Driving in California with an Out-of-state drivers license a criminal offense?
August 19, 2011 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I was recently pulled over for having expired tags. The police officer gave me a fix it ticket for the tags, but he also gave me a ticket to schedule a court date for a misdemeanor charge of driving in California with an out-of-state drivers license. I looked up the legalities, and the California DMV does state that you need to get a new drivers license after 10 days of being in the state of California. I have been driving with my Idaho license here for over a year. I have scheduled the court date and now I am worried. Is there anything I can do to get out of this? What would be my best course of action?
posted by digdan to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Best answer: Get your CA license asap. I had a similar problem was issued a court date and my fine was waved by the judge because I took care of it as soon as I aware of the problem.

The fine I was supposed to pay was just under $300.
posted by snsranch at 3:27 PM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

They are looking for money - and they are going to get it from you.

Have your new CA license when you go to court. Beg for mercy. Be prepared to write a check.
posted by Flood at 3:39 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Walk into court with your new license and your updated tags. Hope for a dismissal on those grounds. If you can't get the new license in time, at least get a temporary license. If you can't get that either, bring in all of the documents that show that you started the process to get a new license as soon as you found out about the problem. (a shiny new license is the best option though).
posted by craven_morhead at 3:48 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

IAAL, INYL, TINLA. Get counsel appointed if you can, or pay an attorney familiar with that court and the DAs. Get your CA driver's license as quickly as you can. Make sure your insurance is current and stays that way. If you have a license issued by your arraignment date, the DA might agree to a dismissal or may plead it down to an infraction, like Veh. Code ยง 12500. (Fine only, no points on your minty fresh license.)

The money is less worrisome than the misdemeanor part. You need a dismissal or at worst an infraction. Incidentally, this case will be much easier if you turn out to have invoked your 5th Amendment right not to answer questions like, "When did you move to California." If the DA can't prove how long you've been here, you may have a defensible case on the misdemeanor part.

If you're in SoCal, there's a decent chance the DA will give you a reasonable deal that doesn't involve a misdemeanor, unless you have prior convictions for stuff other than minor traffic violations.

There is an upside to this. If the DA files this as a misdemeanor, you or your lawyer can negotiate with the DA. (Best if you have a lawyer, so you don't inadvertently make incriminating statements.) If it goes to traffic court, you get no jury trial and no real ability to negotiate anything.
posted by Hylas at 3:54 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah the single best thing you can do is to walk into court with a California driver's license.
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on August 19, 2011

I was just in court in Oregon for a moving violation and there were a dozen people ahead of me that had very similar problems. The judge reduced the fee to the legal minimum in all cases where the person registered their car and got their licence.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:40 PM on August 19, 2011

The exact thing happened to me in 2004, and the judge waived the fine when I showed him my new CA DL. I had to pay for some other stuff, but the license issue thing was ok.
posted by schyler523 at 8:20 PM on August 19, 2011

Think about it from the judge's point of view and you'll know what to do.

Guy #1 walks into court and apologizes. He explains that it was an oversight and he'll take care of it as soon as possible. And, who knows... maybe he will. Maybe not.

Guy #2 walks into court with a California license, explains that it was a foolish oversight on his part and that he's already taken care of it.

The second guy is much less likely to get a huge fine. Take care of this first thing Monday morning. Seriously.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:22 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

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