Driving Without a Valid Driver's License
To drive a car in the U.S., you are required to have a driver’s license. Driving without a valid driver’s license is illegal from coast to coast.
In every state, traffic laws make it unlawful to operate a motor vehicle when:
- The vehicle operator has never been issued a driver's license from the state department of motor vehicles,
- The vehicle operator currently has his or her driver's license temporarily suspended, or
- The vehicle operator has had his or her driver's license permanently revoked.
Traffic laws in most states differentiate between operating a vehicle without a valid driver's / operator's license, and operating a vehicle without proof of licensing (i.e. when a properly licensed driver fails to carry his or her driver's license).
Of course, people sometimes forget and drive off without their license. These people can usually prove that they do, in fact, have valid licenses by other means. People who don't have their licenses on them may get cited, may get a warning or may get a ticket – it all depends. If they do, they may get afforded a chance to later prove they have a license to avoid a fine. If an officer cites you for driving without a license, you (or your lawyer) must go to court on the scheduled court date. While driving without a license is a relatively minor offense, it's nonetheless a misdemeanor in most states. A conviction would show up on your criminal record.
The penalty for driving without a license varies from state to state. Different states enforce their own penalties for drivers who operate vehicles without their licenses. The amount of a fine for driving without a license can also vary based on how many times a person has been cited. First-time offenders ordinarily receive smaller fines, while multiple offenders might have to pay larger amounts. You may also expect a rise in an insurance costs.
For information on the laws in our particular state, go to Driving Without a License: Laws in All 50 States.