Driving without a License: Penalties by State & Why to avoid

By Randy Luton | Last Updated: 12/06/2022

Key Insights:

  • Driving without a license is a serious offense in every state of our country.
  • Even if you have a valid license you will have to carry it with you all the time while driving.
  • There are multiple consequences of driving without license in the USA.
  • Your license can get suspended if you are caught driving without proof of it.
  • Most car insurance companies either decline to insure or provide high car insurance rates to drivers with suspended licenses.

At the beginning days of our driving or teen years, we all get this idea of driving without a license to the nearest supermarket or to high school. And yes we are all aware of the fact that driving without license is a felony. Even driving without proof of a license is also a serious crime for every driver and can have a huge impact on your driving records.

Do You Know unlicensed drivers are more involved in car crashes as compared to licensed drivers? This detailed guide is written with an objective to help the drivers understand everything about driving without a license and the penalties related to it. Read till the end.

Driving Without A License Is Illegal In Our Country?

Yes, as per the laws of our government, no driver under any circumstances can drive without a license. We might think sometimes that we are just going nearby nobody will catch us or it is an emergency the cop will understand but in reality, this can lead to serious consequences.

What Reasons Drivers Give When Caught Driving Without License

As mentioned above, everyone has their own reasons to drive without a license and they might think it is correct or understandable. Let’s talk about two major reasons drivers give for driving without a license and why they are not actually legal:

  • Expired License
    One of the most common reasons that most of the drivers provide is an expired license. This occurs usually with elder drivers where either they genuinely forget to check the date on the license or they decide to ignore the date as they think at least they have the license.
  • Emergency Situations
    There are some situations which are out of our control and we have to make certain wrong decisions. Driving without a license can be one of such wrong decisions.

    If you get caught driving without license due to an emergency then you will have two options;
    Either you can try to explain it to the cop and see if he or she agrees to let you go, or you can try to explain to the cop that it is an emergency and you will appear in court about it.

    In court, everything depends on your reason and the judge. If the judge thinks your decision was legitimate then you might get a second chance.

What Happens When You Forget to Carry Your License While Driving?

In case you have a valid car license but you forget to carry it with you then you can try to explain this to the cops. There are chances that you might get a second chance or else you will have to explain it and prove it to the court and your record might get clean.

What Are The Penalties For Driving Without Proof Of License?

Driving without proof of license is also considered a serious felony in most of the states. The police ask the driver to show the proof on a certain date in court. If the driver fails to appear in front of the court with proof then he or she will be charged with a criminal act.

The punishment will be decided by the court based on the reason for not showing the proof. In case the driver was lying and there is no valid license in his or her name then the punishment can be serious.

What Are The Penalties For Driving Without A License?

  • Correctable Offenses
    If you have a valid driving license but you forget it at your home then it will be considered as a correctable offense. These offenses result in a fix-it ticket where the driver can show his or her license again.
  • Willful Violations
    Driving with a revoked or suspended license is a willful violation where the driver knows he or she is making a mistake but still commits it. This can result in a ticket, jail time, or a fine.

What Happens If You Get Stopped Without Your License?

If you get caught without a license then the consequences depend on a lot of factors like whether you really have a license or not, whether it was an emergency etc. If you don’t have a valid license then you will instantly get a punishment like jail time for certain months or fine or both.

If you have a valid license but you forgot to carry it with you and you have no other proof like its copy or image then you will be given a certain time to prove it first.

Why Your License Can Get Suspended Or Revoked?

The authority of each state has the right to suspend or revoke the license of a driver. A driver can lose its driving privilege due to different reasons and it can vary from state to state but the common reasons for suspension and revocation of license:

  • Impaired Driving:
    Also known as driving under the influence. If you ever get caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs then it can be a huge setback for your driving record. Every state has its own punishment for the driver caught with DUI mostly it is a suspension of license for a certain number of months.
  • Demerit Points:
    Demerit points are added to the license of the driver when he or she violates traffic laws. One or two demerit points are common and ok with most of the state government but if you have too many demerit points then your license will be suspended.
  • Collision Liability:
    A driver might get his or her license suspended in the case of an accident. If he or she is responsible for the collision and also lacks liability coverage then the license will get suspended.

Can You Drive With A Suspended Or Revoked License?

No, You are not allowed to drive your car if your license is revoked or suspended. And in case you decide to try it once and you get caught then the consequences can be expensive. You will be punished under misdemeanor or felony depending on your case and you will get punishment accordingly.

There are chances that you might get some ease if it was your first time and you had a clean record. But if the police and court got to know that you are a serial offender then the punishment can be jail time for months and a fine of thousands of dollars along with license suspension.

