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What Is the Right to Travel?

Last updated 11/5/2019

The United States Constitution provides the legal basis for many of the rights American citizens enjoy. However, like most culturally important writings, the Constitution is interpreted differently by different people.

One of the freedoms based in the Constitution is our freedom of movement and subsequent right to travel. Some people interpret this right as meaning that they do not need a driver's license to operate a vehicle on public roadways, but do state and federal laws agree with that interpretation?

Do You Need a Valid Driver's License to Drive If You Already Have the Right to Travel?

If you have the right to travel, you should be able to travel freely on public roads, right? Not without a valid driver's license.

No matter which state you live in, you are required by law to have a valid driver's license and all endorsements needed for the type of vehicle you are operating, e.g., motorcycle endorsements, commercial vehicle endorsements, etc. Driving without a valid license can result in significant charges.

In terms of U.S. law, your right to travel does not mean you have a right to drive or to a particular mode of travel, i.e., a motor vehicle, airplane, etc.

Because roads and highways are public infrastructure and operating a vehicle poorly has the potential to harm others and their property, state governments are within their rights to require citizens to have a driver's license before operating a vehicle on public roads, and states do require drivers to be properly licensed.

What About Freedom of Movement?

Just because you have a right does not mean that right is not subject to limitations. For example, you have a right to free speech, but that does not mean you can yell “Fire!" in a crowded theater or that you can incite violence.

Because the consequences for operating a vehicle poorly or without adequate training could harm others, it is in everyone's best interest to make sure the people with whom you share the road know what they are doing.

Legal Resources

If you believe your rights have been unjustly limited, you may have grounds for legal action. An experienced legal professional can provide advice and assistance when it comes to ensuring you are able to fully exercise your rights.

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