top of page

VC 12951 Failure to Present Driver's License to Officer Upon Demand & Drive without License in Possession

According to California Vehicle Code 12951, a licensee shall have the valid driver’s license issued to him in his immediate possession, at all times, when driving a motor vehicle upon a highway (VC 12951(a) Abbrev.)).

Note: The driver of a motor vehicle shall present his license for examination upon demand of a peace officer enforcing the law (VC 12951(b) Abbrev.).

In essence, a person driving a vehicle in California must always have a valid driver’s license upon him while driving, and the driver must produce his license upon demand from a law enforcement officer when the officer is enforcing traffic laws.

VC 12951 is different than the crime of driving without a license (VC 12500(a)). To drive without a license means the driver has no valid license. Whereas VC 12951 is charged when the driver does not have his license on his person while driving, or he does not produce his license upon demand from a peace officer while the peace office is investigating a traffic violation.

Example: David and Daniel are both pulled over for speeding. David has a driver’s license, but he does not have it on him, so he is charged with a violation of VC 12951(a). Daniel never applied for a driver’s license, so he is charged with VC 12500(a).

VC 12951 is divided into two different crimes that are quite different in terms of severity. When VC 12951(a) is charged, the defendant simply does not have his driver’s license on him at the time of driving. The court will dismiss this violation by law if he produces his license to the court and he proves that he had a valid license at the time of driving.

On the other hand, a refusal to produce a driver’s license upon demand from law enforcement while law enforcement is investigating a traffic violation is a more serious offense. Keep in mind that refusal to produce a license is different than willingness to produce a driver’s license, but unable to because the driver does not have the driver’s license in his possession.

Motor Vehicle Defined: According to California law, a “motor vehicle” include any type of car, truck, motorized scooter, motorcycle, off-road vehicle, tractor trailers, etc.

VC 12951(b) Penalties

To start, violations of VC 12951(a) are classified as infractions, and those criminal charges are dismissed at court if the defendant can show that he had a driver’s license at the time of driving, but he did not possess the driver’s license for some reason (negligence, accident, lost license, etc.).

VC 12951(b) Penalties are much worse than VC 12951(a) penalties. In fact, refuses to show a driver’s license upon demand from a police officer when the police officer is investigating a traffic crime is charged as a misdemeanor.

Jail Sentence: A conviction for VC 12951(b) can lead to a jail sentence of up to 180 days. A probation sentence, with or without a jail sentence, might be available in some VC 12951(b) cases.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is period of supervision (usually 1 year in San Bernardino County for VC 12951(b) violations), where the defendant is monitored by the court (misdemeanor probation).

While on probation, the court monitors the defendant to make sure that he complies with “conditions” of probation. The conditions are usually to remain out of trouble, pay a fine, and not drive without proper licensing.

Note: Whether the defendant receives a probation sentence after a violation of vehicle code 12951(b) depends on the facts and circumstances of the case, including the disposition of any negotiated plea bargain between the parties, the defendant’s criminal history, and more. A probation sentence is never guaranteed. If the "probationer" does not comply with the terms of his probation, then he may be found in violation of probation.

Fines: Per VC 12951 the defendant may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000 upon conviction. This fine is in addition to any court security fee and restitution fine that may be imposed.

Additional Penalties: In addition to the penalties listed above, any misdemeanor conviction, including a conviction for VC 12951(b), can lead to the loss of driving privileges, a violation of probation or parole (if defendant is on probation or parole at the time of the VC 12951(b) offense), loss of rights and privileges related to professional licensing, immigration status, and military service.

Note: Willful failure to produce a driver’s license by a defendant who is driving a motor vehicle, and who is on probation for a prior traffic crime at the time of the current offense, will likely lose his driver’s license (suspended or revoked) and be found in violation of probation.

Related Offense: Some criminal offenses tend to be related to refusal to produce a valid driver’s license. These criminal offenses include VC 20 (Provide False Identification to CHP Officer or DMV Employee), VC 31 (Give Fake ID to Police Officer), VC 13400 (Possession of Fake ID), VC 14601 (Drive While License Suspended), and VC 12500 (Drive without a Valid License).

VC 12951(b) Defenses

Possible defenses to vehicle code 12951(b) violations include insufficient evidence to prove driver refused to produce driver’s license (as opposed to simply not having the driver’s license on him at the time of the alleged offense), statute of limitations (1 year), unlawful arrest, lack of understanding of the officer’s demand (Language barriers), and more.

Illegal Stop: If the driver is stopped (yielded) without probable cause (reasonable belief) that he was committing a crime, or about to commit a crime, then the stop is unjustified (unreasonable search and seizure) and the any evidence that flows from that illegal stop may be dismissed.

Example: Julie is pulled over because Officer Danny is attracted to Julie and for no other reason. Julie is indignant because she knows that she did not commit a traffic offense and that Danny pulled her over just to flirt with her. Therefore, Julie refuses to show Officer Danny a driver’s license: Result: Julie might have her VC 12951(b) criminal charges dismissed because Officer Danny had no valid reason to stop Julie in the first place.

Post-Conviction Relief: After a conviction for VC 12951, the defendant may have several post-conviction remedies, including expungement of the criminal conviction (Penal Code 1203.4), withdraw a guilty plea or “no contest” plea (Penal Code 1018), terminate probation early or modify probation terms (PC 1203.3), appeal the misdemeanor conviction, and more.

If you or a loved one is charged with the crime of driving without a license in possession (VC 12951(a), or refusal to produce a driver’s license upon demand from a peace officer (VC 12951(b)), contact our Inland Empire criminal defense attorneys for a complimentary consultation.

Our award-winning criminal defense attorneys, including winning trial attorneys, have successfully defended hundreds of traffic infractions, misdemeanor and felony charges combined and we can help you too. We serve San Bernardino and Riverside County cities and courts, including Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Victorville, Fontana, Yucaipa, Banning, Rialto, Colton, and more. Call today!


Related Topics

VC 12951, 12951(b), vehicle code, driver's license, refuse to produce, possession, ca, california, probation, san bernardino, riverside, colton, fontana, rialto, rancho cucamonga, criminal defense lawyers, yucaipa, redlands, victorville, eastvale, jail, sentence, penalty, punishment
VC 12951, 12951(b), Vehicle Code


bottom of page