Can You Get Insurance With A Suspended License?

Generally No. Drivers with a suspended license are considered high risk drivers. According to most car insurers; these drivers file more claims as compared to other drivers; hence most car insurance companies avoid such drivers.

Even if you are able to convince an insurance company you will have to pay a much higher car insurance premium than the rest of the drivers.

Can You Let Someone Drive Your Car Without A License?

No, allowing someone even family members to drive your vehicle without a valid license is also a criminal offense as you are supporting that person. In such cases, you will also get a punishment along with the driver.

What Are The Consequences Of Driving Without A License?

If you ever got away from driving without a license in our country then consider yourself very lucky and never repeat it again. Even though the consequences of driving without a license vary from state to state they can be very impactful on your financial status. Below are some common consequences that you might have to face:

  1. Vehicle registration can be revoked
    Driving without license is a serious offense and court can revoke your driving license based on your record. Especially if your driving license is not clean and this is not your first time.
  2. Involvement of lawyers might be required
    If for any reason you were declared as a risky driver and you get jail time then you will have to hire a lawyer to avoid going to jail. Hiring a lawyer can be costly and time-consuming but it can save you from spending months in jail.
  3. More debt
    The fine for driving without a license can be between $500 to $10,000 for first-time offenders. If you get caught driving without license more than once then this fine can increase by double or triple the amount.
  4. Car impoundment
    Again repeated felony means impoundment of your vehicle. The authorities of your state have the right to seize your vehicle. To get your vehicle back you will have to pay a lot of fines again which will result in debt.
  5. Longer suspension of license
    Suspension of driving license is one of the most common punishments for driving without a license for more than one time. But if you are a serial offender then you will get a longer license suspension as compared to the other drivers.
  6. Misdemeanor or Felony on record
    First-time offense can be a mistake but the repeated offense is a crime and the drivers with a repeated record of driving without license will get a misdemeanor or a felony on their record.
  7. Higher insurance rates
    The most common consequence of driving without a license is higher insurance rates. As the drivers with a record of a repeated felony are considered risky drivers and they tend to file more claims as a result they get higher insurance rates.

What Happens If You Driving Without A License? Penalties By State

The penalties for driving without a license can vary from state to state. This is why we have created a list of top states of our country along with the penalties the drivers will get:

