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Driving without a license: Penalties by state


Driving without a license or a suspended 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 can end up being a felony. 

Fines can range from $50 in Wisconsin (for driving on a suspended license, driving on a revoked license can push the cost to $2,500) 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.

Here is a breakdown of what you can expect state by state if you are cruising the streets without a license:

StateFees1st Offense PenaltySubsequent Offense
AlabamaMisdemeanor: $100-$500Possible imprisonment for no more than 180 days and immediate vehicle impoundment. Possible license suspension increase by 6 months.
AlaskaFirst 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.
ArizonaClass 1 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for up to 6 months; possible vehicle impoundment for up to 30 daysDriving 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.
ArkansasMisdemeanor: Fine no more than $500Imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 months

Shall extend the period of the suspension for an additional like period and, if the conviction was upon a charge of driving while a license was revoked, the office shall not issue a new license for an additional period of one (1) year from and after the date such person would otherwise have been entitled to apply for a new license.

California$300-$1,000 FineImprisonment for between 5 days and 6 monthsSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 10 days and 1 year; $500-$2000 fine.
ColoradoMisdemeanor - No more than $500Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, license suspension increased by 1 year. 

If the license restraint is due to an alcohol related offense there is a mandatory 30 days to 1 year in jail for a first offense. Minimum fine of $500 to $1,000.

Subsequent Offense - Driver ineligible to be issued a driver’s license for a period of three years. 

A second alcohol-based driving under restraint will result in a mandatory 90-day to 2-year jail sentence. Minimum fine of $500 to $3,000.

Connecticut$150 - $200Imprisonment for no more than 3 monthsSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $200-$600 fine, or both.
Delaware$500-$1,000Imprisonment for between 30 days and 6 months. Possible vehicle impoundment of at least 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 Columbia$2,500Imprisonment for no more than 1 year
FloridaMisdemeanor $500 - $5,000First Offense - 2nd Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 60 days or $500 fineSecond 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.
GeorgiaMisdemeanor - $500 -$5,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 2 days and 1 year; possible additional fine of no more than $1,000.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-$2,000First 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.
IdahoMisdemeanor - $1,000 -$3,000First 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.
IllinoisMisdemeanor - $2,500 -$25,000First 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.
IndianaFelony - No more than $10,000Class 6 Felony - Imprisonment for between 6 months and 2 years, 6 months; fine of no more than $10,000.
IowaMisdemeanor - $250 -$1,500License suspension increased for an additional like period or for one year, whichever is shorter.
KansasMisdemeanor: $100First 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

Misdemeanor: Up to $250

First Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment up to 90 days; license suspension increased by 6 months. Fine up to $250

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. May be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,250. 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. May be subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500.

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

Class E Crime: Up to $1,000

First Offense – Class E: Crimes punishable by up to six months incarceration and a $1,000 fine

MarylandMisdemeanor - $1,000First 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.
MassachusettsMisdemeanor - $500 -$1,000First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 10 days, $500-$1,000 fine, or bothSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 60 days and 1 year. License suspension increased by 60 days.
MichiganMisdemeanor - $500 -$1,000First 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.
MinnesotaMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 90 days, fine of no more than $1,000, or both.
MississippiMisdemeanor - $200 -$500Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for between 48 hours and 6 months; $200-$500 fine; license suspension increased by 6 months.
Missouri

First Offense - Class D Misdemeanor: Up to $500 fine. No set term of imprisonment; not to exceed one year.

Second Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Fine not to exceed $2,000. Imprisonment for between 6 months and 1 year. Subsequent Offense - Class E Felony: Imprisonment for no more than 4 years.

MontanaMisdemeanor - No more than $500

First Offense – Fine not to exceed $500 and term of imprisonment not to exceed 6 months.

Imprisonment for no less than 2 days and not to exceed 6 months, license suspension increased by 1 year, vehicle used is seized and rendered inoperable for 30 days.

NebraskaFirst 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.
NevadaMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Imprisonment 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 HampshireMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000

Misdemeanor - Imprisonment 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.

