Vehicle Code 14601.3 VC - Habitual Traffic Offender in California
California Vehicle Code 14601.3 VC can designate you as a habitual traffic offender (HTO) if you drive on a suspended license and have too many points on your driving record. In other words, this law penalizes HTOs with up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1000.00.
California penalizes moving traffic violations with fines and points on your driving record. With each subsequent violation, the penalties are more severe and could result in a driver's license suspension or revocation.
Suppose you continue driving your car on a suspended or revoked license and get more driving offenses. In that case, you might be designated as a habitual traffic offender (HTO) as defined under California Vehicle Code 14601.3 VC. A conviction under this state law carries harsh fines and county jail time.
Simply put, this law describes a habitual traffic offender as someone who drives on a suspended or revoked license and accumulates excess points on their DMV record for traffic violations and vehicle crimes such as Vehicle Code 23152 VC DUI and Vehicle Code 23103 VC reckless driving.
Vehicle Code 14601.3 VC says, “(a) It is unlawful for a person whose driving privilege has been suspended or revoked to accumulate a driving record history which results from driving during the period of suspension or revocation. A person who violates this subdivision is designated a habitual traffic offender.”
For purposes of this section, a driving record history means any of the following if the driving occurred during any period of suspension or revocation:
(1) Two or more convictions within 12 months of an offense given a violation point count of two pursuant to Section 12810.
(2) Three or more convictions within a 12-month period of an offense given a violation point count of one pursuant to Section 12810.
(3) Three or more accidents within 12 months that are subject to the reporting requirements of Section 16000.
(4) Any combination of convictions or accidents, as specified in paragraphs (1) to (3), inclusive, which results during any 12-month period in a violation point count of three or more under Section 12810.”
What is a Habitual Traffic Offender?
You should know that being a "habitual traffic offender" does not mean you only have too many traffic violations. Instead, VC 14601.3 defines a habitual traffic offender as someone who creates a driving record (points on their record) while driving on a suspended or revoked license.
Someone who receives the HTO designation for accumulating the following within 12 months of having their license suspended or revoked:
- Two or more violations worth two points each,
- Three or more violations worth one point each or
- Three or more accidents require reporting to the DMV under Vehicle Code 16000 VC.
Driving on a suspended license is a violation worth two points under Vehicle Code 144601 VC.
What Are the Elements of the Crime?
To be convicted for violating ion under VC 14601.3, prosecutors must prove all the elements of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt, such as the following:
- You drove a car while your driver's license was suspended or revoked.
- Within one year of your license suspension or revocation, you accumulated points on your driving record and
- You knew of your license suspension or revocation at the time.
VC 14601.3(b) says, “Knowledge of suspension or revocation of the driving privilege shall be conclusively presumed if mailed notice has been given by the department to the person pursuant to Section 13106. The presumption established by this subdivision affects the burden of proof.”
VC 14601.3(c) says, “The department, within 30 days of receipt of a duly certified abstract of the record of any court or accident report which results in a person being designated a habitual traffic offender, may execute and transmit by mail a notice of that designation to the office of the district attorney having jurisdiction over the location of the person's last known address as contained in the department's records.”
What Are the Related Laws?
Several California laws are related to Vehicle Code 14601.3 VC habitual traffic offenders' law, including the following:
- Vehicle Code 14601 VC - driving with a suspended license.
- Vehicle Code 14601.4 VC - driving with a suspended license causing injury.
- Vehicle Code 14601.2 VC - driving with a suspended license for DUI.
- Vehicle Code 12500 VC - driving without a license.
- Vehicle Code 12951 VC - failure to present a driver's license.
What Are the Penalties?
Suppose you achieve a habitual traffic offender status. In that case, you could be fined and sentenced to jail time, but it will depend on the case details, such as the following:
- First offenses include up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- Second and subsequent offenses within seven years include up to 180 days in jail and a 2,000 fine.
What Are the Possible Defenses?
As discussed below, our California criminal defense attorneys can utilize different strategies to fight these charges. We can argue that there was a lack of knowledge, and you were unaware of a driver's license suspension notice. In other words, you did not know that your license was suspended or revoked at the time you were driving.
Notably, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) sends a notification by mail if your driver's license was suspended or revoked, and they assume you know after it was mailed.
Perhaps we can establish that you never received the required notice and avoid a conviction for Vehicle Code 14601.3 VC as a habitual traffic offender. Maybe the notice was in the mail transit at the time.
Maybe we can argue that driving was necessary. Sometimes, we can say you had a valid reason to violate the law and plead "guilty with an explanation." Perhaps you had an emergency. Other circumstances require you to drive your car immediately.
Perhaps we can negotiate and get the charges reduced or dismissed. Maybe you are the victim of a false arrest. Driving incidents and accidents can be complex, and perhaps the police made an honest mistake.
Perhaps the police did not follow the proper legal procedures, and we can get the charges dismissed. Contact our law firm for a free case review if you have been accused of violating California Vehicle Code 14601.3 VC. Cron, Israels, and Stark have offices in Los Angeles, CA.