California Vehicle Code Section 12951—Failure to Present a Driver’s License
A motorist on a California roadway must have a driver’s license in his or her possession. If stopped and detained by a police officer, the motorist must present a license or be subject to a fine. This code section is often a correctable violation, also known as a “fix-it ticket”, meaning that the charge will be dismissed in many cases if you merely produce a valid driver’s license at your court date.
However, you may not be so lucky if you have repeatedly violated this traffic code section, if the officer does not believe you have a valid driver’s license or if you refused to hand over your driver’s license if the officer made a valid request. You are required to produce identification if you were lawfully stopped in your motor vehicle or legally detained.
CVC Section 12951 states:
“(a) The licensee shall have the valid driver’s license issued to him or her in his or her immediate possession at all times when driving a motor vehicle upon a highway. Any charge under this subdivision shall be dismissed when the person charged produces in a court a driver’s license duly issued to that person and valid at the time of his or her arrest, except upon a third or subsequent charge the court in its discretion may dismiss the charge.
When a temporary, interim, or duplicate driver’s license is produced in court, the charge shall not be dismissed unless the court has been furnished proof by the Department of Motor Vehicles that the temporary, interim, or duplicate license was issued prior to the arrest, that the driving privilege and license had not been suspended or revoked, and that the person was eligible for the temporary, interim, or duplicate license.
(b) The driver of a motor vehicle shall present his or her license for examination upon demand of a peace officer enforcing the provisions of this code.”
There are a number of reasons why a motorist may not have a valid license in his or her possession:
- Your license has been suspended or revoked
- You may have moved from another state but never acquired a California driver’s license
- No valid driver’s license has ever been issued to you
- You are an undocumented immigrant and believed you were not eligible to obtain a California driver’s license
Undocumented immigrants can obtain valid driver’s licenses in California although many immigrants may be unaware of this fact.
Elements of CVC Section 12951
To be convicted under CVC 12951, the prosecutor needs to prove each element of the offense:
- You were driving a motor vehicle
- A peace officer in the course of his duty in enforcing the vehicle code demanded that you produce your driver’s license for examination
- You did not produce your driver’s license in response to the officer’s demand
A violation of CVC Section 12951 may be accompanied by a citation for violating CVC Section 12500 (a), which prohibits a motorist from driving in California without a valid driver’s license. This may be issued if you are unable to recall your driver’s license number.
If you have no valid driver’s license, then the officer will cite you under CVC Section 14601 for driving on a suspended or revoked license.
Penalties for Violating CVC Section 12951
Your penalty for violating CVC Section 12951 depends on which subsection you violated. For instance, if you neglected to have your driver’s license on you when requested by the officer, you will have violated subsection (a) and face a fine starting at $237. However, if you do produce a valid license at your court appearance that indicates that it was valid when you were cited, then the court is obligated to dismiss the charge. However, if this is at least your third violation of CVC Section 12951, the court has discretion in whether to dismiss the charge or not.
Should you violate CVC Section 12951(b) for refusing to produce your license, this is considered a misdemeanor. Penalties for a misdemeanor are:
- Summary or informal probation
- County jail time of up to 6 months
- And/or a fine up to $1000
If you have been cited for failing to present a valid driver’s license, we may be able to assist. Give our team a call to discuss your options or submit your citation for a free ticket review.