California Vehicle Code 14601.4 - Driving on a Suspended License Causing Injury

Facing charges for driving on a suspended license is consequential enough. The penalties only get worse if the act caused injury to another person. A conviction could lead to further restricted driving privileges with potential incarceration. The punishments can extend to other modes of your life, such as impacting current employment and future job prospects. Not to mention the loss of negotiating power when it comes to attaining future automobile insurance.

Avoid fighting these charges alone. Finding an expert criminal defense attorney to help fight on your behalf is one of the best choices you can make. It could mean the difference between standard and maximum penalties. For a detailed understanding of this statute, we must take a look at how California defines it.

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How does California define driving on a suspended license causing injury?

California outlines driving on a suspended license causing injury under Vehicle Code 14601.4. This law states it is a crime to:

  • Operate a motor vehicle,
    • This includes driving an automobile, motorcycle, or other motorized vehicles.
    • Whether you drove a few feet or a long-distance is irrelevant.
  • While your driver’s license was suspended or revoked, and
    • The suspension was due to one or both of these offenses: DUI or DUI causing injury.
  • You knew your driving privileges were suspended or revoked, and
    • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is tasked with sending out a notice of restricted driving privileges.
    • The DMV mails the document to your current or last known mailing address. If the statement is not sent back to the DMV, it’s safely assumed it was received.
  • You caused another person injury by committing an unlawful act or violating your legal duty.
    • Committing an unlawful act or violating your legal duty means you failed to drive responsibly and doing so resulted in someone getting hurt.

Similar Offenses

Vehicle Code 14601(a), driving on a suspended license;

You commit this crime when you operate a motor vehicle while your driving privileges are legally suspended due to your incompetence, negligence, recklessness, or for refusing a chemical test on a DUI/DUID conviction.

Vehicle Code 23103, reckless driving;

Driving on a highway, freeway, street, or off-street parking facility with a complete disregard for the safety of pedestrians and/or property is a crime.

Vehicle Code 23152(a), driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI);

Operating your motor vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol is a crime.

Vehicle Code 23153, DUI causing injury;

Driving your motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and causing another individual injury is a serious crime.

Vehicle Code 12951, failure to present a driver’s license;

California law requires that you have a driver’s license in your possession anytime you are driving a motor vehicle. Failing to possess one or refusing to present a driver’s license during a routine traffic stop is a crime.

Vehicle Code 14610, unlawful use of a driver’s license;

This crime is committed when you unlawfully use or allow another person to unlawfully use a driver’s license, by possessing a suspended or canceled license, refusing to surrender said license, lend out a driver’s license, or if you alter or duplicate a driver’s license.

What The Prosecution Must Do

There are four specific elements the prosecution must do to get a conviction for driving on a suspended license causing injury. These elements are also referred to as the facts of the case and must meet all the criteria as outlined under the definition of VC 14601.4.

Elements of the Crime

  • The defendant drove a motor vehicle,
  • While their driver’s license was suspended,
  • They knew their driving privileges had been stripped, and
  • An injury was caused to another individual because they violated a legal duty or committed an unlawful act.

The prosecution can only get a conviction if the reason the driver’s license was suspended or revoked in the first place was due to a previous conviction for VC 23152, DUI or VC 23153, DUI causing injury. If this element is missing from the case, they would not be guilty of VC 14601.4. The defendant would still face charges under VC 14601 for driving on a restricted license.

Who Can Be Charged

The examples below illustrate who can and cannot be charged with driving on a suspended license causing injury under VC 14601.4.

Example 1:

Ernest received the notice of his suspension but still chose to drive to and from work. After a particularly bad day at the office, he stops at a bar for a drink and attempts to drive while intoxicated. He ends up hitting another car, causing that driver to break their nose against the steering wheel. Police suspect Ernest was driving under the influence. When asked to present his driver’s license, Ernest refuses, verbally giving them his CA driver’s license number.

Ernest could be charged with VC 23153, driving under the influence causing injury and VC 14601.4, driving on a suspended license causing injury. He could also face charges for VC 12951, failure to present a driver’s license and VC 14610, unlawfully using a driver’s license. Not only did he refuse to provide the license to police officers, but he also knew his license was suspended and unlawfully chose to possess it while illegally driving.

