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Penalties for Driving Without Having a Valid License, Reduced

Driving without a valid license is a serious offense that can have significant consequences. In an effort to address this issue, AB 2746 (Stats. 2022, Ch. 800) was passed, introducing changes to the penalties associated with driving without a valid license.

This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the penalties for violation of Vehicle Code (VC) Section 12500, focusing on the amendments made by AB 2746.

Understanding the Changes

Before the implementation of AB 2746, it was considered a misdemeanor for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a highway without holding a valid driver's license, with a few exceptions.

However, with the passing of AB 2746, the violation is now classified as an infraction for the first or second offense, except under specific circumstances. Subsequent violations may be considered either a misdemeanor or an infraction.

How to Find the Penalties for Violation of a VC Section

When attempting to determine the penalties for driving without a driver's license, it is essential to consult the relevant sections of the Vehicle Code.

VC 12500 specifically addresses the prohibition of driving without a driver's license, while VC 12951 pertains to driving without a license in possession.

However, it is important to note that VC 12500, like many other VC sections, does not explicitly state the associated penalties.

Penalties for Driving with No CDL Issued (VC 12500)

Prior to the enactment of AB 2746, the penalties for driving without a driver's license were outlined in VC 11000.11, subdivision (b).

However, this provision has been removed by the bill.

The amended VC 40000.11 now designates a violation of VC Section 12500, subdivision (a) (related to unlicensed drivers) as a misdemeanor, rather than an infraction.

AB 2746 Introduces the New VC 40000.10

AB 2746 has also introduced VC 40000.10, which establishes the following penalties for a violation of VC Section 12500:

(a) For a first or second violation, except as provided in subdivision (b), the offense is classified as an infraction punishable by a fine of one hundred dollars ($100).

(b) If an individual has a prior driver's license suspension or revocation for a violation of Penal Code (PC) 192, subdivision (c), VC 12809, subdivision (e), or VC 13353, 13353.1, 13353.2, 23103, 23104, 23105, 23109, 23152, 23153, or 23154, the offense may be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction, following the guidelines outlined in PC 19.8.

(c) For a third or subsequent violation, the offense may be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction, in accordance with PC 19.8.

Effective Date and Retroactivity of AB 2746

AB 2746 came into effect on January 1, 2023.

It is worth noting that Section 20 of the bill, which reduces the punishment for driving without a license, does not include a savings clause that preserves the previous punishment for cases occurring before the bill's effective date.

As a result, it is likely that the reduction in punishment will apply retroactively to non-final cases that arose prior to January 1, 2023.

This interpretation aligns with the principle established in the case of In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d. 740, which states that when the punishment for a crime is reduced after its commission, the new, reduced punishment generally applies unless a savings clause exists.

The decision to delete the delayed effective date to 2027 for the provision reducing penalties for driving without a license, as stated in AB 2746, indicates the legislative intent to apply this reduction of punishment more broadly.


AB 2746, passed in 2022, introduced changes to the penalties associated with driving without a license, reducing the offense from a misdemeanor to an infraction for first and second offenses, except in specific circumstances. Subsequent violations may be charged as either misdemeanors or infractions.

It is crucial for individuals to understand and comply with the updated penalties to stay on the safe side of the law and promote safer roads.

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