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Driving without a license: Penalties by state


Driving without a license, or driving with a suspended license or revoked license, is illegal in all 50 states and the consequences can be dire. In most cases, the first offense is not a simple traffic infraction, but a misdemeanor that carries much heavier penalties than a traffic ticket. Once you move on to a second offense and beyond, it’s often a felony. 

Fines can range from $50 in Oklahoma up to $25,000 (second offense) in Illinois. You will face a license suspension, two months on the low end up to a year for a first offense. If it’s a second offense, you will probably be hoofing it for at least one to two years. There is also a good chance your vehicle will be impounded or your license plate confiscated.

Jail time (up to five years) is a very real possibility for anything other than a first offense, as is community service, not to mention your permanent driving record will now have a misdemeanor listed on it.

If you have never had a license, the penalties will probably be less severe compared to someone caught driving with a suspended or revoked license -- but it is still a misdemeanor instead of a traffic ticket. In most states, if you are driving with a suspended or revoked license, you will be leaving the scene in handcuffs.

Now let’s have a look at the penalties, state by state for driving without a license:

StateFees1st Offense PenaltySubsequent Offense
Alabama Misdemeanor: $100-$500 Possible imprisonment for no more than 180 days and immediate vehicle impoundment. Possible license suspension increase by 6 months.
Alaska First Offense -  Class A Misdemeanor: 10 day suspended imprisonment provided at least 80 hours of community service are completed; possible forfeiture of vehicle; license suspension increased by at least 90 days. Subsequent Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for at least 10 days; possible forfeiture of vehicle; license suspension increased by at least 90 days.
Arizona Class 1 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for up to 6 months; possible vehicle impoundment. Driving on a suspended or revoked license - Class 2 misdemeanor This charge carries a potential sentence of 4 months in jail and fines of up to $750.
Arkansas Misdemeanor: Fine no more than $500 Imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 months
California $300-$1,000 Fine Imprisonment for between 5 days and 6 months Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 10 days and 1 year; $500-$2000 fine.
Colorado Misdemeanor - No more than $500 Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, license suspension increased by 1 year Subsequent Offense - Driver ineligible to be issued a driver’s license for a period of three years.
Connecticut $150 - $200 Imprisonment for no more than 3 months Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $200-$600 fine, or both.
Delaware $500-$1,000 Imprisonment for between 30 days and 6 months. Possible vehicle impoundment of at least 90 days Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 60 days and 1 year; $1,000-$4,000 fine; possible vehicle impoundment of at least 1 year.
District of Columbia $2,500 Imprisonment for no more than 1 year
Florida Misdemeanor $500 - $5,000 First Offense - 2nd Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 60 days or $500 fine Second Offense - 1st Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year or $1,000 fine.Subsequent Offense- 3rd Degree Felony: Imprisonment for no more than 5 years or $5,000 fine. Immediate vehicle impoundment.
Georgia Misdemeanor - $500 -$5,000 First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 2 days and 1 year; possible additional fine of no more than $500. Second or Third Offenses -  High and Aggravated Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 10 days and 1 year; possible additional fine of $1,000-$2,500. Fourth or Subsequent Offenses - Felony: Imprisonment for 1-5 years; possible addition fine of $2,500-$5,000.
Hawaii $250-$2,000 First Offense - Imprisonment for 3-30 days; $250-$1,000 fine; license suspension increased by 1 year; additional, inapplicable penalties. Second Offense - Imprisonment for 30 days; $1,000 fine; license suspension increased by 2 years; additional. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for 1 year, $2,000 fine. permanent license revocation; Additional, inapplicable penalties.
Idaho Misdemeanor - $1,000 -$3,000 First Offense - Misdemeanor: 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.
Illinois Misdemeanor - $2,500 -$25,000 First Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; fine of no more than $2,500. Subsequent Offense - Class 4 Felony: Imprisonment for 1-3 years; fine of up to $25,000. Possible vehicle impoundment. Fourth or Subsequent Offenses - Possible seizure of license plate; possible vehicle immobilization.
Indiana Felony - No more than $10,000 Class 6 Felony - Imprisonment for between 6 months and 2 years, 6 months; fine of no more than $10,000.
Iowa Misdemeanor - $250 -$1,500 License suspension increased for an additional like period or for one year, whichever is shorter.
Kansas Misdemeanor: $100 First Offense - Class B Nonperson Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for at least 5 days; fine of at least $100. Subsequent Offense - Class A Nonperson Misdemeanor: Imprisonment without eligibility for parole until completion of 5 days; fine of at least $100. License suspension increased by 90 days.
Kentucky First Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for at least 90 days; license suspension increased by 6 months. Second Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: 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.
Louisiana $500-$2,500 Person with a Class D or E driver’s license: Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, fine of no more than $500, or both.Person with a Class A, B, or C driver’s license: Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, fine of no more than $5,000, or both. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 7 days and 6 months; fine of $300-$500; potential civil fine of no more than $1,150. Subsequent Offense - Class A, B, or C driver’s license: Imprisonment for between 7 days and 6 months; fine of $300-$500; potential civil fine of no more than $2,500. License suspension increased by 1 year
Maine $250-$500 First Offense - $250. Second Offense - $500. Possible license suspension of 1 year.
