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Driving Without a License (VA Code 46.2-300): Court Says Notice Required

On November 26, 2013, the Virginia Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Carew v. Commonwealth which addressed whether or not the Commonwealth has to prove a driver had notice that his or her license had been suspended when the person was charged with driving without a valid license under Virginia Code 46.2-300.  On July 22, 2012, Aminata Carew was stopped by an officer who became aware that her license had been suspended.  Ms. Carew was given a summons charging her with driving on a suspended license under Virginia Code 46.2-301. Virginia Code 46.2-301 specifically references a requirement that the Commonwealth prove the driver had notice of his or her suspended or revoked license for conviction.

At trial, the Commonwealth amended the charge, without objection, to driving without a valid license under Virginia Code 46.2-300.  Virginia Code 46.2-300 contains no language which required the Commonwealth to prove a driver’s knowledge of his or her license status for a conviction under that statute.  During the trial, a copy of Ms. Carew’s driving record was introduced which showed that her license was administratively suspended on July 15, 2012, for not completing a “clinic interview”.  The DMV record also showed that the notification letter sent to Ms. Carew was returned as “unclaimed”.  However, Ms. Carew was convicted by the trial court of driving without a valid license under Virginia Code 46.2-300.

Ms. Carew appealed her conviction and the Virginia Court of Appeals held that a license is not suspended until notice of that status is received by the holder.  Therefore, the Commonwealth must prove the driver received notice of his or her suspension when he or she is charged with driving without a valid license under Virginia Code 46.2-300.  As a result of this ruling, the Commonwealth must prove a driver had notice of his or her suspended license in order to convict a person under Virginia Code 46.2-301 AND 46.2-300.

The content of this Blog/Web Site does not constitute legal advice.  Because legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case and laws are constantly changing, you should seek the assistance of licensed and competent legal counsel for specific legal advice



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