Tyron Jones

Car Insurance Expert
Updated: 1/2019

Tyron Jones is a car insurance expert who has operated within the auto insurance business for more than 10 years. 

Anyone caught driving without a license will face serious consequences. Those driving on a suspended license or one that has been revoked will also face serious consequences for doing so. In all states across the country, driving a vehicle without a valid license is illegal and can come with serious fines and even jail time.

Consequences Differ Between States and Circumstances

In many instances, first-time offenders caught driving without their license on them will be given a simple traffic infraction. Depending on your situation and the officer who pulls you over, the offense may be considered a misdemeanor and can come with heavy penalties beyond a traffic ticket. If you find yourself pulled over for the same offense of not having your license or it has been revoked or suspended, it can turn into a felony charge. A felony charge is serious and can be on your permanent driving record for the rest of your life.

Penalties for Driving Without a License in Each State

Fines for Not Driving with Valid License

The fines for driving without a license, a suspended license or revoked license can differ significantly between states. In Oklahoma, the first offense can get you a ticket of around $50. If you are caught a second time, the offense becomes a more serious one and you will have to be fined up to $25,000. On top of the stiff fines, you can expect to lose your license for a specified amount of time, usually up to a year. If you are facing your second offense, you may lose your license up to two years and can lose your license plate. In some situations, your vehicle may get impounded.

The fines and consequences for getting caught driving without a license will take months or years to get through. For second offenses and beyond, you may find yourself spending time in jail on top of the fines. If you are lucky enough not to be sent to jail, there is a good chance you will have to complete community service. Additionally, you will get permanent marks on your driving record. These marks can impact your future employment, especially if you are looking to have a career as a driver.

The Possibility of Jail Time for Driving Without A License

Getting sent to jail for up to five years is a real possibility for anyone convicted of driving without a legal, valid license. The only exception to this is for first-time offenders. In general, getting caught without ever having a license might be less severe than getting caught driving your vehicle with a suspended or revoked license. However, it will still mean a traffic citation or misdemeanor charge. Most people will still find themselves leaving the scene in handcuffs after getting pulled over.

What Happens If You Simply Forgot Your License at Home?

If you happen to get pulled over and are asked for your license, what happens if you don’t have your physical license on you? If you have a valid license, but don’t have it on you if you get pulled over, the results will vary between state and officer. The best-case scenario is the officer lets you off with a warning. In other cases, you may get a traffic ticket. If you are given a ticket, you may be able to get it dismissed if you show up to traffic court with your license for verification. There may still be a small fine imposed.

Caught Driving with Suspended License

Operating any type of motor vehicle with a license that has been revoked or suspended will get you in a lot of trouble. Many people are tempted to get behind the wheel thinking they might not get caught. The risks for doing this are not worth the consequences. It could come with extremely expensive fines. There are many reasons why people lose their license or have it suspended. For example, major driving offenses such as reckless driving or DUIs will cause you to lose your license for a specific amount of time or indefinitely. Getting caught driving while you have a suspended or revoked license will increase the amount of time you go without it and possibly land you in jail.

Overview of Differences Between Revoked and Suspended Licenses

Suspended Licenses

When your license gets suspended, you will typically lose your right to drive for a specified amount of time. More often than not, a suspended license is the consequence of getting too many points on your license. You obtain points for things like getting caught driving without proper insurance and other minor traffic infractions. In some states across the country, once your suspension is up, your license will get reinstated automatically without having to go through any process. In other states, you will have to apply at your local DMV to have your suspension lifted once your time is up.

Revoked Licenses

A revoked license is more serious than a suspended license. This means your ability to drive has been taken away for failure to meet requirements asked of you or driving while you weren’t supposed to. Revoked licenses are often a result of a serious driving infraction such as a DUI.

Penalties for driving with both a suspended or revoked license can be high. In many cases, the fines can be from a couple thousand dollars up to $25,000. On top of fines, suspension time limits will be extended and jail time is certainly on the table. First-time offenses are usually misdemeanors. Repeat offenders getting caught a second or third time will be facing possible felony charges. You will have a difficult time getting yourself out of spending time behind bars with multiple offenses.

Car Insurance Rates Are Affected

On top of the fines and possible jail time, drivers will also see their car insurance rates increase. Driving with a revoked or suspended license is very frowned upon by car insurance companies. This is because it makes you look like a high-risk driver. Anyone caught driving without a valid license can expect to see a dramatic increase in their insurance premiums. With suspended licenses, your insurance company will drop your coverage once they are aware of the suspension. This will leave you with a gap in car insurance coverage and thus raise your rates even more.