New Jersey$500-$1,000First 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 MexicoMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Imprisonment for 4-364 days; possible fine of no more than $1,000. Possible vehicle immobilization.
New YorkMisdemeanor - $250 -$500First 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 CarolinaMisdemeanor - No more than $300First 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 DakotaMisdemeanor - $1,500 -$3,000First, 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.
OhioMisdemeanor - $1,000First 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.
OklahomaMisdemeanor - $50-$1,000First 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-$2,000Class A Traffic Infraction: $220-$2,000 fine. Possible vehicle impoundment.
Pennsylvania$200Summary Offense: $200 fine; license suspension increased by 1 year if originally suspended, 2 years if it was originally revoked.
Rhode IslandMisdemeanor - $250-$1,000First 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-$1,000First 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 DakotaMisdemeanor - No more than $2,000Revoked - 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.
TennesseeMisdemeanor - $500 -$2,500First 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.
TexasMisdemeanor - $500 -$2,000First 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.
UtahMisdemeanor - $1,000

Class C Misdemeanor: Imprisonment of no more than 90 days; up to $750 fine.

VermontNo more than $5,000First 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.
VirginiaMisdemeanor - No more than $2,500Class 1 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 12 months, fine of no more than $2,500, or both.
WashingtonMisdemeanor - No more than $5,000Gross Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 364 days, fine of no more than $5,000, or both.
West VirginiaMisdemeanor - $100 -$500First 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-$2,500Suspended - $50-$200 fine. Revoked - Fine of no more than $2,500.Vehicle may be impounded
WyomingMisdemeanor - $750Misdemeanor - 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 forgot my license

Hitting the road while your valid driver’s license stays at home is definitely not as serious as driving with a suspended or revoked license. While you will most likely get a ticket, it is a simple traffic infraction, not a misdemeanor. If you show up at court with your valid driver’s license there is a good chance the ticket will be dismissed, although you may need to pay a small fine.

 

What the difference between a suspended and revoked license?

Driving on a suspended or revoked license is the big leagues when it comes to traffic violations, but in most cases, driving on a revoked license is the more serious offense.

Here’s a quick overview of these two violations:

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.

There can be factors that lessen the severity of driving on a suspended license and one of these is whether or not you knew you were driving on a suspended license. “In Florida, the first offense is often "without knowledge" which means the driver didn't know that their license was suspended,” says Arion Hunt, founder of the Arion Hunt Law Firm in Orlando. “This carries a civil infraction moving violation penalty similar to a speeding ticket,” advises Hunt.

There are a few different reasons you could be hitting the streets with a suspended license and not know it, but in most cases it’s due to unpaid traffic tickets. If you forget to send in the payment for a speeding ticket, your license may end up suspended and the next time you are pulled over, you could be in for a surprise, and possibly some handcuffs.

This is actually fairly common, “I would say that the vast majority of drivers charged with this crime are surprised to learn their license is suspended, and all of them are shocked to learn of its consequences, says Derek Andrews with Phelan, Phelan & Danek in Albany, NY.

It should be noted that every state is different in how it deals with driving on a suspended or revoked license and while Florida may give you the benefit of the doubt that you were unaware of the suspended status of your license, not every state will extend that courtesy.

On the other hand, if you know your license is suspended and decide to drive anyway, the penalties become exponentially steeper. “In Florida, upon the first conviction "with knowledge," a violator faces a second degree misdemeanor, $500 fine, jail time, probation, community service, and a court ordered eight hour driving class,” warns Hunt. Again, this only applies to Florida.

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.

“A driver who continues to drive on a suspended license gets labeled habitual and faces felony charges, $5,000 fine, five years of jail and parole. A judge can also order additional requirements on a case-by-case basis,” says Hunt.

You will pay a higher insurance premium after 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.

While you may think you won’t get caught, technology is making it easier for the police to determine the status of your license. “People who knowingly take the risk should know that police departments have implemented license plate scanning technology that tells them if the registered owner of the car has a suspended or revoked driver's license,” warns Hunt.

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.

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.

“Rates can easily increase anywhere between 25 percent to 30 percent when an insurance company sees that you were arrested for driving with suspended or revoked license, advises Sa El, Co-Founder of Simply Insurance.

