Driving Crimes


Driving Crimes

Driving violations such as speeding or rolling through a stop sign can be a hassle. They will result in a possible insurance increase. However, other driving crimes are much more serious and will not only lead to fines and fees, but can mean serious jail time and a criminal record. Especially in California, where drivers spend so much time on the road, a simple mistake or lapse in judgment can lead to an accident, a DUI, or other driving crime that can have long lasting effects.

Some of the most common criminal charges related to driving in California include:

  • DUI
  • DUI on Drugs
  • Vehicular Manslaughter
  • Driving on a Suspended License
  • Driving Without a License
  • Hit and Run
  • Evading a Police Officer

The penalties for a conviction will often depend on whether or not someone was injured, or killed, and whether the defendant has a prior criminal record. In most cases it will mean a temporary loss of driving privileges. For many people, if they don’t have the ability to drive, they may risk losing their job and can have serious impacts on their family life and financial resources. If you are ever arrested for a driving crime, you should consider speaking with one of our 1-800-NoCuffs attorneys with offices across California. You don’t have to plead guilty just because the police arrested you.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol

Perhaps the most common driving violation with serious consequences is driving under the influence, or DUI. Under California Vehicle Code 23152, it is unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, with a per se violation if the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Just as with alcohol, under California Vehicle Code 23152, it is unlawful for a person under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle. This does not refer only to illegal drugs, but also applies to prescription medication and medical marijuana.

Vehicular Manslaughter

It is a terrible event when anyone is killed in a car accident. Even if a driver unintentionally injures another, they may be charged with vehicular manslaughter if they drove negligently. Vehicular manslaughter, under California Penal Code 192 (c) can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

Driving on a Suspended License

There are a number of reasons why a driver may have their license suspended. Under California Vehicle Code 14601, operating a vehicle after the driver’s license has been revoked or suspended can result in additional fines, extended suspension, and even possible jail time.

Driving Without a Valid License

Some people may not worry if their license is not valid for the vehicle they are driving, or if they don’t have a license that allows them to drive in California. However, under California Vehicle Code 12500, it is a violation for someone to drive without a valid driver’s license.

Hit and Run

It is a common reaction to panic after a car accident, especially if there is a financial fear over paying for the accident or for increased insurance. Under California Vehicle Code 20002, leaving the scene of an accident can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge, or even a felony if someone was seriously injured or killed.

Evading a Police Officer

Additionally, it is important to stop for all traffic stops. If there is a police car with their lights on and sirens going for a traffic stop, failure to do so can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge under California Vehicle Code 2800.1.

Defenses to Driving Violation Charges

There are a number of defenses available for driving crime charges. Each case is unique, your California defense lawyer will be able to identify what defenses will give you the best chance to win your case. If you have been charged with driving on a suspended license, with a DUI, or with a vehicular homicide, an experienced California criminal defense lawyer will stand by you so you don’t have to face the judge and prosecutor alone. You may stand a better chance than you realize to get your charges dismissed.



The California Penal Code 23152-23229.1 defines driving under the influence (DUI) as follows: it is against the law for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle. It is against the law to drive a vehicle if the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or above.


Penalties will vary depending on the number of offenses previously attained by the driver. First offenses will have costly fees and fines that can amount to over $3,000.00. They can also include county jail time, driver’s license suspension, and/or attendance and completion of an alcohol treatment program. Subsequent offenses can increase the severity of penalties.

Examples of DUI

A college student attended a fraternity party and drank a combination of beer, wine, and liquor. After the party, he decided to drive home. On the way home, he was pulled over by police for speeding. He appeared to be intoxicated and the officer requested he take a breathalyzer test, which he failed.

DUI on Drugs


The California Penal Code is 23152 (a) (c) (e) defines driving under the influence (DUI) on drugs: it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug and/or addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle.

To be convicted of DUI on drugs the following must be true:

“A driver is considered under the influence of drugs if the drugs impair the driver’s ability to drive like a sober person under similar circumstances. Driving under the influence of any drug can result in charges. These charges can include:

  • Illicit drugs (such as cocaine)
  • Prescription drugs (such as Vicodin)
  • Over the counter drugs (such as Tylenol PM)


Penalties for a DUI on drugs include jail time, costly fines over $1,000.00, license suspension, a DUI program, and the potential requirement of an ignition interlock device. Subsequent offenses can carry higher penalties.

Examples of DUI on drugs

A cancer patient is driving home from her treatment center. She begins to feel nauseated and decides to smoke a marijuana cigarette on the way home. An officer notices that her vehicle has expired license plate tags and pulls her over. He smells marijuana from her vehicle as he is approaching it. She is cited for DUI on drugs.

Vehicular Manslaughter


The California Penal Code 192 (c) defines vehicular manslaughter as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. Driving a vehicle with or without gross negligence that might result in a death where the vehicular collision or vehicular accident was caused for financial gain and resulted in the death of any person.

While driving a vehicle, the driver commits an illegal act that is a felony, misdemeanor, or an infraction that may cause death, the driver commits the accident with either negligence or “gross negligence”, and as a result of the negligence, a person is killed. Gross negligence is something more than ordinary carelessness, inattentiveness, or error in judgment. Gross negligence can occur when:

  • A person acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury; and
  • A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create a risk.

