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 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 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.
If you have violated CVC Section 12951(a), failure to produce a valid driver’s license when it was requested by a peace officer at least two previous times, then hire an expert from Ticket Snipers.
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 of up to $250. 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
Defenses to Violating CVC Section 12951
There are a few defenses to being charged under CVC Section 12951. The law recognizes that people are forgetful and so long as you had a valid driver’s license when stopped by a police officer, the law allows you an opportunity to fix or remedy the situation by producing a valid license at your court appearance. Once you produce the license, the court is required to dismiss the charge.
If you have at least two prior violations under subsection (a), then the court may inform you that it will not dismiss the ticket. It is best to have retained a traffic ticket expert from Ticket Snipers.
Your Ticket Snipers specialist can help present an argument for the court to consider why your charges should be dismissed. For example, there was a family emergency that required your immediate attendance at a hospital or other venue.
Another argument is that the officer did not lawfully stop your vehicle or lacked probable cause to do so. Occasionally, a peace officer will see an unfamiliar vehicle in a gated community or neighborhood that has several youths or persons of a certain ethnicity and will stop the vehicle to inquire of the motorist’s reasons for being there. This is not a lawful stop and if so determined by the court should result in excluding any testimony or evidence about a valid license or refusing to produce it.