StateFees1st Offense PenaltySubsequent Offense Penalty
AlabamaIn case of felony fine will be $100-$500Chances of jail time less than 180 days and immediate impoundment of the vehicle. Chances of license suspension by 6 months.-NA-
Alaska -NA-In case of first offense it will be a Class A felony with 10 days suspended imprisonment along with a minimum of 80 hours of community service. There are chances of forfeiture of vehicles. The license can be suspended for at least 90 days.Subsequent Offense -Class A felony: Imprisonment for at least are 10 days; possible forfeiture of the vehicle; license suspension increased by at least 90 days.
Arizona -NA-For class 1 felony the driver gets imprisonment for up to 6 months. There are chances of vehicle impoundment for up to 30 days.If a driver gets caught with a suspended or revoked license then it will be considered as a class 2 misdemeanor. It will be charged with a potential sentence of 4 months in jail along with a fine of a maximum of $750.
ArkansasIn case the driver gets a felony then it will be a fine of less than $500.For first-time drivers, the punishment can be imprisonment for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 6 months.If it is more than one time then the license will be revoked with no new license for at least one (1) year.
CaliforniaIn case the driver gets a felony then it will be a fine of between $300-$1,000Drivers in California can get imprisonment for between 5 days and 6 months or a penalty fee of $300-$1,000 for 1st offense.In case of a subsequent offense, the driver will get imprisonment for between 10 days and 1 year; $500-$2000 fine.
ColoradoThe driver in Colorado will get a fine of less than $500 in case of a felony.For first-time offenses, there will be jail time for less than 6 months along with license suspension for at least 1 year.If the reason behind restraining the license is because of an alcohol-related offense then there will be a mandatory jail time for a minimum of 30 days to a maximum of 1 year for the first offense. With a fine of $500 to $1,000.In case of a subsequent offense, the driver will not get a driver’s license for at least three years.A second alcohol-based driving with a restraining order then there will be a jail time of a minimum of 90-days to a maximum 2-year jail sentence. The driver will have to pay a fine of $500 to $3,000.
ConnecticutFine of $150 – $200Jail time for less than 3 monthsIn case of subsequent offense – Jailtime for no more than 1 year, $200-$600 fine, or both.
DelawareFine of $500-$1,000Jail time for minimum 30 days and maximum 6 months. Chances of vehicle impoundment of minimum 90 daysSubsequent Offense – Imprisonment for between 60 days and 1 year; $1,000-$4,000 fine; possible vehicle impoundment of at least 1 year.
District of ColumbiaFine of $2500Jail time for less than 1 year -NA-
FloridaFor felony fine of $500 – $5,000For first offense driver will get a 2nd Degree Misdemeanor: Jail time for less than 60 days or $500 fineSecond Offense will be treated as 1st Degree felony with a jail time for less than 1 year or $1,000 fine. Subsequent Offense will be 3rd Degree Felony with a jail time for less than 5 years or a $5,000 fine and an immediate vehicle impoundment.
GeorgiaFelony will result in a fine of $500 -$5,000First Offense jail time for between 2 days and 1-year chances of an additional fine of less more than $1,000.Second or Third Offenses will result in High and Aggravated Felony. Imprisonment for between 10 days and 1 year. Chances of additional fine of $1,000-$2,500. Fourth or Subsequent Offenses will result in jail time for 1-5 years; possible extra fine of $2,500-$5,000.
HawaiiFine of $250-$2,000Jail time for minimum 3 and maximum 30 days; $250-$1,000 fine and the license suspension will increase by 1 year. There are chances of inapplicable penalties.Second Offense – jail time for 30 days with a $1,000 fine and license suspension for 2 years. In case of subsequent offense jail time for 1 year with a $2,000 fine. The license can get revoked and chances of additional penalties.
IdahoMisdemeanor – $1,000 -$3,000First Offense – Felony: Imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 months; fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 180 days.Second Offense – Imprisonment for between 20 days and 1 year; fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 1 year. Subsequent Offense – Imprisonment for between 30 days and 1 year; fine of no more than $3,000; license suspension increased by 2 years.
IllinoisFine of $2,500 -$25,000Class A Felony jail time for less than 1 year with a fine of less than $2,500.Subsequent Offense will be treated as Class 4 Felony jail time for 1-3 years; a fine of up to $25,000. Possible vehicle impoundment. Fourth or Subsequent Offenses chances of seizure of license plate with vehicle immobilization.
IndianaFelony less than $10,000 fineClass 6 Felony – jail time for minimum 6 months and maximum 2 years with a fine of less than $10,000. -NA-
IowaMisdemeanor with a fine of $250 -$1,500License suspension for an additional like period or for one year. -NA-
KansasMisdemeanor fine of $100For first offense it will be Class B Nonperson Felony with jail time for at least 5 days; fine of at least $100.Subsequent Offense – Class A Nonperson Felony jail time without parole of 5 days with a fine of at least $100. The license can also get suspended for 90 days.
KentuckyFine of $250First Offense will be a Class B Felony jail time up to 90 days. The license can be suspended for 6 months with a fine of $250Second Offense – Class A Felony: Imprisonment for between 90 days and 1 year; license suspension increased by 1 year. Third or Subsequent Offense – Class D Felony: Imprisonment for 1-5 years; license suspension revoked for additional 2 years.
LouisianaFine of $500-$2,500In case the driver has a Class D or E license then the imprisonment will be less than 6 months along with a fine of less than $500, or it can be both. Along with that, the driver might get a civil penalty of up to $1,250. Individuals with a Class A, B, or C driver’s license: 6 months in prison or a fine of no more than $5,000.The driver who has a Class A, B, or C license will get imprisonment for less than 6 months along with a fine of less than $5,000.
Maine -NA-In Maine, driving without a license is treated as Class E Crime with a fine of max $1,000.For a first offense, there can be a six months incarceration along with a $1,000 fine.
Maryland Felony – Fine of $1,000First Offense can get an Imprisonment for less than 1 year and the chances of license suspension for less than 1 year.Imprisonment for a felony offense not exceeding 2 years, a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both; possible license suspension of 18 months for a second offense, and 2 years for a subsequent offense. Possible vehicle impoundment.
MassachusettsIn case of felony there will be a fine of $500 -$1,000.For the first offense, the driver can get a jail time of fewer than 10 days with a fine of $500 – $1000 or both.In case of a subsequent offense, there will be a jail time for between 60 days and 1 year along with a license suspension for 60 days.
