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How to proceed when I get a misdemeanor 12500a vc for driving without a CA license, though I had CA permit and International DL?

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Tensed

Member
California.
I am a foreign national on exchange visa J1 and arrived in Davis, US two months back on June 1, 2019. I have a valid driving license from my resident country and it is in English. I recently (Aug 2) gave the knowledge test for DMV and got the temporary permit. Currently waiting time for the next step that is behind the wheel test is quite long and got an appointment on October 15,2019. Today while driving in Davis I was pulled over by a police officer and he gave me a misdemeanor 12500a vc for driving without a license. He told me that I have to appear in front of the court on November 19, 2019. Did I commit I big mistake? I thought I can drive with a foreign driver license in CA as I am on a J-1 exchange visitor visa.

I am really tensed about what will happen in the court. I am in the process of getting the CA DL and hopefully will get the DL before I appear. I am really nervous and never thought it would happen as I really like to drive safely and carefully. If I get some answers it will be really appreciated.Thank you.
 


CdwJava

Senior Member
If you have taken up residence in CA - even if it is temporary - you are generally required to obtain a valid CA driver's license. A J-1 does not exempt you from this requirement.

The good news is that VC 12500(a) is almost universally filed as an infraction NOT as a misdemeanor. Additionally, if not made correctable in the field (by the officer checking the appropriate box on the citation), the court can make this a correctable violation. If you obtain a valid license prior to the court date, you should be able to present this to the court and pay only a $25 fee.

This is not an uncommon situation near UCs. I'm curious, who cited you? CHP? Davis PD? UC Davis PD? Yolo County SO?

Here is some info from UC Berkeley and ICE:


 

Tensed

Member
Thanks for the reply. I was stopped randomly by Davis PD and they asked for the license and I was cited. I am just wondering DMV handbook says adults visiting CA can drive with a valid foreign DL but getting a permit and waiting for the behind the wheel test (which is not in my hand) overrides the international DL.I was really not aware of this.
I am hopeful I will get CA license before appearing in the court. Will that suffice? If you kindly guide me a bit how to proceed it will be really helpful. Thank you again.
 

CdwJava

Senior Member
Well, it was not a "random" stop as I'm sure the stop was made with SOME cause, even if you were not cited for it.

There is a difference between visiting (as on a vacation) and attending school for a period of time. If your stay is very limited, like, say, for one quarter, perhaps an argument can be made before the court. If you are attending school for a year or more, you should obtain the license. Do you have a residence in Davis? A house or apartment?

Yes, if you obtain a valid CA driver's license prior to court, you should be able to present the license and get the matter dismissed with the administrative fee (still $25, I believe).
 

Tensed

Member
Thanks again ! I agree with you that they might have stopped me assuming something. I will be here for one year as per the contract with the university. I am renting a house in Davis and staying there right now.

I will try to get my CA license asap.

I am sorry to ask, but can you please guide me how should I present the matter to judge? I am a bit nervous so may be asking these questions. Please don’t mind.

Thanks again ! I really appreciate your help.
 

CdwJava

Senior Member
I'm afraid that me experience in court is from the prosecution side of the aisle. Others here might have some more formal ideas, but, in general, your response depends on a couple of things.

If the notice to appear (the citation) was checked on the left side as correctable (per VC 40610) then you should be able to take your license when you obtain it and have a police officer sign it off as corrected.

If the notice to appear (the citation) was NOT checked as correctable, you can bring your valid license with you to court and present it to the court.

Since your first hearing is the Arraignment, it should not be that difficult to speak to the court on the matter when you are called.

Check this cite:

 

Tensed

Member
Thanks again. The officer marked it as NOT correctable. Truly speaking I had no intention of disobeying the law but to be honest I was of the impression that I can drive with a International DL and a CA permit alone. The main concern which I am having are steep fine or jail terms which I am really afraid of. I am here to study and build my career so never expected this to happen. I really feel bad !

I really appreciate your efforts. Thank you so much. I hope that if I get my CA DL and present to the court and explain my thoughts honestly, I could get some favor. So should I plea guilty to the court? and explain my situation. Do you recommend something in additional?

Thanks again!
 

CdwJava

Senior Member
When you applied for a driver's license and received your permit, you (arguably) may have acknowledged that you were seeking a CA license knowing it was required. Additionally, the permit spells out the conditions under which you can drive.

This will almost certainly NOT be pursued as a misdemeanor. If the matter is transferred from Traffic Court to Criminal Court at arraignment, then you should seek an attorney. However, the misd. offense is generally reserved solely for repeat or egregious offenders. As an infraction, the offense would cost you about $402 if the court does not allow it to be made correctable. In my experience with your particular court they will permit it to be correctable.

As for pleading guilty, what I have observed is that the defendant asks to speak to the court and explains that they now have a valid driver's license and have corrected the violation. I can't say what specific format or phrasing might be better than another. Some others who post here might have an idea of what to say.

This is not the end of the world. However, do NOT drive without a license again! Additional offenses are more likely to result in a misdemeanor criminal offense and a 30 day impound of any car you drive.
 

Zigner

Senior Member, Non-Attorney
To touch on something else: October 15th for a behind-the-wheel test is outrageous. Look for other DMV offices that have shorter wait times. You should be able to make the appointment online.
 

Tensed

Member
Thank you @CdwJava for your detailed explanation and help. I will be here for a year, so I decided to get a CA license and also because I needed an ID card. I will proceed as you said and plead guilty to the court and explain why I was driving without a DL. After that incident, I stopped driving totally and I plan not to drive till I get my CA license. Thank you again. I will keep you updated as it goes
 

Tensed

Member
@Zigner I looked at all nearby offices which include Woodland, Sacramento, Roseville, Vacaville, Folsom and even Napa and other places but unfortunately there are no dates available earlier to the one I scheduled in Davis. I will keep looking if I get something earlier.
 

CdwJava

Senior Member
To touch on something else: October 15th for a behind-the-wheel test is outrageous. Look for other DMV offices that have shorter wait times. You should be able to make the appointment online.
The DMV out here has closed offices and cut staff. There have been numerous news stories on increased wait times for everything. My area lost one of their two offices, and they only have 2 people to do behind the wheel tests ... and while they do them, the office drops from 3 to 2 workers. October seems far out, but making an appointment for a license or registration within 50 miles of me is a few weeks out so 2 months for a drive test doesn't seem too bizarre. Maybe we've gotten used to it here.

But, yeah, he should look for other offices. He might have to get a ride for up to an hour or more, but, he might be able to get it before October 15th.
 

FlyingRon

Senior Member
You don't need a SSN to get a license in California. You just need to show legal presence.

If you are legally present in the US, but ineligible for an SSN, you are exempt from SSN requirements. However, you must still provide an acceptable Identity document for any DL/ID card application OR provide a valid SSN.
 

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