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What Are the Penalties for Driving Without a License?

What Are the Penalties for Driving Without a License?

Driving without a valid license is against the law in every state. The penalties range from state to state and can vary depending on certain factors such as the kind of invalid license or whether it is a first or subsequent offense. Depending on these factors, consequences can range from fines to jail time. You can see a full list of penalties for driving without a license by state, here. What follows is an in-depth discussion about the penalties of driving without a license.

Driving Without a Valid License

While driving without a valid license is against the law, the consequences often differ depending on whether the person driving does not have a valid license, or their license is suspended or revoked.

  • No license. If the person driving has never had a valid driver’s license or has simply failed to renew their license, penalties are often less severe than the other categories, but it is still considered a misdemeanor. Depending on the state, a first-time offender may face fines, vehicle impoundment, a suspended license, or even jail. For a subsequent offense, the penalties will be even harsher.
  • Suspended license. A suspended license is a temporary ban on driving, which can be imposed due to an alcohol- or drug-related driving offense, unpaid traffic tickets, or driving without insurance or a valid license. Many people are not even aware their license has been suspended, as a suspension is often imposed before a person receives the notice. In almost all states, a first offense of driving with a suspended license may result in an arrest at the scene, vehicle impoundment, fines, jail time or probation, community service, and an extended suspension period. Repeat offenses carry harsher penalties and can result in felony charges.
  • Revoked license. A revoked license is a license that is permanently canceled and considered invalid by the government. Unlike a suspended license, a person with a revoked license must request permission from the state’s DMV, pay any fees or penalties owed, and follow the licensing process (including taking written and driving tests) after the period of revocation is over. Revoked licenses can result from alcohol- and drug-related driving offenses or habitually driving without a valid license. Many states lump driving with a suspended license and a revoked license together. However, the fines for driving on a revoked license can be extremely high – in some cases, as high as $25,000 – and can result in cancellation of your driver’s insurance.

Failure to Present Valid License

If you are stopped by a police officer and happen to not have your driver’s license on you, this is considered a traffic offense rather than a misdemeanor. You will likely still be ticketed for failing to present a valid license, but in many cases, if you present your valid license when you go to court, you will likely pay a small fee and your ticket will be dismissed. Even though this penalty is not severe, it is a reminder to always make sure you are carrying your driver’s license with you to avoid getting ticketed and having to show up to court.

Consequences for Driving Without a License

Below is a quick summary of the potential consequences drivers face for driving without a license. 

  • Criminal misdemeanor charges. In most states, driving without a license is a criminal charge rather than a traffic infraction. This carries potential penalties associated with criminal charges, such as fines and jail time.
  • Fines. Driving on a suspended or revoked license can result in extremely hefty fines that can be even higher the driver is a repeat offender.
  • License suspension or revocation. Driving with no valid license can result in a suspended license, and can result in an extension of any suspension period already in place. If there are many repeat offenses, a license may be revoked.
  • Higher insurance premiums or cancellation of insurance coverage. Being caught driving without a valid driver’s license or on a suspended license will usually result in higher insurance premiums. Driving on a revoked license will often cause your insurance carrier to drop you.
  • Other expenses. Other associated expenses include vehicle impoundment and storage fees, fees to reinstate your license or lift the suspension, and any property damage, medical bills, or legal expenses incurred from an accident while driving without a license (as many insurance companies will not provide coverage in this case). It is important to keep in mind that an unlicensed driver driving your vehicle will also subject you to the same expenses if he or she is in an accident, as you are considered responsible for who you allow you drive your vehicle.

Caught Driving Without a Driver's License? TicketVoid Can Help

If you have been charged with driving without a license, you face strenuous punishment, including possible jail time, TicketVoid can help. TicketVoid provides legal information and resources for all kinds of traffic cases, including driving without a license. TicketVoid can also connect you with an experienced traffic attorney so that you can acquire the legal help you need for your situation.


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