MichiganIn case of felony the fine will be $500 -$1,000.The first Offense will result in Imprisonment for less than 93 days with a fine of less than $500, or both.The Second Offense will be treated as a Misdemeanor with a jail time for less than 1 year, a fine of less than $1,000, or both. Chances of vehicle registration plates get canceled. License suspension for a similar period.
MinnesotaMisdemeanor fine of less than $1,000 Felony with a jail time for less than 90 days with a fine of less than $1,000, or both. -NA-
Mississippi -NA-In case of a felony the driver gets a fine of $200 -$500 along with imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 monthsIn case of subsequent offenses, there will be a fine of $200-$500 and a license suspension for 6 months.
Missouri -NA-In case of first offense it will be a Class D misdemeanor with a fine of maximum $500 fine with one year max jail time.In case of a second offense, it will be Class A felony and there will be a fine of max. exceed $2,000 with a jail time for between 6 months and 1 year. Class E Felony: Imprisonment for no more than 4 years.
MontanaIn case of a misdemeanor there will be a fine of less than $500.For the first offense, there will be a fine of less than $500 and jail time for 6 months.Jail time for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 6 months with a license suspension for 1 year. The vehicle can be seized for 30 days.
Nebraska -NA-First Offense will be treated as a Class II felony driver will not be allowed to operate any motor vehicle for 1 year and the license revocation for the same period.For subsequent offenses, it will be a Class II felony and the driver might not be able to drive for at least 2 years. Subsequent Offense – Class I Misdemeanor: License revoked for 2 years and ineligible to operate any motor vehicle.
NevadaMisdemeanor for less than $1,000For a felony there will be a fine of less than $1,000 and imprisonment for less than 6 months. If the license of the driver is already suspended, then there will be an extension of suspension by 1 year. -NA-
New HampshireMisdemeanor – less than $1,000In case it is a misdemeanor there will be a fine of less than $1,000 and a jail time for a period not less than 7 consecutive 24-hour periods to be served within 6 months of the conviction, fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 1 year. -NA-
New JerseyFine of $500-$1,000First Offense fine of $500.And for the second offense, there will be a jail time of 1-5 days along with a fine of $750. For subsequent offenses, the driver will get imprisonment for at least 10 days and a $1,000 fine along with license suspension for less than 6 months.
New MexicoMisdemeanor less than $1,000Jail time for between 4-364 days with a fine of less than $1,000. Chances of vehicle immobilization. -NA-
New YorkMisdemeanor fine of $250 -$500First Offense – Jail time for less than 30 days or a fine of $200-$500, or both.Subsequent Offense jail time for less than 180 days with a fine of less than $500.
North CarolinaMisdemeanor – less than $300First Offense will be treated as Class 3 Felony with jail time for 1-10 days and a fine of less than $200. Chances of license suspension by 1 year.Second Offense – License suspension increased by 2 years. Third Offense – Permanent license suspension.
North DakotaFine of $1,500 -$3,000First, Second or Third Offense will be a Class B Felony: Jail time for less than 30 days, or a fine of $1,500, or both.Fourth or Subsequent Offense – Class A Felony – Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $3,000 fine, or both. Possible destruction of license plate.
Ohio Felony – fine of $1,000First Offense will be Unclassified Misdemeanor there will be a fine of less than $1,000; with 500 hours of community service.Subsequent Offense – 1st Degree Felony : Imprisonment for no more than 180 days; $1,000 fine. Possible license plate impoundment.
OklahomaFine of $50-$1,000First Offense will result in the fine of $100-$500.The Second Offense will result in a $200-$750 fine. Subsequent Offense will lead to jail time of less than 1 year with $300-$1,000 fine, or both.
OregonFine of $220-$2,000Driving without license is treated as a Class A Traffic Infraction where the driver gets a fine of $220-$2,000 with chances of vehicle impoundment. -NA-
PennsylvaniaFine of $200The driver will have to pay a fine of $200 fine with a license suspension for 1 year or more. -NA-
Rhode Island Felony with a fine of $250-$1,000First Offense will lead to jail time for less than 30 days with a fine of $250-$500. Chances of license suspension for 3 months.Subsequent Offense – Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; $350-$1,000 fine; 2nd Offense – license suspension increased by 6 months, license revoked.
South CarolinaFine of$300-$1,000First Offense – Jail time for less than 30 days, or a $300 fine, or both.Second Offense jail time for less than 60 days and a fine of $600, or both. Subsequent Offense will result in jail time for less than 90 days and a $1,000 fine.
South DakotaMisdemeanor fine of less than $2,000It will be a Class 1 Felony with imprisonment for less than 1 year with a fine of less than $2,000. For subsequent offense it will be Class 2 Misdemeanor there will be a jail time for less than 30 days and a fine of $500 or less. -NA-
Tennessee Felony with a fine of $500 -$2,500First Offense will be Class B Felony with a jail time for less than 6 months, fine of less than $500, or both. Chances of license suspension of time.Subsequent Offense – Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for not more than 11 months, 29 days, fine of no more than $2,500, or both; license suspension increased by the like period of time.
TexasMisdemeanor – fine of $500 -$2,000First Offense will be a Class C Felony with a fine of less than $500.Subsequent Offense will be a Class B Felony with a jail time for less than 180 days, a fine of less than $2,000, or both.
UtahMisdemeanor fine of $1,000In the case of a Class C Misdemeanor, there will be imprisonment of fewer than 90 days with a fine of $750 fine. -NA-
VermontLess than $5,000First Offense will be imprisonment for less than 2 years, fine of less than $5,000, or both.Sixth or Subsequent Offense will be a jail time for no more than 2 years, a fine of $5,000, or both. Possible seizure of license plates.
VirginiaMisdemeanor for less than $2,500A subsequent offense will be treated as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. The driver will get jail time for less than 12 months with a fine of less than $2,500, or both. -NA-
WashingtonMisdemeanor – less than $5,000In Washington drivers will get a gross misdemeanor with a jail time of fewer than 364 days with a fine of less than $5,000, or both. -NA-
West VirginiaMisdemeanor will result in a fine of $100 -$500First offense will be treated as a felony with a $100-$500 fine.The Second Offense will be a Misdemeanor driver who will have to pay a fine of $100-$500. Third or Subsequent Offense -will result in jail time for 30-90 days; $150-$500 fine.
WisconsinFine of $50-$2,500If the license is already suspended then there will be a fine of $50-$200. In case your license is revoked then there will be a fine of less than $2,500. With impoundment of the vehicle. -NA-
WyomingMisdemeanor with a fine of $750In case it was declared as a Misdemeanor then there will be a fine of $750 and jail time of not more than 6 months, or both. -NA-
*NA = Not Available