If your license is suspended or revoked for a long time (think six months to a year or more) it will only increase your insurance pain. “If your license has been suspended for a long period, expect your insurer to cancel your policy once it learns of the suspension, leaving you with a gap in coverage that will lead to higher rates when you apply for coverage again,” says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for CarInsurance.com.

CarInsurance.com rate data show that you will pay an average of 9 to 13 more for coverage if you have a lapse in your policy.

Letting a driver with a suspended license drive your car is a big mistake

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.

According to their data, 6.7 percent had a license that had had been suspended or revoked, 1.1% had a license that had expired or had been cancelled or denied, and 5.0% were unlicensed. When you add it all up it turns out that 18.2 percent of fatal crashes in 2007–2009 involved drivers who were unlicensed or invalidly licensed. These accidents killed 21,049 people.

Once you make the leap to driving with a suspended license there is a good chance you will end up a repeat offender. The AAA study found that 28 percent of the unlicensed drivers had already received three or more suspensions or revocations in the three years before they got into a deadly accident.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) agrees with the AAA findings. The NHTSA looked at the numbers for 2012 and found that:

  • Nineteen percent of motor vehicle fatalities involved drivers with invalid licenses.
  • Drivers with invalid licenses comprised 13 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes.
  • Motorcycle operators involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were the most likely to have invalid licenses.
  • Male drivers involved in fatal crashes had invalid licenses more frequently than did female drivers.
  • Other than those under age 16, drivers 21 to 34 had the highest proportion of invalid licenses in fatal crashes.

The NHTSA data also looked at which states have the most fatal accidents with invalidly licensed drivers behind the wheel. Hawaii was unlucky number one with 31 percent of fatal accidents involving a driver with a less than valid driver’s license. The top five shook out as follows:

  • Hawaii – 31 percent
  • Vermont – 27 percent
  • Texas – 26 percent
  • California - 25 percent
  • Colorado - 24 percent

On the other side of the coin, these states had the fewest fatal accidents related to unlicensed drivers:

  • New Hampshire – 6 percent
  • Alaska and Nebraska - 8 percent
  • Maine – 9 percent
  • Maryland – 10 percent
  • Idaho – 11 percent

 


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7 Responses to "Driving without a license: Penalties by state"
  1. Bert

    When license was due for renewal couldnt afford it at the time so got a m Nys photo id....recently drove without a license and rwcieved a ticket. Am getting license reinstated within next few days. P!an on p!eading gui!ty with exp!anation. How will this affect car owners insurance and what is possible fine...currently co!lecting ssdi.

      Reply»  
  2. Benedicto Hernandez

    I'm just a visitor/tourist and got pulled over by an officer in New Jersey. I received a ticket for not having a driver license, however, I had my driver license from my country. Is there a way to appeal to this? I have a visit to court in February, and I'm leaving the country in a couple of days. :(

      Reply»  
  3. Russell Kuespert

    How can a non existent license be suspended?

      Reply»  
  4. Richarda Coombs

    I have personal knowledge of someone who has a revoked license they're still driving with no insurance no license and they're letting their daughter drive and she has no license. I wish there was a way for them to get caught, as I don't want to get involved.

      Reply»  
  5. anthony

    I'm 17 years old and I got into a car accident at 3:13 in the morning. It was my first time, and I don't have a license or a permit. What would happen? Will I go to jail or does it just go on your record?

      Reply»  
    1. jessica August 17, 2018 at 4:24 PM

      I'm 16 years old and I was driving without a license and I got pulled over and got a speeding ticket. What would happen? I'm really scared because I need to go to court and I don't know what to do or what to say cause its actually my first time. Would I go to jail?

        Reply »  
  6. robert

    In Wisconsin, if you are unlicensed and in an accident no matter whose fault t is, you can be charges with a felony if death is caused. However, if you are terribly maimed and not dead no attorney will fight for you. Is this benign or what. I am on the cusp of going to trial to make a 3x plus driver without a license pay for rupturing three discs and a hernia. She was driving like a baby with a toy car and stopped in traffic to turn left from thee middle lane.

      Reply»  
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