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Is it Legal to Drive Without a Driver’s License?

Those who drive without a driver’s license are performing an illegal act. Most states, however, treat operating a vehicle without a valid driver’s license and operating a vehicle without proof of a driver’s license differently. The first is driving without a license or an expired license. The second is failing to physically have a valid driver’s license on your person at the time of the stop, even though you are in fact licensed to drive.

While it is true that you will likely not be arrested just for leaving your wallet at home before getting behind the wheel, it is quite a serious offense to drive a vehicle knowing that your license is suspended, expired, or otherwise invalid. Penalties for failing to produce a license or driving without one when stopped by law enforcement range from tickets to impoundment of the vehicle to jail time. 

Types of License Violations

A person may violate a driver’s license requirement in many ways. One may simply accidentally leave a driver’s license behind or may purposely try to circumvent a known imposed driving restriction. The most common types of driver’s license violations include:

  • Driving with an expired license;
  • Failing to timely apply for a state-issued driver’s license;
  • Driving with a permanently revoked license;
  • Driving with a temporarily suspended license; or
  • Failing to show proof of a valid driver’s license when driving a vehicle.

Possible Penalties

When you are stopped by a law enforcement officer and you fail to provide a valid driver’s license, you can be subject to a number of penalties. Typically, charges fall into one of two types: willful violations and correctable offenses. 

Correctable offenses are those that result in a “fix-it ticket,” where the person must later show proof that he or she fixed the violation in order to have the traffic citation dismissed by the court. If the person fails to present the evidence, he or she may face fines or other additional penalties. Willful violations, on the other hand, result in much more serious penalties. A driver who willfully drives without a license, with a suspended license, or with a revoked license can be cited, arrested, and charged with a misdemeanor — a criminal offense. 

State License Laws

Examples of the range of penalties for operating a vehicle without a valid driver’s license can differ based on the state and its applicable laws. 

  • California: Car impoundment for 30 days; mandatory court appearance if the offense included a DUI or other charge;
  • Illinois: A two month suspension for the first offense of driving without a valid license; up to one year in jail for driving with a suspended license;
  • New York: A $40 to $300 fine for an expired license; misdemeanor charge for multiple suspensions of driving without a valid license for DUI-related suspensions, with a possible felony charge; and
  • Washington: A possible jail sentence if a judge determines the person is a habitual offender. 

Contact a Lawyer


Simply put, driving without a driver’s license is illegal. If you are involved in a Nevada accident, contact the skilled personal injury attorneys at H&P Law. Our attorneys will fight for the compensation you deserve.

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