To be convicted of vehicular manslaughter the following must be true:

  1. The defendant is driving a vehicle
  2. The driver commits an illegal act that is a felony, misdemeanor, or an infraction that may cause death: this is committed with either negligence or “gross negligence”. Gross negligence is something more than ordinary carelessness, inattentiveness, or error in judgment. Gross negligence can occur when:
  3. A person acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury; and
  4. A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create a risk.
  5. As a result of the negligence, a person is killed.


This offense may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. The maximum misdemeanor sentence is one year in county jail, and the maximum felony sentence is six years in state prison.

Example of vehicular manslaughter

A driver uses her iPhone to post photos on Instagram while driving. Her attention is on the screen and she fails to see a pedestrian crossing the street. She strikes the pedestrian with the car and kills him. There is a strong chance this driver would be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Driving on a Suspended License


The California Penal Code 14601 defines driving on a suspended license as knowingly driving on a suspended or revoked license. The following must be true to be convicted of Driving on a Suspended License:

  • The defendant was driving a motor vehicle,
  • The defendant’s driving license was suspended or revoked at the time he/she drove the vehicle, and
  • The defendant was aware of the fact that his/her license had been suspended or revoked.


The penalty the driver receives will be dependent on the reason for suspension or revocation of license in the first place. Driving with a suspended license in California is a misdemeanor offense. The potential penalties include fines and/or time in county jail. . The exact penalty, punishment, and sentencing in California will depend on a) the reason the license was suspended, b) whether the driver has a prior conviction with a suspended license, or c) the driver’s driving history (in-state or out-of-state).

Examples of driving on a suspended license:

A driver was cited by the police for driving under the influence of alcohol. As part of his DUI penalty, his license was suspended. The driver must commute to work and continued to drive on a daily basis. He was caught speeding by a radar device and when law enforcement officials realized his driver’s license was suspended, he was cited for driving on a suspended license.

Driving Without a License


California Vehicle Code 12500 prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle unless the person holds a driver’s license from their state of residence. A driver is only permitted to operate a vehicle for which they have the specific (car, motorcycle, or commercial vehicle) license to drive.

To be convicted of driving without a license, one of the following must be true:

  • The driver has never obtained a driver’s license,
  • The driver failed to renew their driver license after it expired,
  • The driver established residency in California but failed to obtain a California driver’s license,
  • The driver is ineligible for a driver’s license in California, and/or
  • The driver does hold a license, but the license is not for the type of vehicle he/she is currently operating.


Driving without a license in California can result in unsupervised probation for up to three years, jail time, a fine of up to$1,000, and a possible 30-day vehicle impound period.

Examples of driving without a license

A driver holds a Class C (non-commercial) driver’s license is given a motorcycle for her birthday. She takes her new bike out for a spin on the highway and is pulled over by the police for speeding. When law enforcement realizes she does not possess a Motorcycle Class M1 or M2 (required in the state of California for operating a motorcycle) license, she is cited for driving without a license.

Hit and Run


California Vehicle Code requires that any driver involved in any accident that results in injury or death of another, or damage to any property must immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede the flow of traffic, and either locate the owner of the property and notify the owner of the accident, or leave a note containing his or her name and address as well as the circumstances of the collision in a conspicuous location.

To be convicted of a hit and run the following must be true:

  • The driver was operating a vehicle and collided into a person or item of property and
  • The driver failed to either locate and notify the owner of the property, or to leave a note with identifying information and an explanation of the collision


If there is property damage, a misdemeanor hit and run will be charged as a misdemeanor, with potential penalties of up to $1,000.00 and a six-month confinement in county jail. A hit and run that injures another person can carry a term of a five-year imprisonment in a state penitentiary.

Example of a Hit and Run

A mother is rushing to take her son to school. When backing out of her driveway, she accidentally knocks over a neighbor’s fence. She decides to drive away because she is late for work and her son will be late for school. Failing to notify the neighbor or leave a note with the proper contact information mean that the woman could probably be charged with a hit and run.

Evading an Officer


California Vehicle Code 2800.1 describes a person charged with evading a peace or police officer as any person who, while operating a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, willfully flees or otherwise attempts to elude a pursuing peace officers motor vehicle [or bicycle]. If the officer is operating a motor vehicle, he or she must:

  • Exhibit at least one lighted red light visible from the front, and the person either sees or reasonably should have seen the light.
  • Sound a siren
  • Wear a distinctive uniform

If the officer is operating a bicycle, he or she must give a verbal command to stop, sound a horn that produces a sound of at least 115 decibels, give a hand signal to stop, and be wearing a distinctive uniform.

Penalties for Evading a Police Officer

Evading a Peace or Police Officer is a misdemeanor, and anyone found guilty is subject to imprisonment in a county jail for not up to one year.


A motorist runs a red light. A nearby police officer sees him, turns on her vehicles lights and siren, and follows the motorist in an attempt to pull him over. The motorist refuses to stop, but the officer is able to record his license plate number. The motorist is then charged for running a red light and for evading a police officer.