As an immigration and traffic law attorney, the one thing I see repeatedly is driving without a license, VC § 12500. It is not uncommon to see a slew of tickets that start with speeding, or some other violation, and then has a driving without a license tacked on to it. This charge is pretty self-explanatory: it simply says you cannot drive without a license. The problem is that for the millions of undocumented immigrants in California, they are simply unable to get a driver’s license. I even confirmed this last year when I had to go to a DMV to renew my driver’s license. On the form it clearly asks for a social security number. Without a social security number, one could not apply for a driver’s license. Without a driver’s license, upon getting pulled over, an officer is sure to add on another charge for VC § 12500.
The important thing to note is that VC § 12500 can be charged as either an infraction or misdemeanor. For a first offender, this might be charged as an infraction. But for a repeat offender, there is a risk that the prosecutor might charge it up as a misdemeanor. Recently, cities such as Los Angeles, decided to downgrade certain misdemeanors as infractions (among the list is driving without a license). However, the memo to LAPD says that the downgraded crimes will initially be written up as infractions. There is a provision that allows an officer to write the crime as a misdemeanor under extenuating circumstances. So, there is always a risk that a driving without license will be charged as a misdemeanor. Having any kind of criminal record can be problematic for undocumented immigrants.
Hopefully with AB60, approved in October of 2013, most undocumented immigrants will be able to obtain a driver’s license. Among one of the reasons for the bill is simply that, for safety’s sake, it is better to test and train people for a driver’s license regardless of immigration status. But note, commercial drivers still require a social security number. The bill’s changes would be operative in January 2015, or on the date DMV executes a specified declaration. The DMV will be able to issue a license to someone who is unable to show proof of legal presence in the U.S. A driver can provide satisfactory proof of identity and California residency. The proposed regulation on how DMV will verify identity and residency was released in a memo today on the DMV website (see chart with examples). This list is to be continuously updated.
Also note there is a process for someone unable to produce any of the requested documents:
The proposed regulations also describe a secondary process for applicants who are unable to produce the documents otherwise required to prove identity. Under that secondary review, applicants must interview with a DMV investigator who will attempt to verify the applicant’s identity. California is the first state in the nation to offer a secondary review process for applicants that lack typical identification documents to prove identity.
For other information and how to prepare in anticipation of the changes, go to the AB60 page by the DMV. Hopefully these driving without a license violations will soon be a thing of the past.