FAQs About Driving Without License

  • Is it possible to get jail time for driving without a license penalty?

    The police might arrest you for driving without a license to make sure you are not operating the vehicle again. But the chances of getting jail time are very less but never zero. There are several factors that affect your chances of jail time and decide your penalty. After considering all the multiple factors like whether your license is expired or not, whether you are unlicensed, or other factors.

  • How does the police know if I am driving without a license?

    Police can not know if you are driving without license directly from outside. Most of the time either they get a tip, they guess the age of the driver or they stop the driver for other reasons like reckless driving, speeding, etc.

  • What if I get caught for never having a license?

    If you get caught by a cop and he or she discovers that you have never applied for a license then your case will be handled as a misdemeanor. On the other hand; if the cop discovers that you are not allowed to have a license then it will be a felony.

  • What is the penalty for driving without a license under 18?

    If minor drivers or drivers under 18 years of age get caught driving without a license then it will be considered a misdemeanor.

  • How much is the penalty for driving without a license?

    Most of the drivers are not lucky enough to only get a ticket but if you get a ticket then also it will be hundreds of dollars. The amount of the ticket varies from state to state. On average, it can be around $150.

  • Is driving without a license a felony?

    Yes. Driving without a license is a felony and the driver will get charged according to the profile and factors like driving under the influence or expiration of the license.

  • Can you get car insurance with no license?

    Yes, you might get car insurance without a license but you will need a driving license at the time of filing a claim.

  • What is the difference between a suspended and revoked license?

    Suspended license: The driver is not allowed to drive any vehicle temporarily for a specific time period.
    Revoked license: The driver is not allowed to drive any vehicle indefinitely or permanently.

Conclusion

Driving without a license is no longer treated as a sign of responsibility or forgetfulness. These drivers are now considered offenders and they get higher car insurance rates as compared to other drivers.

If you are looking for affordable car insurance in your city or state then RateForce is here for you. Get in touch with us today to know about the car insurance quotes from top companies in your area.

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Sources:

  • Checked an article by PubMed.Gov to understand how unlicensed drivers are riskier than licensed drivers.
  • Referred to an article by NOLO to understand the consequences of driving without a license.
  • Checked the website of NCSL to understand the penalties of driving with a revoked and suspended license.

Editorial Guidelines: The above is meant as general information to help you understand the different aspects of auto insurance. This information does not refer to any specific auto insurance policy. Coverages and other features vary between insurers, vary by state, and are not available in all states. References to costs of coverages/repair, average or typical premiums, amounts of losses, deductibles, etc., are indicative and may not apply to your situation. We encourage you to speak to our insurance representative and to read your policy contract to fully understand your coverages.

Randy Luton is the Founder and CEO of RateForce. He is passionate about InsurTech services and has in-depth knowledge about the auto insurance sector of the USA.