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Driving Without a Valid Driver's License: State Laws

Driving without a valid driver's license is a crime in all 50 states. Each state outlines the specifics of this traffic offense in its traffic laws or motor vehicle code.

Motorists must hold a valid driver's license to drive on public roads legally. A driver's license ensures that drivers know how to operate a vehicle safely and understand the rules of the road. If you drive without a license, you risk a ticket or even an arrest, depending on the situation and the state.

Laws for driving without a license cover several variations of restricted driving privileges, including:

  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Driving with a revoked license
  • Driving with an expired license
  • Driving with only a valid learner's permit or otherwise not authorized to drive

The table at the end of this article includes links for each state's specific statutes.

Classification of Charges

Driving without a license is more than just a simple traffic ticket. It is a criminal offense. This means it is a violation punishable under criminal law and will go on your criminal record.

The classification associated with a driving-without-a-license charge varies by state. Most states classify a first-time offense as a second-degree misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses or those with aggravating factors can be classified as felonies.

Depending on the severity of the situation, some cases can be heightened to a more significant charge. Some factors that can elevate the charge include:

  • Repeat offenses of driving without a license
  • Involvement in a collision with other vehicles or pedestrians (especially if the collision results in a serious injury or death of a person)
  • Driving with a suspended license that was a result of driving under the influence (DUI/DWI)

Some states allow an exception for driving without a license for emergencies. You must appear in court with a necessity defense to have a charge excused due to a true emergency. This means you must prove the severity of the emergency justified breaking the law by driving unlicensed.

Penalties for Driving Without a Valid License

Consequences for driving without an invalid or suspended license vary by state. The penalties you'll face for this charge also depend on the circumstances of the offense and any previous violations.

First and second offenses both carry hefty fines and potential jail time. The amount of the fine and jail time depends on the state's law and the specifics of the offense.

If you have lost your driving privileges because of a DUI and police catch you driving, you can expect even steeper penalties.

Even first offenses will typically increase the period of time of your license suspension or revocation. You will have to wait longer to be a legal and licensed driver again. Some states (like North Carolina) will permanently cancel your license after a third or subsequent offense.

This charge will also go on your driving record and your criminal record. It is also reported to insurance companies, meaning you will likely see an increase in your auto insurance premiums.

Driving Without a License Out of State

Most states share information about traffic violations and license suspensions. Usually, the law enforcement agency in the issuing jurisdiction will notify your home state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) about the offense. This means you will face consequences in your home state even if the violation occurred in a different state.

Depending on the severity of the offense, unlicensed drivers may need to make a court appearance in the state of the citation.

Table of Driver's License Laws by State

Find each state's specific statutes for driving without a license in the table below.

