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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Posts
    4

    Exclamation Foreign Student Cited for Unlicensed Driving Despite Having a Valid Foreign License

    My question involves a driver's license issued by the State of: California (And I guess it's pretty different from the other states)

    I am a French citizen studying in California and been here for 3 months and 5 days.
    I'm on a F-1 visa paired with an I20 expiring on May 2017. I am renting a house with roomates and paying bills.

    This morning I've been pulled over for expired registration at first. The officer then took my French driving license and told me it had no value here since I'm living here and should have got a California DL in my first 10 days upon arrival.
    It's a misdemeanor (VC 12500(a)) ticket and I've to appear at the local superiour court.

    I had my DMV appointment this afternoon and passed my driving written test as well as finished the registration of the car (had to pass a smog test for it).

    Facts are that it seems I shouldn't even be able to get a California driver's license regarding VC 12805 (f).

    The department shall not issue a driver s license to, or renew a driver s license of, any person:

    (f) Who holds a valid driver s license issued by a foreign jurisdiction unless the license has been surrendered to the department, or is lost or destroyed.
    Moreover, the California DMV attests that a temporary visitor can drive with he's foreign driving license. I've always been told that I'm not a resident of California, and I'm pretty sure that's right looking at it's definition (even if it's really unclear).

    If you are a visitor in California over 18 and have a valid driver license from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California driver license as long as your home state license remains valid.

    If you become a California resident, you must get a California driver license within 10 days. Residency is established by voting in a California election, paying resident tuition, filing for a homeowner's property tax exemption, or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.
    I've already been pulled over 3 times before that and no police officer ever mentionned something wrong with my driving license.

    Am I actually a resident of California, was the officer right? What should I do right now and what should I say when I'll go to the court?
    I'm gonna get a California DL asap, in 2 weeks or so, even if regarding the law I'm not supposed to get one (?).

    Thanks for helping, I'm really lost right now and don't really want something to appear on my record, or worse, paying huge fine and/or jail time...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    15,745

    Default Re: Unlicensed Driver for Foreign Country Driver's License

    I do not believe that you are a California resident. You are there for school, and I am quite sure that you are NOT paying instate tuition. A US citizen who is a college student would not be considered to be a resident of CA if their home was in another state therefore I am pretty certain that you would not be considered to be a resident either.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    19,291

    Default Re: Unlicensed Driver for Foreign Country Driver's License

    Eligibility for instate tuition has nothing to do with being considered a resident of the state. First off, even if you permanently move to California isn't alone enough to qualify for in-state tuition. Nearly every international students office in California schools tells you that you should get a California license.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    6,526

    Default Re: Unlicensed Driver for Foreign Country Driver's License

    I agree with ll but for a different reason.

    By virtue of your F-1 visa you cannot be considered a resident of CA according to the CA Education Code that establishes residency requirements.

    2.
    An alien is precluded from establishing domicile in the United States if the alien entered the United States illegally (See item 3. and item 4., pages 21and 22.), or under a visa which requires that the alien have residence outside the United States, or that he or she entered the United States solely for a temporary purpose. An alien is precluded from establishing domicile in the United States and shall not be classified as a resident of this state if he or she holds a visa of the following types:
    a. B-1, B-2 Visitor for business or pleasure
    b. C Alien in transit
    c. D-1, D-2 Alien crew member
    d. F-l, F-2 Academic student, spouse and children
    e. H-2, H-3 Spouse and children of temporary worker or trainee
    f. J-1, J-2 Exchange visitor, spouse and children
    g. M-1, M-2 Nonacademic or vocational student, spouse and children
    h. O-2 Alien accompanying and assisting an O-1 alien with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
    I. P-1 Internationally recognized athlete or entertainer
    j. P-2 Artist or entertainer entering the United States to perform under a reciprocal exchange program
    k. P-3 Artist or entertainer entering the United States to perform under a program that is culturally unique
    l. P-4 Spouse or child of P-1, P-2, or P-3 alien
    m. Q International cultural exchange program
    n. TN,TD Trader under NAFTA, spouse and children

    Reference:
    Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C., 1101(a)(15), as amended by
    Immigration Act of 1990, Public Law 101-649, Carlson v. Trustees (1/4/99)
    Bolding added.

    https://www.sierracollege.edu/_files...nformation.pdf

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    California
    Posts
    20,415

    Default Re: Unlicensed Driver for Foreign Country Driver's License

    However, there are other actions that CAN qualify the student as a resident for purposes of a driver's license. The University where I work encourages their many foreign students to obtain CA licenses. Among these are ...

    Am I a California Resident?

