California Vehicle Code 12500 (a) VC prohibits people from driving in California without a valid driver’s license.

To be valid, a drivers license doesn’t necessarily have to be issued by the California Department of Vehicles. It just must be (1) a valid driver’s license from the state in which you live, and (2) for the type of vehicle (car, motorcycle, commercial truck, etc.) that you are driving.

If the police gave you a citation for driving without a license, then you (or your attorney, if you hire one) must go to court on the scheduled court date. If neither you nor your lawyer shows up, the judge will issue a California bench warrant for your arrest.

Although driving without a license is a relatively minor offense, it’s still a misdemeanor. A conviction, if you suffer one, will appear on your criminal record.  The best way to avoid this outcome is to consult with a California criminal defense lawyer who can help get this charge reduced to an infraction or dismissed altogether.

The police can charge you with Vehicle Code 12500 VC if you get caught driving in a situation where:

  • You have never obtained a driver’s license,
  • You failed to renew your driver’s license after it expired,
  • You established residency in California but failed to obtain aCalifornia driver’s license, or
  • You are ineligible for a drivers license in this state (if, for example, you are an illegal immigrant.

Legal Consequences:

California Vehicle Code 12500(a) VC…which prohibits driving a car without a valid driver’s license…is the only possible 12500 VC misdemeanor offense. The other subsections of Vehicle Code 12500 are infractions…such as driving a motorcycle without a license.

The main factor that the prosecution will consider when deciding whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or an infraction is your driving history.  If this is your first offense, they may charge you only with the infraction.  And even if the prosecutor initially charges you with a misdemeanor, he/she may be willing to reduce or even dismiss the charges if you subsequently obtain a valid driver’s license.

If you have the misfortune of being caught driving without a license while you have a California arrest warrant, a charge reduction may not be so simple.  If you know or think you might have a warrant out for your arrest, it is advisable that you contact an attorney.

Taking a pro-active approach to remedy this situation is always a better idea than taking the “wait and see” approach…especially if you’re picked up for a separate violation.

Misdemeanor 12500 VC — Driving without a valid driver’s license in California (a judge may impose any or all of the following)14:

  • Informal (otherwise known as “summary”) probation for up to three years,
  • Up to six months in the county jail,
  • A maximum $1,000 fine,
  • A possible 30-day impound of your car

Infraction Vehicle Code 12500 VC

  • maximum $250 fine.

Undocumented Immigrants now eligible for a California Driver’s License!

Undocumented Immigrants were once forbidden to obtain a California driver’s license because a social security number was required to apply for one. However, California has recently enacted a law in which undocumented immigrants may be eligible for an AB 60 Driver’s License (  Do not put yourself at risk of violating this offense!

How can we defend you against charges of California Penal Code 12500 VC Driving without a License?

Since the burden is on you to prove that you were, in fact, licensed, that is the best way to defeat this charge.

If that isn’t possible, you should ask your attorney to see how long he/she can postpone your case so that you can obtain a license.  Unless you are a repeat offender, most prosecuting agencies will allow you this courtesy.

Contact us:

We have been successfully defending clients facing all types of criminal charges in Sonoma and Marin Counties, since 1992.

The 100 Trial Lawyers Association has recognized us as one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country!

Please call our office today at (707) 571-8600 in our centrally located Santa Rosa office in Sonoma County or call our office in San Rafael in Marin County at (415) 492-4507 to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation.

Don’t bargain with your freedom! The right attorney makes all the difference between your freedom and incarceration!

Driving without a valid driver’s license in California is a “wobbler”.  This means that, depending on the circumstances, prosecutors can charge this offense as either a misdemeanor or as a non-criminal infraction.