When the judge gives you a good offer on your "driving on a suspended license charge" in LA County, take it before the D.A. gives you something worse.

I recently had a client in LA County who learned a tough lesson. She was facing a misdemeanor under Vehicle Code (VC) section 14601.1, which says that you can’t drive on a suspended license. If found guilty, you face up to 6 months in jail (although usually you just end up with fines and informal probation), but you also will get 2 points on your DMV record which will make your insurance premium shoot through the roof.

If you are ever charged with a 14601.1 (or a 14601, which is essentially the same thing) like my client was, a common offer from the D.A. or judge is VC 12500(a). This is much more desirable because a 12500(a) conviction won’t put any points on your DMV record.  The condition that the judge or the D.A. puts on the offer is that the defendant must get her license cleared before being given the 12500(a).

Don’t forget that both the 14601.1 as well as the 12500(a) can be charged as misdemeanors OR infractions.  You always want an infraction because a misdemeanor goes on your criminal record, but an infraction doesn’t.

Back to my client:  she was initially offered a 12500(a) INFRACTION by the judge (a “pro tem” judge – which is a judge who is a lawyer that volunteers his or her time to fill in when the regular judge is taking time off).  This was a GREAT offer, and my client had every intention of taking it once she got a valid license.

After my client hired me as her lawyer, the D.A. was offering nothing short of a 12500(a) MISDEMEANOR!!! Plus, the regular judge was back and would not undercut the D.A. (although the judge has the power to) and would not re-offer the infraction.  Something seemed screwy to me, because it seems like the offer still should have been on the table.

What I would suggest YOU do is, if the judge ever gives you a stellar deal (check with a lawyer first to MAKE SURE it is a stellar deal), then you can ask the judge if you can plead guilty to the lower charge (in my client’s case, the 12500(a) infraction), while also pleading to the higher charge of the 14601.1, and ask the judge to suspend the sentencing until you get your license. When you return to court at the next hearing with your license, the court can dismiss the higher charge and all that will remain is the good offer that you wanted all along.

Hope this helps you out a little bit if you ever find yourself in this situation! Also, before taking ANY action, you MUST consult with an attorney first because your situation may not be exactly like my client’s, and the remedy for your case may be different than that explained above.

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