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What Happens if You Can't Renew Your Driver's License?

National ID Driver License with Copy Space Isolated on a White Background.
By Andrew Leonatti on May 22, 2020

The hours waiting. The surly employees. The depressing (if there is any) decor. The fees that always seem to get more expensive. A trip to your DMV is never fun. Ever. This is even before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

But what do you do if your driver's license is expiring? With office closures or fears of entering offices during the pandemic, it's no longer just hopeless boredom while waiting in the DMV that people have to dread. And it's not like you can wait in your car. (You just know they're going to use the little paper tickets until the end of time.)

Driver's Licenses Are Essential

Joking aside, you need your driver's license. If you have to leave your house for work and there is no public transportation, your license is essential. And driving on an expired license can get you locked into a vicious cycle of penalties, including fines and suspensions.

Additionally, if you have a commercial driver's license, an expired license means you can't work.

Driver's licenses also serve more purposes than just making it legal to be behind the wheel. Most people rely on their license as their one-size-fits-all photo ID to use at the airport, to purchase alcoholic beverages, and to vote. Many places will not accept an expired license as proof of age or identity.

Extensions Are Now the Norm

Thankfully, nearly every state government realized the importance of giving everyone facing an expired license a bit of a grace period. DMVs are a state government function, so the circumstances in every state are different. For example:

  • Despite businesses across Texas reopening, DMVs remain closed. Texans will have up to 60 days after the state of emergency is lifted to renew their licenses.
  • California residents under 70 with licenses that expired in March, April, or May received an automatic extension until May 31. Drivers older than 70 received an automatic 120-day extension. The state is also making it easier for people to apply for a renewal online.
  • Driver's in New York whose licenses expired after March 1 are extended until further notice.

Those states that haven't provided any extensions are allowing online renewals.

Don't Drive if You Shouldn't

In every state that has granted extensions for expiring licenses, these extensions do not apply to people driving on suspended or revoked driver's licenses. If police pull you over, and your license was suspended because of a DUI or some type of traffic violation, these extensions will not help you. You could still leave yourself exposed to criminal penalties.

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