States do normally require that to operate a motor vehicle one must have a permit or driver's license. If you allow a minor to drive without a license it typically is against the law and referred to as permitting an unauthorized minor to operate a vehicle. In Arizona specifically it is against the law to let your 15 year old unlicensed and unpermitted teen to drive your vehicle.
Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 28-3474 states that a person who knowingly causes or permits the person's child or ward or any person under eighteen years of age to drive a motor vehicle on a highway if the person is not authorized under this chapter or in violation of this chapter is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. In AZ a Class 2 misdemeanor comes with a fine of up to $750 and/or imprisonment for up to 4 months.
ARS-28-3163 goes on to say that an owner of a motor vehicle who causes or who knowingly permits an unlicensed minor to drive a vehicle on a highway and a person who gives or furnishes a motor vehicle to an unlicensed minor are jointly and severally liable with the minor for damages caused by the negligence or willful misconduct of the minor in driving the vehicle. So if your child was to crash the vehicle when driving without a license you along with the child would be both liable for the damages he or she caused to others.
As the parent and car owner that allowed your underage teenager to drive a vehicle without a permit you would be cited. Your child that was driving without a permit or driver's license would also be cited and penalized.
Arizona Revised Statute 28-3471 mentions that a person who violates a provision of the driver's licensing chapter is subject to a civil penalty unless a different classification is provided by law. A civil penalty in AZ usually is a fine amount that the court hands down.
Another AZ Statute that may apply to a child driving without a license is ARS 28-1595 which in part states under subsection B that a driver who is not licensed and fails to provide evidence of the their identity on request is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor, so the same penalties as we mentioned above - a fine and possible jail time. The evidence of identity that needs to be presented to law enforcement needs to contain all of the following information:
- The driver's full name.
- The driver's date of birth.
- The driver's residence address.
- A brief physical description of the driver, including the driver's sex, weight, height and eye and hair color.
- The driver's signature.
Also you could lose your vehicle for a time if you allow your unlicensed teen to drive your car. Per ARS 28-3511 police can impound a vehicle for up to 30 days if they find that the driver has not ever been issued a valid driver license or permit.
The AZ Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) can give you more information about what penalties both you and your child could receive if you are found by police permitting your underage child to drive. The MVD can tell you if your child's ability to start the graduated driver's licensing (GDL) process would be delayed if your child was caught driving without a license or permit.
While you may want to help your child get familiar with operating a motor vehicle that is what the learner's permit stage of being licensed is for. A supervising driver (at least 21 years of age) must be in the front seat with the permit holder and that is the time to allow them to start driving a vehicle, when they are permitted and it is legal. In Arizona your child can get their instruction permit when he or she is 15 year and 6 months after passing written and vision tests.
Allowing an underage child to drive can be dangerous and is illegal. There are penalties by the state if you are caught plus if the child is in an accident it is possible that your car insurance company will not cover it since the driver was without a license or permit to drive. You and your teenage child would then be personally liable for the damages caused.
If you wait until your child is of age and is permitted then you will be able to inform your auto insurance company who should cover your teen driver. Some insurance providers require you to add your child as a driver when they have a permit while others allow you to wait until they are licensed. Your insurer can tell you what their requirements are for adding a new teen driver to the car insurance policy.