Allowing Friends and Family to Drive Your Vehicle Without A License

If you allow anyone to drive a vehicle registered in your name without a valid license, you will find yourself in a huge legal nightmare. In most cases, car insurance is based on the car more than the driver. This means that if a friend or family member get caught driving your vehicle without a license, you will find yourself on the hook for consequences right along with them. If your friend or family member get into an accident, you might lose your insurance coverage.

If your vehicle is in an accident and an unlicensed driver was behind the wheel, your insurance company has legal ground to cancel your policy and deny the claim. You will find yourself having to pay out-of-pocket to fix or repair your vehicle. Most car insurance policies list a clause in their terms that states coverage is only effective when the driver has a valid license.

If the unlicensed person driving your vehicle was also the cause of the accident, you might have to pick up the tab for the other vehicles involved. You could find yourself responsible and paying for their vehicle’s repairs, their medical bills and legal defense if they choose to sue you. Even if you weren’t in the vehicle at the time of the accident, you may still get fined a traffic ticket. If the court can prove you “knowingly” allowed an unlicensed driver to use your vehicle, you may be fined yourself. In some states, you may get your car impounded and get sent to jail.

Your insurance company will most likely raise your rates dramatically. For some people, finding new insurance will prove difficult and expensive. If you get your vehicle impounded, you will have to pay various law enforcement fees to get your car back.

Unlicensed Drivers Involved in Fatal Accidents

According to AAA’s Traffic Safety Foundation, almost one in five fatal accidents involved an unlicensed driver. This is one of the many reasons why the penalties and consequences are so high for driving without a license. The study conducted by AAA also found that most first-time offenders have a good chance of becoming repeat offenders. Almost 30 percent of the lawbreakers in the study had received at least three or more license revocations and suspensions in the previous three years before they were involved in an accident that involved a fatality.

Some Examples of Penalties by State

Alabama

The fees for a first-time offense of driving without a license is between $100 and $500. Additionally, the offense will be considered a misdemeanor charge and can come with the possibility of jail time up to 180 days. The driver’s vehicle will be impounded and they face a suspended license time increase of six months or more.

Colorado

The fees for a first-time offense of driving without a license are up to $500. Offenders may also face jail time up to six months and an increase of a suspended license by a year or more. Subsequent offenses deem a driver ineligible to be issued a new license for at least three years.

Delaware

First-time offenders can be put in jail between 30 days and six months. The driver’s vehicle will be impounded for a minimum of 90 days. The fees for a first-time offender will range anywhere from $500 to $1,000. A repeat offender will be sent to jail for a timeframe of 60 days to a year. There is a fine for imprisonment that ranges between $1,000 and $4,000. Additionally, the driver’s vehicle will be impounded for up to a year.

Florida

One of the more serious states to be caught driving without a valid license in is Florida. A first-time offense is an automatic 2nd-degree misdemeanor. This charge will come with a steep fine between $500 and $5,000. Depending on the judge, the driver may face another fine of $500 or jail time up to 60 days. Subsequent offenses come with steeper fines and consequences. A second offense is a 1st-degree misdemeanor and gets you imprisonment for up to a year. This includes another fine of $1,000. A subsequent offense gets you a 3rd-degree felony charge. This offense gets you up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Your vehicle will be automatically impounded.

Georgia

A first offense in Georgia is a misdemeanor that comes with jail time between a couple days up to one year. The misdemeanor fines range from $500 to $5,000. Georgia drivers may also be fined an extra $500 for the offense on top of the other fines. Second and third offenses for being caught driving without a license results in a high and aggravated misdemeanor charges. Imprisonment is possible between 10 days and a year with an additional fine possible between $1,000 and $2,500. If you are charged four or more times, it is an automatic felony charge. This felony charge comes with one to five years of jail time and additional fines that range from $2,500 to $5,000.

As you can see, being caught driving without a valid license is serious business. It comes with consequences that can dramatically affect the quality of your life and finances. Getting past this type of violation will take lots of time and money. Most people facing multiple offenses will need to obtain legal help from a lawyer. Most traffic tickets involve minor infractions that can be handled without legal aid. For more serious offenses, hiring the help of an attorney may be your only hope of not losing your license permanently. For those facing license suspension, jail time, license revocation or more should speak with a traffic ticket attorney residing in your area for more information and help in defending the charges brought against you.