Our client was pulled over for allegedly speeding eastbound on the I-10 freeway. The speeding allegation quickly was discarded by the police, who issued our client a citation for misdemeanor driving without a license (a violation of Vehicle Code § 12500(a)) and for operating a motor vehicle without insurance (a violation of Vehicle Code § 16028(a)).
Summary: El Monte, misdemeanor driving without a license and without insurance, case resolved for an infraction and $150 fine.
Our client, age 31, was extremely nervous about having misdemeanor convictions on his record, as his employer conducted periodic background checks of his employees. He was not sure if he would be fired if the employer discovered such a conviction or relegated to a position with no pay raises or opportunities for advancement. Furthermore, were his employer to ask him to leave, he feared that having convictions on his record and / or being on probation, even if informal (or summary) probation, would certainly compromise his ability to gain new employment, if not just simply bar it entirely.
This could be true, as our office has observed that recently, it appears, more and more large employers are required by their commercial policy insurance carriers to conduct periodic background checks on all employees, mostly to just ensure no employee is urgently wanted by the police on an arrest warrant or bench warrant. Such an employee may then be arrested and miss work indefinitely, hurting the employer’s business and putting it in limbo of whether to replace the employee or wait for him or her to post bail and return to work.
This trend has become more and more pronounced, we believe, as our office has received more and more phone calls from employees saying their employers told them about a bench warrant or arrest warrant and that it needed to be taken care of or else the employee would be let go.
Our office also receives a high volume of calls from people who try to renew their driver’s license and the DMV refuses to do so when the driver has a bench warrant or arrest warrant outstanding. The DMV instructs the driver to go to court and have the bench warrant lifted or recalled.
When our client came to us, he had already established insurance and had been issued a valid driver’s license by the DMV.
He explained the facts of the traffic stop and that he indeed really was speeding. This is an important aspect of such cases to always consider, because while the driving without a valid license and driving without valid insurance are almost regulatory offenses (so minor in that there is really no victim), the ticket is still vulnerable to attack if it is issued after an invalid traffic stop. In this case, the client conceded he was traveling 90 miles per hour in a 65 zone.
Consequently, had we insisted upon reviewing the CHP vehicle’s MVARS (mobile video audio recording system, on “Dash Cam”), it would have confirmed a valid reason for the traffic stop. If, however, it appeared that our client was not speeding, we could file a motion to suppress any evidence gained by police after the stop if the judge found the stop to be an illegal detention, followed by an illegal search and seizure.
In this case, since our client told us the stop was valid, we did not demand a copy of the MVARS, which can sometimes annoy the prosecutor and sour any plea bargaining thereafter. We must be sensitive to such things in reaching a fair resolution for the client.
Our office then appeared for the arraignment and successfully negotiated the case to an infraction on the driving without a license charge (Vehicle Code § 12500(a)). The El Monte District Attorney, with whom Greg Hill had good rapport due several prior cases with him, then dismissed the second count, driving without insurance.
Pursuant to the plea bargain, our client entered a plea to an infraction for violating Vehicle Code section 12500(a). The advantage of an infraction over a misdemeanor is not only is an infraction seen as far less serious, but the judge cannot place one on probation for an infraction.
Our client then paid the $150 fine, plus penalties and assessments, bringing the total fee up to approximately $640.
For more information about driving without a valid license and an infraction, click on the following articles:
- What Is Driving without a Valid License (Vehicle Code § 12500 (a) or on a Suspended or Revoked License (Vehicle Code § 14601)?
- What Is the Difference Between an Infraction and a Misdemeanor?
- Expungement of an Infraction?