These People Need a Lawyer (Part 1)
This past summer, you may have heard a story involving a big-rig truck driver who was pulled over and arrested in Moorpark when a police officer spotted a phony license plate on his rig. Not only did this homemade plate display wobbly letters and numbers in old-style yellow on black, but it also had “CALIFORNIA” misspelled as “CALIFAS.”
How many laws were violated here, and what potential penalties is the driver facing? Let’s take a look.
What Laws Were Violated in This Scenario?
According to the story, the big-rig driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, possessing methamphetamine, driving without a license, and having an active arrest warrant. Precisely what state laws did the driver break by having a phony license plate displayed on his vehicle, as well as the other charges, and what are the penalties if he is convicted?
Vehicle Registration Fraud
Under California Vehicle Code Section 4463, a person who alters, forges, counterfeits, or falsifies a vehicle license plate, with intent to prejudice, damage, or defraud, or displays or possesses such a plate, is guilty of a felony. This state law applies to registration certificates, registration stickers, and smog test certificates, as well as license plates.
The crime of vehicle registration fraud is known as a “wobbler,” meaning it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor vehicle registration fraud carries up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Felony vehicle registration fraud carries potential incarceration of 16 months, two years, or three years, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Driving without a License
Driving without a valid license is a crime under California Vehicle Code Section 12500. This offense is also a wobbler which could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a non-criminal infraction. A first offense is typically charged as an infraction, with a fine of up to $250. A second or subsequent offense is charged as a misdemeanor and carries penalties of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f), a driver is under the influence of drugs when he or she cannot drive like a sober person under similar circumstances due to the use of any drug – illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter – or any combination of drugs and alcohol. Driving under the influence of drugs is often charged as a misdemeanor, with penalties the same as for driving under the influence of alcohol. These penalties may include:
- Three to five years of DUI probation
- Fine of approximately $1,800
- DUI school
- Driver’s license suspension
- Possible jail time
If the defendant has a prior DUI felony conviction, if the DUI caused injury to a third party, or if it is a fourth DUI offense, driving under the influence can be charged as a felony. A conviction will carry severe penalties, including up to three or four years in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 or $5,000.
Possession of Methamphetamine
It is illegal to possess methamphetamine (or any controlled substance) without a valid prescription, under California Health and Safety Code Section 11377. Simple possession of methamphetamine is charged as a misdemeanor. Penalties may include up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Individuals charged with this crime may be able to have their jail time probated under a state drug diversion program by attending a substance abuse treatment program.
Active Arrest Warrant
An arrest warrant gives law enforcement officers the authority to arrest a particular individual. Once the warrant is issued, police officers promptly begin a search for the defendant. However, officers on duty may not be aware of a warrant until a traffic stop is made, or another situation occurs in which identification of the person reveals the outstanding warrant.
Experienced Legal Help with Criminal Matters
Conviction of vehicle registration fraud, driving under the influence of drugs, and possession of a controlled substance can have severe consequences in California. If you are facing criminal charges, your best course of action is to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Contact jD LAW, P.C. to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney.
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