Know your home state's laws

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jake Barry
  • 97th Operations Support Squadron assistant operations officer
I pulled off Interstate 35 into the small town of Purcell, Okla., in search of an iced coffee. After purchasing a cool beverage, I continued my trip. Within a few seconds, I was pulled over for a burned out tail light. I handed my license and registration to the officer, mentioned my Active Duty status and waited patiently, while sipping my coffee. When the police Officer returned, he inquired as to why I was driving with an expired license. I explained, what I thought was common knowledge, about the active duty military and driver's license extensions being automatic while on Active Duty. The police officer, who was retired Army, said he had never heard of any such provision. 

I received a citation for operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's the tune of $244 or the option of a court appearance. Wow! Regrettably I wasn't immediately prepared to discuss my home states, law. Later that night I surfed the net in hopes of finding the reference to the laws in California. The next morning, I called and talked to the California Department of Motor Vehicles and they sent me a card with my driver's license number and the excerpt from the California Vehicle Code in reference of how my military status and the law applied. California Vehicle Code Section 12817 specifically states, "A California driver license held by and person who enters or is in the United States armed forces shall continue in full force and effect so long as the service continues and the person remains absent from this state..." 

I prepared my case, took leave and traveled back to Purcell to attend the Municipal Court hearing. I showed up in my best suit, along with my court brief, and all the necessary paperwork, including my military ID, driver's license, and the code that was sent to me by the California DMV. Even though the court proceeding was a scheduled arraignment, I was able to convince the Judge it would be in the court's interest to view my evidence immediately, rather than scheduling another court appearance that would cost the city time and money. After a quick review of my evidence the Judge promptly dismissed my case. 

The vehicle code from state to state differs, but it definitely helps to know your home state's laws. If you can't make it back to your home of record to renew your license, carry something that will help you explain your home state's laws, in the event you do get pulled over. Some helpful website sites to start your search are: and I was able to find links to the California Vehicle Code and my DMV contact information with my cell phone internet connection. After a little preparation, I was confident and ready to go defend my case in court.