Maryland Misdemeanor - $1,000 First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, fine of no more than $1,000, or both; possible license suspension increased by no more than 1 year. Subsequent Offense - Misdemeanor Imprisonment for no more than 2 years, fine of no more than $1,000, or both; possible license suspension increased by no more than 18 months if second offense, no more than 2 years for subsequent offenses. Possible vehicle impoundment.
Massachusetts Misdemeanor - $500 -$1,000 First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 10 days, $500-$1,000 fine, or both Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 60 days and 1 year. License suspension increased by 60 days.
Michigan Misdemeanor - $500 -$1,000 First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 93 days, a fine of no more than $500, or both. Second Offense -  Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, a fine of no more than $1,000, or both. Cancellation of vehicle’s registration plates.License suspension increased by like period.
Minnesota Misdemeanor - No more than $1,000 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 90 days, fine of no more than $1,000, or both.
Mississippi Misdemeanor - $200 -$500 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for between 48 hours and 6 months; $200-$500 fine; license suspension increased by 6 months.
Missouri First Offense - Class D Misdemeanor: No set term of imprisonment; not to exceed one year. Second Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 6 months and 1 year. Subsequent Offense - Class E Felony: Imprisonment for no more than 4 years.
Montana Misdemeanor - No more than $500 Imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 months, license suspension increased by 1 year, vehicle used is seized and rendered inoperable for 30 days.
Nebraska First Offense - Class II Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 1 year; license revocation for like period. Second or Third Offense - Class II Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 2 year; license revocation for like period. Fourth or Subsequent Offense - Class I Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 2 year; license revocation for like period.
Nevada Misdemeanor - No more than $1,000 Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, a fine of no more than $1,000, or both. If license suspended, extension of suspension by like period. If license (revoked), extension of period of ineligibility for license by 1 year.
New Hampshire Misdemeanor - No more than $1,000 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for at least 1 week; fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 1 year.
New Jersey $500-$1,000 First Offense - $500 fine. Second Offense - Imprisonment for 1-5 days; $750 fine. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for 10 days; $1,000 fine. License suspension increased by no more than 6 months.
New Mexico Misdemeanor - No more than $1,000 Imprisonment for 4-364 days; possible fine of no more than $1,000. Possible vehicle immobilization.
New York Misdemeanor - $250 -$500 First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $200-$500 fine, or both. Subsequent Offens - : Imprisonment for no more than 180 days; fine of no less than $500.
North Carolina Misdemeanor - No more than $300 First Offense - Class 3 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for 1-10 days; fine of no more than $200; license suspension increased by 1 year. Second Offense - License suspension increased by 2 years. Third Offense - Permanent license suspension.
North Dakota Misdemeanor - $1,500 -$3,000 First, Second or Third Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $1,500 fine, or both. Fourth or Subsequent Offense - Class A Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $3,000 fine, or both.Possible destruction of license plate.
Ohio Misdemeanor - $1,000 First Offense - Unclassified Misdemeanor: Fine of no more than $1,000; 500 hours community service. Subsequent Offense - 1st Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 180 days; $1,000 fine. Possible license plate impoundment.
Oklahoma Misdemeanor - $50-$1,000 First Offense - $100-$500 fine. Second Offense): $200-$750 fine. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $300-$1,000 fine, or both.
Oregon $220-$2,000 Class A Traffic Infraction: $220-$2,000 fine. Possible vehicle impoundment.
Pennsylvania $200 Summary Offense: $200 fine; license suspension increased by 1 year if originally suspended, 2 years if it was originally revoked.
Rhode Island Misdemeanor - $250-$1,000 First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 30 days; $250-$500 fine; license suspension increased by 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 Carolina $300-$1,000 First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $300 fine, or both. Second Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 60 days, $600 fine, or both. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 90 days; $1,000 fine.
South Dakota Misdemeanor - No more than $2,000 Revoked - Class 1 Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; fine of no more than $2,000. Suspended or Cancelled - Class 2 Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 30 days; fine of no more than $500.
Tennessee Misdemeanor - $500 -$2,500 First Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for not more than 6 months, fine of no more than $500, or both; license suspension increased by like period 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 like period of time.
Texas Misdemeanor - $500 -$2,000 First Offense - Class C Misdemeanor: Fine of no more than $500. Subsequent Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 180 days, fine of no more than $2,000, or both.
Utah Misdemeanor - $1,000 Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment of no more than 6 months; $1,000 fine.
Vermont No more than $5,000 First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 2 years, fine of no more than $5,000, or both. Sixth or Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more 2 years, fine of $5,000, or both. Possible seizure of license plates.
Virginia Misdemeanor - No more than $2,500 Class 1 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 12 months, fine of no more than $2,500, or both.
Washington Misdemeanor - No more than $5,000 Gross Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 364 days, fine of no more than $5,000, or both.
West Virginia Misdemeanor - $100 -$500 First Offense Misdemeanor - $100-$500 fine. Second Offense -  Misdemeanor: $100-$500 fine. Third or Subsequent Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for 30-90 days; $150-$500 fine.
Wisconsin $50-$2,500 Suspended - $50-$200 fine. Revoked - Fine of no more than $2,500.Vehicle may be impounded
Wyoming Misdemeanor - $750 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, fine of no more than $750, or both.