Example 2:

Sandra had two prior convictions for VC 14601.4 and was not supposed to drive. Ignoring the revocation, she went on a drive and sped up to run a red light at an intersection. This resulted in multiple cars crashing and caused several of the drivers to suffer minor injuries.

In addition to her traffic tickets, she would be guilty of a third offense for driving on a suspended license causing injury. On top of those penalties, Sandra could be charged with reckless driving under VC 23103, for failing to reasonably account for the safety of other motorists when she sped through the traffic light. Her financial and sentencing penalties would be enhanced depending on how many other motorists were injured as a result of her actions.

Example 3:

Andrei would still go out driving even though he had a prior conviction for VC 14601.4. When he was at a stoplight, the car next to him began to rev their engine. He took this as a sign that the other vehicle wanted to race. Ignoring his better judgment he floored the gas pedal as soon as the light changed green. Within seconds he lost control of his steering wheel and collided with another car, causing this motorist to get injured.

Andrei would now be guilty of his second offense for VC 14601.4. He would also face charges for attempting to race the other car, otherwise known as participating in a speed contest causing injury under VC 23109(a). The penalties for driving on a suspended license causing injury would only be enhanced when added to the speed contest causing injury offense. This statute carries up to six months of county jail time and as much as one thousand dollars in fines. The increased sentencing and monetary consequences are determined by how serious the other motorists’ injuries were. 

Example 4:

Demetri was driving his jeep in an abandoned mall parking lot, miles away from anyone. He knew his driving privileges were suspended but thought he could avoid the authorities out there. To his misfortune, a police officer heard the jeep and investigated. The officer tripped and fell on his face as he was exiting his squad car. The fall resulted in a bloody nose. He charged Demetri with VC 14601.4 and injuring a police officer while they are conducting their duties carries steeper punishments. He also accused Demetri of speed ex under VC 23109(c).

Even though he was exhibiting speed in the empty parking lot, there was no one around to witness or even hear him (aside from the patrolling officer). So, he was not intentionally showing-off when he unsafely accelerated. Furthermore, the officer tripped due to being clumsy and cannot blame the minor injury on the defendant.

Luckily, Demetri’s criminal defense lawyer was able to fight the false allegations of driving on a suspended license causing an on-duty police officer injury and the exhibition of speed offense. Demetri would instead be guilty of speeding under VC 22350 as well as receive his second offense for VC 14601(a), driving on a suspended license. Both offenses carry lighter penalties compared to the officers’ harsher allegations.

Legal Defense

Attempting to defend yourself against driving on a suspended license is difficult. However, when someone is injured or seriously harmed as a result of said driving, it becomes even more challenging to defend yourself. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to utilize the right legal defense to minimize or possibly reduce the charges. This depends on the specifics of your case, your prior driving record, and conviction history.

Did you have a prior DUI conviction?

To be guilty of VC 14601.4, one of the conditions is the driver’s license was suspended because of a previous conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. If this aspect is not met, then you should not be guilty of this offense.

Sarge, for instance, was driving on a suspended license due to an unreasonable number of speeding tickets. He continued to drive and hit a bicyclist at an intersection. The bicyclist suffered minor injuries, including cuts and abrasions from the collision.

Sarge may be guilty of driving on a suspended license causing injury, however, he would not be guilty under VC 14601.4. This is because his restricted driving privileges were not due to a prior DUI conviction.

Was it your illegal act or neglectful driving that caused the injury?

The criteria for a conviction under this statute include doing something unlawful or neglectful of your legal duty, which in turn caused another individual to be injured. If this person was injured while you were driving on a suspended license, but the injury was not a result of your actions then you should not be guilty of VC 14601.4.

Brad, for example, was driving downtown even though he knew his driver’s license had been revoked for prior DUI’s. This time he was driving sober, albeit unlawfully. A driver in the lane beside him, Conor was driving erratically. Conor sped up and attempted to quickly change lanes, not leaving Brad sufficient time to slow down, move, or stop. The other car hit him and they both spun-out. The accident resulted in both men getting neck and back injuries.