    You are considered a California resident if you are present in this state on more than a temporary or transient basis for 6 months or more in a 12-month period (CVC 516) and/or California is the state where:

    -- You are registered to vote.
    -- You are gainfully employed. Military personnel are not considered gainfully employed in California, even if they also hold a civilian job.
    -- Your place of business is located.
    -- Resident tuition is paid at a public institution of higher education.
    -- Dependents attend a primary or secondary school.
    -- Homeowner's property tax exemption is declared.
    -- Property is leased for use as a residence.
    -- Residence is declared to obtain a license, privilege, or benefit not ordinarily extended to a nonresident.
    -- Your current driver license was issued.
    -- You are determined to be a resident as evidenced by acts, occurrences, or events that indicate presence in the state is more than temporary or transient.

    So, NOT obtaining a CA license can result in ongoing police contacts, citations,and even vehicle impounds.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    6,526

    Default Re: Unlicensed Driver for Foreign Country Driver's License

    OP is on an F-1 visa that will require him to leave the US in May. That is pretty good evidence that he intends to return to his country of residency.

    (
    f) Subject to Section 12504, a person over the age of 16 years who is a resident of a foreign jurisdiction other than a state, territory, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or Canada, having a valid driver’s license issued to him or her by any other foreign jurisdiction may operate a motor vehicle in this state without obtaining a license from the department, unless the department determines that the foreign jurisdiction does not meet the licensing standards imposed by this code.
    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/fa...tionNum=12505.

    He is not a resident of CA.

    12502.

    (a) The following persons may operate a motor vehicle in this state without obtaining a driver’s license under this code:

    (1) A nonresident over the age of 18 years having in his or her immediate possession a valid driver’s license issued by a foreign jurisdiction of which he or she is a resident, except as provided in Section 12505.
    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/fa...tionNum=12502.

    While getting a CA license will probably make it easier on OP in the next few months, it was not required. The officer was wrong and the court should dismiss. But now that he has applied for a CA license, who knows what the court will say. Is that evidence of residency? So what came first, the chicken or the egg?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    California
    Posts
    20,415

    Default Re: Unlicensed Driver for Foreign Country Driver's License

    The officer is neither required to review nor interested in the visa of the party he has stopped. And note some of the key words in sections like 12502 such as "nonresident", and the subjective nature of much of VC 12505. The CVC provides no clear bright line rule on the matter and probable cause to issue the citation tends to be pretty easy a standard to reach. So, the officer was not "wrong."

    A court can find how it wishes, and the court can even choose to put local agencies on notice regarding this issue should it choose to. Where I currently work, students who are foreign nationals here on F-1 visas tend to receive citations for VC 12500(a) and the courts will uphold them. Other jursidictions may decide differently, and individual circumstances may also change the result.

    To avoid problems, and impounded cars, it is most often recommended that students obtain CA driver's licenses.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    6,526

    Default Re: Unlicensed Driver for Foreign Country Driver's License

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
    View Post
    The officer is neither required to review nor interested in the visa of the party he has stopped. And note some of the key words in sections like 12502 such as "nonresident", and the subjective nature of much of VC 12505. The CVC provides no clear bright line rule on the matter and probable cause to issue the citation tends to be pretty easy a standard to reach. So, the officer was not "wrong."
    With that kind of reasoning, every out-of-state driver would be in violation of the residency statute if the officer doesn't have to determine if there is a valid driver license from another jurisdiction. While the officer can see that a license is valid from another state, he also must make a determination that there is a valid foreign license from another country. If he doesn't do that, he is wrong since the CA code provides for it.

    How do you justify that? Is it just write the ticket and leave it up to the offender to fight it? Is that the way CA approaches the law?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    California
    Posts
    20,415

    Default Re: Unlicensed Driver for Foreign Country Driver's License

    The officer asks a few questions, tried to determine if the subject meets the definition of a resident, and then makes a decision to write the cite for the correctable offense ... or not.

    There is no way for the officer in the field to check the validity of a passport or visa, and no way to check the validity of a foreign license (with the exception of Canada - and only with a prolonged detention). Checking the status of a license from another state takes no more than seconds or, at worst, a few short minutes.

    This is neither rocket science nor a huge problem. With a very high percentage of students at CA universities coming from foreign nations, this is an issue that is regularly dealt with in a dozen jurisdictions in the state without any great issues in either direction. If the defendant can convince the court that he is not required to get a license for whatever reason, than he's good. If not, well, he's going to be hit for a big fine. Much easier to get the license. But, that's just me.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    6,526

    Default Re: Unlicensed Driver for Foreign Country Driver's License

    So in this case, a traffic stop on a foreign license that may or may not be valid, is assumed to be in violation of the CA statutes. So when in doubt, with no duty to check anything, the driver is in violation. Nice state you have there.

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