Vehicle Code 14601.4 VC - Driving on a Suspended License Causing Injury
Not surprisingly, it's against the law in California to drive when your license has been suspended or revoked.
But if your license was suspended over a DUI offense and you caused someone bodily injury while driving on that suspended license, you can be charged with a separate crime under Vehicle Code 14601.4 VC.
VC 14601.4 says, “(a) Nobody shall drive a motor vehicle at any time when their driving privilege is suspended or revoked for any reason listed in subdivision (a) or (c) of Section 12806 authorizing the department to refuse to issue a license, if the person driving has knowledge of the suspension or revocation and then their act or neglect causes bodily injury to a person other than the driver.”
Subsection (b) says that anyone convicted will receive county jail time. Still, if the judge decides to grant probation, they will have to serve at least “minimum time” of imprisonment as a term or condition of probation.
Subsection (c) says that when the prosecution agrees to a plea of guilty or nolo contendere for violating Vehicle Code 14601.2 VC, the court will require the person, in addition to other requirements, to install a certified ignition interlock device on a vehicle that for up to three years.
Subsection (e) says that upon receipt of the abstract of a conviction, the department will not reinstate the driving privilege until they receive proof of either the “Verification of Installation form or the Judicial Council Form I.D. 100.”
If convicted, the standard penalties are up to 6 months in jail—this, along with any other penalties you incur over the driving offense or the previous DUI. Let's take a closer look at this law below.
California Vehicle Code 14601.4 VC Explained
This law contains four distinct elements that prosecutors must prove to convict you under VC 14601.4:
- You drove a motor vehicle;
- You did so after having your driver's license suspended or revoked for a qualifying DUI offense;
- You were aware that your license had been suspended/revoked at the time you were driving; and
- While driving, you violated a law or neglected a duty, and someone was physically injured.
To be charged with a crime under VC 14601.4, you must have had your driving privileges suspended or revoked over one of the two following DUI-related offenses:
- Driving under the influence (Vehicle Code 23152 VC); or
- DUI causing injury (Vehicle Code 23153 VC).
Anyone accused is presumed to know about a suspension or revocation if the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) mailed them a notice. The related crimes include:
- Vehicle Code 14601 VC - driving on a suspended license,
- Vehicle Code 23103 VC – reckless driving,
- Vehicle Code 20001 VC – misdemeanor hit and run,
- Vehicle Code 14601.2 VC – suspended license for DUI conviction,
- Vehicle Code 12500 VC – driving without a license.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Jamie's license is suspended over a DUI offense, but he can't find a ride to work...so he gets in his car and drives himself. On the way, he gets in an accident, and the other driver is injured. Jamie can be charged under VC 14601.4.
EXAMPLE 2: Trina was convicted of DUI two weeks ago. The DMV mailed her notice of suspension yesterday, and she has yet to receive it.
Driving her sister to the grocery store, she hits a stop sign, and her sister gets whiplash. Trina may have a defense against charges under VC 14601.4. Although she was driving on a suspended license, she did not know her license had been suspended because she hadn't received notice.
What Are the Penalties?
A violation of VC 14601.4 is a misdemeanor offense. If you're convicted, however, the actual maximum sentence depends on the circumstances of the case and your prior record:
- For a first offense: You could receive up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine.
- For a second offense within five years: the maximum sentence is raised to one year in jail, and the maximum fine is doubled to $2000.
What Are the Common Defenses to VC 14601.4 Charges?
If you've been accused of driving on a suspended license causing bodily injury, various legal defenses may help you avoid a conviction.
A knowledgeable California criminal defense attorney will evaluate the unique circumstances of your case and craft the best possible argument on your behalf. Some common defenses to VC 14601.4 are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you did not know. One of the elements prosecutors must prove is that you knew your driving privileges had been suspended or revoked. This could be a solid legal defense if you were unaware that your license was suspended while driving.
That said, the law presumes you have knowledge once the DMV mails the suspension notice, so your attorney would need to demonstrate that a) the DMV failed to send a notice or send it promptly; or b) you never received the notice.
Perhaps there was no bodily injury. If no one was injured due to your actions, you could still be charged with driving on a suspended license under VC 14601.1(a), but you could have the charges of causing injury dropped.
Perhaps we can argue there was no unlawful act or neglect of duty. One key element of VC 14601.4 is that you must have caused bodily injury due to an illegal act or negligence of duty (e.g., you were at fault in a car accident).
If you were involved in an accident that was not your fault because you were following the rules of the road, your actions did not cause injury to the other party, and you can use this as a defense.
Perhaps you were not convicted of a DUI offense. You must have been convicted of DUI or DUI causing injury for this crime to apply to you. If you were ultimately acquitted or the charges dropped, you are not guilty under VC 14601.4.
However, if your license was legitimately suspended for other reasons, you could still face additional charges for driving on a suspended license.
If you were accused of driving on a suspended license and causing an injury in California, reach out to our law firm to examine the details and legal options. Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor for a favorable resolution to the case.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a criminal defense law firm based in Los Angeles. Contact us for a case evaluation via phone or fill out the contact form.