If You Are Stopped Without a Valid California Driver’s License in Your Possession - California Vehicle Code 12500


Most people drive and don’t think about having their driver’s license in their pocket or purse, and available if asked by a police officer or other individual. But if you reach for it and it’s not there, panic sets in.

For instance, you may have walked out without your wallet this morning. If you carry a purse, you may have changed to another one and somehow missed everything. Then you reach for your driver’s license and discover it missing when you need it.

Unfortunately, driving without a valid license in California can lead to fines, fees, and even potentially jail.

You Need A License To Drive In California


California’s Vehicle Code 12500 explains who must have a license and when.

If you are stopped without a valid California driver’s license in your possession, there are two possible outcomes—you can be charged with an infraction, or a misdemeanor charge. An infraction comes with a base fine of up to $250. A misdemeanor can mean base fines of up to $1,000 and a possibility of six months in jail. If you have prior misdemeanor charges under CVC 12500 or other driving offenses, your vehicle may also be impounded for as long as 30 days.  

Driving without a valid license on your person is an infraction, failing to present a driver’s license under California Vehicle Code Section 12951 VC. If you are charged, you bear the burden of proof that you have a valid driver’s license.

Exceptions To VC 12500

You don’t have to have a California driver’s license if:

  • You are a visitor over the age of 18 and have a valid license from your home state or country, valid for the type of vehicle you’re driving (car, truck, motorcycle, scooter, etc.)

  • You’re a government employee driving a government-owned non-commercial vehicle while on federal business

  • You’re driving a tractor or other farm implement across private land

  • You’re crossing a public road in an off-road vehicle

  • You’re a nonresident transporting hazardous materials from another state or Canada

  • You’re a nonresident with a valid diplomatic driver’s license for the type of vehicle you’re driving

The Missing License

Suddenly realized you don’t have your license? You may have just misplaced it, possibly in your home or vehicle. If you still can’t find your driver’s license, you may need to get a replacement, immediately. A lost license can not only get you a ticket, but also bring a host of possible identity theft problems. Here are some things to do immediately if your license has been lost and possibly stolen before you drive without it or have your identity used by someone else.


Defense Against Driving Without A License

Need help with a ticket or charge? Don’t wait. Contact an Attorney at The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian today for a free consultation. Call us today at 855-918-4253 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment. We have four locations in Southern California to serve you.