Driving on a Suspended License: What is Your Defense?


Hollywood actress Amanda Bynes may not be the best role model, but her troubles with the law help us understand the flexible nature of driving laws in California.

The troubled star of movies and television series has had several brushes with police, including a DUI charge after sideswiping a police cruiser and two hit-and-run incidents in 2012, followed by charges of driving with a suspended license. She settled privately with accident victims and pleaded no contest on the suspended license charge, with a three-year probation now in effect.

It is possible to fight charges of driving on a suspended license in the California courts. Here are 3 legal strategies for doing so:

  • Defense strategy 1 ? The vehicle stop was an illegal detention. Unless the police officer had probable cause (e.g., weaving in traffic, speeding, etc.), there may have been an illegal search and seizure.
  • Defense strategy 2 ? The driver didn’t know his or her license was suspended. As the notification of a suspended license arrives by mail, an address change or other circumstances might prevent the notice from getting to the driver in a timely manner or at all.
  • Defense strategy 3 ? Reduce charges to driving without a license in possession. This should not result in a suspension nor result in DMV driving points, however, it is important to note that driving without a license in possession ( California Vehicle Code 12500a) is a wobblet, meaning the violation could be a misdemeanor or infraction.

Of course it is difficult for individuals to work on their own with the courts to revisit and reconsider a driver’s license suspension. But regular people, as much as Hollywood starlets, typically engage knowledgeable legal counsel to pursue any of these strategies and restore their driving privileges.