Driving in California With An Out of State Driver’s License

Driving in California With An Out of State Driver’s License

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You may be wondering why you got a traffic ticket for driving without a valid license in California, when you have a perfectly fine out of state driver’s license.

California is a popular state because, frankly, we have a lot of cool shit here. It’s not uncommon for out of state drivers to get pulled over by our beloved California Highway Patrol or local law enforcement, for an issue such as speeding or a broken tail light, only to be additionally cited for driving with an invalid driver’s license.

Let’s say you have a valid North Dakota license, and one of those sexy accents to go along with it (can you please say “Fargo” for me?). Well, there’s a chance California law enforcement will issue you a traffic ticket because (from the cynical perspective), they are encouraged to “cite first, ask questions later” in the hopes that you’ll just pay the traffic ticket so you don’t have to mess with it.

This is really unfortunate. You realize intuitively that you shouldn’t be getting this ticket. Why is the cop being such a jerk about it?

I don’t like to be too hard on law enforcement. We need them, and a lot of them do a fantastic job. Sometimes they just don’t know whether to believe you when you tell them you’re just visiting. So, even while giving them the benefit of the doubt, it’s still no fun getting stuck with this kind of traffic ticket, which can be charged as a misdemeanor!

What does the law say about this stuff?

Well generally, the law (California Vehicle Code section 12502(a)(1)) says that you CAN drive in California without a valid California driver’s license, AS LONG AS:

1) you are 18 years old or older,
2) you have a valid driver’s license in a foreign state in which you’re a resident.

But with the law, there are always EXCEPTIONS. The exception in this case is brought to you by Vehicle Code section 12505, which explains that if you are a California resident, then your out of state driver’s license is no damn good.

Which leads us to the next question: What makes me a California resident? The law says that you are a resident of the state where you have your true, fixed, and permanent home. Also, the law gets a little romantic here and says your “residence” is also the place you intend to return to whenever you are absent.

Awww….I intend to return to Fargo, don’t ya know!

Other evidence of residence is: the place you’re a registered voter, paying resident tuition at a university, and the place you file a property tax exemption.

So if you were cruising the streets of beautiful southern California and got cited by a lazy cop, or by a cop who didn’t believe you when you said you’re just going to Disneyland (don’t ya know!), you can give me a call at 310-200-4519, send me an email at paul.socaldefense@gmail.com, or contact me through my website, and we can talk about the best way for you to fight this ticket.


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Whether it’s a DUI, domestic violence, suspended license, traffic tickets, or any other criminal matter, the Law Offices of Mark A. Gallagher can help. Schedule your FREE consultation below or call us at 800-797-8406. For more information, visit  www.socaldefenselawyers.com