**Data provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Oops, I left my license at home

Driving without carrying your license on you, is a different story, compared to driving with a suspended or revoked license. If you have a valid license but left it at home, you may still get a ticket, but it will usually be a minor traffic infraction that you can probably get dismissed by showing up at court with your valid driver’s license. You may have to pay a small fine.

Driving with a suspended license

Operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license may be tempting, but it is a huge and ultimately very expensive mistake.

In most cases, your license has been suspended or revoked because of a major driving offense, for example, DUI or reckless driving. Adding driving with a revoked license will only increase your time without a license and will possibly land you in the clink.

Here is a quick overview on the difference between a suspended and revoked license:

  • Suspended: A suspended license is a temporary loss of your driving privileges often due to an excessive amount of points on your license, driving without proof of insurance or another major offense. In some states, the suspension ends automatically and your license is re-instated. In other states you may have to apply to your DMV to have the suspension lifted.
  • Revoked: This is the more serious of the two infractions. It means that your license has been cancelled and after you meet any requirements or time frames imposed you will need to reapply for an entirely new license. A revocation of a license is usually due to a serious infraction, such as a DUI.

The penalty for driving with a suspended or revoked license will vary by state, but in most cases, a hefty fine is involved, ranging up to $25,000. Your suspension time will absolutely be increased and in almost every state jail time is also on the table -- the odds of serving time will vary by state, and the seriousness of your offense.

In almost every state, driving with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor for a first offense. When you are a repeat offender with a second or third offense, you may be looking at a felony and will almost certainly be spending some time behind bars.

In addition, you can expect your insurance rates to increase. Driving with a suspended or revoked license is severely frowned upon by insurers, as they deem it high-risk behavior, so expect your rates to climb.

“If you have been convicted of driving without a license or on a suspended license, expect a major rate increase,” says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for CarInsurance.com, who is available to answer your questions. “If your license has been suspended for a long period, expect your insurer to cancel your policy once they learn of the suspension, leaving you with a gap in coverage that will lead to higher rates when you apply for coverage again.”

Letting someone else drive your car without license

Unless you are in the mood for a financial nightmare, never let an unlicensed driver get behind the wheel of your car.

In almost all cases, car insurance follows the car, not the driver. That means if your unlicensed friend or family member is in an accident with your car, it will be your insurance policy that is on the hook.

Unfortunately, since an unlicensed driver was behind the wheel, your insurance company is on solid legal ground to deny your claim, making you solely responsible for the cost of repairing or replacing your car. “Most policies have a clause that states that for the coverages to be in effect the driver must have a valid license,” says Gusner.

If your friend was responsible for the accident, you could be picking up the tab for the other person’s car, the medical bills and a legal defense if the other driver decides to sue you. In addition, you may receive a ticket, even if you aren’t in the car at the time. “In some states, you can be charged if you knowingly allow someone without a license to drive your vehicle,” says Gusner. “You can receive jail time, fines and your car can be impounded, depending on the state laws.”

You can expect a dramatic increase in your insurance costs and there is a good chance your insurance company will simply cancel your policy, which can make finding a new policy challenging, and expensive.

As a final kick in the pants, many states will impound a vehicle if an unlicensed driver is behind the wheel after a traffic stop or accident. Afterward, you will be paying the various fees handed down by law enforcement and the motor vehicle department to get your car out of the dog house.

One in five unlicensed drivers involved in fatal accidents

It turns out that there is good reason to keep unlicensed drivers off the road. They are much more dangerous than licensed drivers. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one in five fatal car crashes involves a driver who doesn’t have a license or whose license status is unknown to law enforcement.

The study also found that once a license is suspended there is a good chance the driver will end up a repeat offender. The AAA data showed that 28 percent of these lawbreakers had received three or more license suspensions or revocations in the three years before they were involved in a deadly collision.


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