STATE STATUTE
Alabama License required
(Alabama Code section 32-6-1)
Penalties 
(Alabama Code section 32-6-18)
Alaska Drivers must be licensed 
(Alaska Statutes section 28.15.011)
Arizona Driving on a suspended, revoked, or canceled license
(Arizona Statutes Title 28 Transportation 28-3473)
Driving on a license suspended for failure to appear or pay;  restricted privilege to drive
(Arizona Statutes Title 28 Transportation 28-3482)
Arkansas Driver's license required 
(Arkansas Code section 27-16-602)
California Violation of License Provisions 
(California Vehicle Code sections 14600 to 14611)
Colorado Licenses for drivers required 
(CRS section 42-2-101)
Connecticut Motor vehicle operator's license 
(GSC section 14-36)
Delaware Driving without a license 
(Delaware Code Title 21, section 2701)
District of Columbia Operation without permit prohibited 
(DC Code section 50-1401.01)
Florida Drivers must be licensed; penalties 
(FS section 322.03)
Georgia Valid driver's license required 
(Georgia Code section 40-5-20)
Hawaii Licensing 
(HRS section 286-102)
Idaho Drivers to be licensed 
(Idaho Statutes section 49-301)
Illinois Violation of License Provisions 
(625 ILCS 5/6-301 to 5/6-308)
Indiana Driver's Licenses: General Penalty Provisions 
(Indiana Code Title 9, Article 24, Ch. 18) 
Driver's Licenses: Penalty Provisions for Operating a Motor Vehicle with Suspended or Revoked Driving Privileges, Licenses, or Permits
(Indiana Code Title 9, Article 24, Ch. 19)
Iowa Operators licensed 
(Iowa Code section 321.174)
Kansas Licenses required 
(Kansas Statutes section 8-235)
Kentucky Operators' licenses
(Kentucky Revised Statutes 186.410) 
Unlawful to drive or permit another to drive without license
(Kentucky Revised Statutes 186.620)
Louisiana Driver must be licensed 
(LRS section 32:52)
Maine License required 
(MRS Title 29-A, section 1251)
Maryland Drivers must be licensed 
(Maryland Transportation Code section 16-101)
Massachusetts Operation of motor vehicle without license 
(90 MGL section 10)
Michigan Violation of license provisions 
(Michigan Vehicle Code sections 257.324 to 257.329)
Minnesota License required 
(Minnesota Statutes section 171.02)
Mississippi Requirement of motor vehicle operator's license 
(Mississippi Code section 63-1-5)
Missouri Operation of motor vehicle without proper license prohibited 
(MRS section 302.020)
Montana Drivers to be licensed
(MCA section 61-5-102)
Nebraska Operator's license required 
(Nebraska Revised Statute, section 60-484)
Nevada Licensing of drivers required 
(Nevada Revised Statute, section 483.230)
New Hampshire License required; penalty 
(New Hampshire Statutes section 263:1)
New Jersey Licensing of drivers 
(New Jersey Statutes section 39:3-10)
New Mexico Drivers must be licensed 
(NMS section 66-5-2)
New York Licensing of drivers; violations 
(New York Vehicle & Traffic Code section 509)
North Carolina Issuance and renewal of driver's licenses 
(NCGS section 20-7)
North Dakota Operators must be licensed 
(North Dakota Code 39-06-01)
Ohio Operation without valid license prohibited 
(ORC section 4507.02)
Oklahoma Class requirements for driver licenses 
(Oklahoma Statutes section 47-6-101)
Oregon Driving Privileges and Identification Cards 
(Oregon Vehicle Code Chapter 807)
Pennsylvania Violations concerning licenses 
(Pennsylvania Statutes Title 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1571)
Rhode Island License required to drive 
(Rhode Island Code section 31-10-1) 
License to be carried and exhibited on demand 
(Rhode Island Code section 31-10-27)
South Carolina Driver's license required 
(South Carolina Code Title 56, Ch. 1; scroll to section 56-1-20)
South Dakota Prohibition against driving without license 
(South Dakota Laws section 32-12-22) 
Driving while license is revoked, suspended, or canceled 
(South Dakota Laws section 32-12-65)
Tennessee License required 
(Tennessee Code section 55-50-301)
Texas Driver's Licenses and Certificates 
(Texas Transportation Code Chapter 521)
Utah Operating motor vehicle without license or registration 
(Utah Code section 41-12a-603)
Vermont License required 
(23 VSA section 601)
Virginia Driving without license prohibited; penalties 
(Virginia Code section 46.2-300)
Washington Driving without a license--misdemeanor 
(RCW section 46.20.005) 
Driving without a license--traffic infraction 
(RCW section 46.20.015)
West Virginia Drivers must be licensed 
(West Virginia Code section 17B-2-1)
Wisconsin Operators to be licensed; exceptions 
(Wisconsin Code section 343.05)
Wyoming License required; limited to one license 
(Wyoming Statutes section 31-7-106)

 

Driving Without a License Offense? Get Legal Advice

Driving without a license is a serious offense. You may face serious sanctions for this charge, depending on the circumstances. You can talk to a traffic ticket attorney in your area who can help you determine your next steps. An experienced attorney can protect your rights and help you right a driving-without-a-license charge.

Using the strongest defense possible in court may relieve you of a major fine, increased insurance rates, further restriction of your driving privileges, and even jail time.

If you are facing a more serious charge on top of driving without a license, you may want to talk to a criminal defense attorney in your area. You will want an attorney to help you get the best possible outcome for your case.

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