If a VC 12500 Violation Is a Misdemeanor or Infraction

Finding out whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or infraction is easy. On most California form citations (Tickets), the severity of the violation is listed in a check box next to the violation. Usually, there is a check box for "M" and one for "I". Sometimes the officer will hand write in M or I.  

The M stands for misdemeanor, and the I stands for infraction. A VC 12500 violation almost always starts out as a misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction, and carries a possibility of up to one year in jail and a fine of $1500. An infraction version is punishable by fine only, and does not produce a point on your DMV drivers record or a record of a criminal conviction.

Because of this, a person charged with the "M" version of VC 12500 may want to make an effort to get it reduced by the court to an infraction. The court does have the power to reduce the severity of the violation, but a court appearance is required to get the reduction. Showing the court clerk your drivers license, or sending in a copy will not work. 

Most courts will reduce a misdemeanor violation of vehicle code section 12500 to an infraction if the accused show a valid drivers license during a court appearnace. To make this happen, typically, a person will appear in court, plead not guilty and request time to get a drivers license, and then return for a second court date with a valid drivers license.

Usually this takes 30 days or more, because the person may have to deal with drivers license holds at the DMV, or failure to appear cases to get the license back. But the court will allow time if requested. Most courts want unlicensed drivers to get a valid drivers license.  It's  an unwritten policy.

When a VC 12500 case gets reduced to an infraction, there is no record of a criminal conviction, no points on the DMV record, and a small fine is the only penalty.

Getting Your Drivers License Back May Help, But Is Not Required

A person may end a VC 12500 case completely by just paying the fine and pleading guilty without a drivers license. The penalties are harsher, but it can be done.

Do not make this mistake:

Many people believe that they cannot resolve the case without a license and therefore miss their court date and do not pay the fine. Even without a license, the court dates must be made.

Its always better to make the court date and end the case correctly, even if you do not have a valid drivers license.

For help with a VC 12500 or driving on a suspended license case, request a free case review from TrafficCourtPros.com.

For more information on a specific case, contact the Court where your issue is pending or a DMV representative to discuss or review your specific problem or documents. Only a licensed attorney can give you specific legal advice about your case. For problems involving warrants and failures to appear, it is strongly suggested that you seek the advice of a licensed attorney to discuss your particular situation. We offer Free Case Reviews for this purpose. Do not rely on this information as your only source of information.

-Chris Dort, Esq.