Brad is guilty of driving on a suspended license but he did not cause the injury to the other driver and should not be guilty of VC 14601.4. Conor, on the other hand, is guilty of reckless driving, VC 23103, for his erratic behavior while behind the wheel. The injuries they sustained were caused by Conor’s unsafe driving, not through any fault of Brad’s.

Lack of Knowledge

One of the elements of a successful conviction is knowing your driver’s license was revoked or suspended. Lacking any knowledge that your driving privileges had been restricted means you would not be guilty of VC 14601.4, or any of the related sections regarding operating a motor vehicle while your driver’s license is suspended or revoked.

For instance, Allen did not receive a letter from the DMV stating his driver’s license had been suspended due to his previous DUI record. He rear-ended another motorist causing them whiplash. Although the DMV did suspend Allen’s license and he did cause another person an injury, he was not aware that his driving privileges had been taken. He would not be guilty of VC 14601.4. However, he would still be liable for causing an accident that resulted in injury. This means Allen could be responsible for the injured parties medical bills and automobile repair costs.

Penalties for VC 14601.4

If you are convicted of VC 14601.4 and it is your first offense, you face these misdemeanor penalties;

Up to six months in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

If convicted for your second offense, these are the misdemeanor consequences;

A potential county jail sentence of up to one year, and/or

Up to two thousand dollars in fines.

Enhanced Penalties

Although a conviction carries misdemeanor consequences, there are sentencing enhancements. It is based on the severity of bodily injuries and the number of people who were injured. The prosecution takes into account the number of injured persons and whether the other parties suffered minor, major, or great bodily injury.

Depending on how serious the injuries, you could face increased jail time, higher court fines, lengthier probation time, and an indefinite revocation of your driver’s license. You would also have steeper restitution obligations. You would be liable for any medical bills, lost wages, and vehicle repair costs the injured parties accrue as a consequence of your actions.

Penalties for Related Offenses

Please note, it is possible to face multiple penalties if more than one of the closely related offenses have been violated.

Vehicle Code 14601(a), driving on a suspended license;

Misdemeanor;

Up to three years of informal (summary) probation,

A potential county jail sentence of six months, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Vehicle Code 23103, reckless driving;

Misdemeanor;

Up to ninety days in county jail, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.

Misdemeanor (causing minor injury);

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.

Misdemeanor (causing serious injury);

As long as three years in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to ten thousand dollars.

Vehicle Code 23152(a), driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI);

Misdemeanor;

Informal (summary) probation for three to five years,

Up to one year in county jail,

Minimum fines of three-hundred-ninety dollars,

Attendance to DUI school,

Possible travel restrictions,

Driver’s license suspended for up to six months.

Vehicle Code 23153, DUI causing injury;

Misdemeanor;

Three to five years of summary (misdemeanor) probation,

Up to one year in county jail,

As much as five thousand dollars in fines,

3, 9, 18, or 30 months of attendance to a California DUI school,

Driver’s license suspended for one to three years, and

Financial liability/restitution to all victims who were injured.

Felony;

2, 3, or 4 years in state prison,

An additional one-year sentence for each person who suffered an injury,

An additional three to six-year sentence for any victim who suffered GBI (great bodily injury),

Fines of up to five thousand dollars,

Between 18 and 30 months attendance to DUI school,

Labeled as an HTO (habitual traffic offender) for three years,

Driver’s license revoked for five years, and

A possible strike on your record under California’s Three Strikes Law.

Vehicle Code 12951, failure to present a driver’s license;

Infraction;

Up to two-hundred-fifty dollars in fines.

Misdemeanor;

Summary (informal) probation,

Up to six months in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Vehicle Code 14610, unlawful use of a driver’s license;

Misdemeanor;

Informal probation,

Up to six months in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Who Can Help

Don’t let charges for VC 14601.4 or any of the associated offenses depress you. With the right legal help, you can successfully challenge these charges and improve your chances of facing lighter consequences. If you are located in the San Diego area, Los Angeles, or Orange County and need a reliable criminal defense lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum.

Attorney Yum is an award-winning criminal defense lawyer who can provide exceptional legal advice for anyone who is facing charges for driving on a suspended license causing injury or for any of the closely-related offenses.

Acting fast and finding legal counsel can have a measurable impact on the outcome. To schedule a no-obligation, free consultation you can call us at 619-233-4433 or visit our online contact form.

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