If you get pulled over for driving without a license in California, you could be charged with a criminal misdemeanor under Section 12500 of the California Vehicle Code. However, you may be able to get the violation dismissed if you can prove that you had a valid license on the violation date but did not have it in your possession at the time.
Fines and Penalties
For the first offense, you may be given probation and fined up to $1,000 plus court fees, towing and impound fees. Frequent repeat offenses may result in jail time. If you can get your driver's license reinstated before the date of your hearing, you may be able to persuade the judge to reduce your charge to a traffic infraction.
Suspended or Revoked License
The penalties for driving with a suspended or revoked license are more severe because the state's legal system has already determined that you are not fit to hold a driver's license at that time. The fine ranges from $300 to $1,000 and you may face possible jail time of five days to six months. Each repeat offense increases the potential penalties. The burden of proof is on the prosecutor to show you knew your license was suspended and drove anyway.
Penalties for Minors
A minor who is convicted of driving without a license can face six months to one year in a juvenile correction facility in addition to fines, court costs and impound fees. This is typically reduced to community service for the first offense. The parents may also face negligence charges for permitting a minor to take the vehicle.