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Can You Get Your License at 18 Without a Permit?

Can you get your license at 18 without a permit

In some states, you have to be at least 18 years old in order to get your license without a permit. But what if you’re not quite 18 yet? Can you still get your license if you don’t have a permit? In this article, we’ll take a look at the process of getting your driver’s license without a permit in different states around the country. We’ll also discuss some of the restrictions and penalties of getting your license without a permit. So, whether you’re almost 18 and wondering what to do next or you’re older than 18 and considering taking the driving test without a permit, this article’s for you. 

What is the process for getting a driver’s license without a permit?

There are two processes for getting your first driver’s license, either you’re a teen getting your learner’s permit or you’re an adult getting your first driver’s license. The processes are different and vary from state to state. In general, to apply for a driver’s license you must: 

  • Hold and provide a valid SSN (Social Security Number)
  • Provide documentation of United States citizenship or legal status if not a U.S. citizen
    • Include your identification with two supporting residency documents
  • Pass a vision test and also certify that you meet physical and mental standards for driving
  • Pass a written driving knowledge test
  • Pass a driving skills test 

 

Some states require a Temporary Instruction Permit to take the driving skills test. The TIP allows you to practice driving with a licensed adult for up to 180 days. You can acquire a TIP if you’ve:

  • Never been licensed.
  • Have an expired foreign driver’s license.
  • Have a license from a state that has been expired for more than four years.

 

Once you have your Temporary Instruction Permit and you pass the written driving knowledge test, then, you’ll need to pass a driving skills test. You’ll need to schedule your road test through a private driver testing business approved by your state. You can schedule this test up to six months in advance. Keep in mind that these tests aren’t free, so you’ll want to ask how much you’ll need to pay for the driving test. 

For the test, you’ll want to use your own car, preferably one you’ve driven frequently and are familiar with. It must be in working condition with valid proof of insurance, registration, and license plate. Your vehicle will be inspected before your skills test and if it doesn’t pass inspection, you won’t be allowed to take your road test. 

The following must be in good working condition: 

  • Turn signals
  • All lights: brake, headlights, and tail lights
  • Muffler
  • Horn
  • Heater and defroster 
  • Suspension 
  • Windshield wipers with fluid
  • Speedometer

 

You’ll also need to ensure that you follow additional requirements:

  • Your windows must not have obstructions 
  • Your windshield must have a clear view of the road
  • Your doors must open and close properly when entering or exiting the vehicle
  • Your rearview and sideview mirrors must be able to adjust properly
  • Your tires must be inflated and not leak
  • You must have enough seats and seatbelts for every passenger in your vehicle

On the day of your test, you must bring your temporary instruction permit (if required by state law), proof of your social security number, identity, and current United States citizenship status, and two documents of your state residency. 

The test has three components:

  1. Safety inspection
  2. Basic vehicle control skills test
  3. On-road test

The safety inspection isn’t scored but if you fail any part of the inspection, you’ll be asked to maintenance the vehicle and reschedule your test for a later date. 

Once you pass the inspection, you’ll take the control skills test in a parking lot or another open area. This skills component is a series of exercises designed to determine your ability to control your vehicle in certain situations like when parallel parking or backing into a space. Your instructor assesses your performance based on how many boundary encroachments, repositionings, and your final position. To pass, you must make fewer than six mistakes.

When you pass the control skills test, then you’ll move on to the on-road test. You’ll first drive a route through various traffic conditions while obeying all traffic laws. Your instructor will ask you to make left and right turns, lane changes, and other actions. 

If you pass, you can receive your state’s driver’s license. To receive your driver’s license, you’ll take your skills test certificate, TIP, and identification documents to your local Secretary of State office.

If you fail your road test, you’ll need to reschedule your test either with the same company or another certified company.

How long does it usually take to get your license once you’ve started the process?

how long to get license once you’ve started the process

From the time you begin the driver’s license process until you receive your license, expect it to take at least 30 days, but it depends.

If the adult has taken Segment 1 and Segment 2 of driving classes

Typically, a student will have taken Segment 1 or Segment 2 driving classes. When a student takes Segment 1, they complete 6 drives for a total of 2 hours, along with the class. In Segment 2, you need to drive with a parent or someone over the age of 21 as well as complete 30 hours of driving with at least 2 of those hours as nighttime driving. After completing both segments of driver’s training, the students will receive their permits. Provided they’re of age, they can take the driving test.

 

If the adult hasn’t taken Segment 1 and Segment 2 of driving classes

For adults without a traditional permit, they will still need to acquire the Temporary Instruction Permit whether or not they have driving experience. There are no experience or prior class requirements to receive this permit, although there is a 30-day waiting period once receiving the permit to acquire a driver’s license.

Are there any restrictions on who can get a driver’s license without a permit?

There are a few restrictions on who can apply for a driver’s license without a permit. In order to be eligible, the adult must have:

  • A valid SSN (Social Security Number) or proof of ineligibility. 
  • Proof of legal presence in the United States
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of state residency (varies from state to state, but generally two documents)

Can you drive with other people in the car once you have your license?

Yes, but it depends on the license you hold.

Under 18

For those under 18, there are 3 license levels:

  1. Level 1: Learner’s License
  2. Level 2: Intermediate License
  3. Level 3: Full License

Teens with the Level 1 Learner’s License can only drive with a licensed parent, guardian, or licensed adult aged 21 or older. 

Once a teen graduates to Level 2, there are many more driving restrictions. A teen:

  • Cannot operate a motor vehicle better 10 pm or 5 am except when driving to or from work, to or from an authorized activity, or accompanied by a licensed parent, guardian, or driver above the age of 21. 
  • Cannot operate a motor vehicle at any time with more than 1 passenger in the car younger than 21 years old, except when the passengers are immediate family members, or when driving to or from work, to or from an authorized activity, or accompanied by a licensed parent, guardian, or driver above the age of 21. 

Again, these laws vary from state to state so it is imperative that you check your state’s requirements. 

18 and over

For those 18 and over, there are typically no state-imposed license restrictions.

What are the penalties for driving without a license or with an expired license?

penalties for driving without a license or expired license

Driving without a license can mean physically driving without a license, or more often, driving with a suspended or revoked license. It can refer to the following four acts:

 

  • Driving without proof of license
  • Driving with an expired license
  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license
  • Driving without ever having a license

 

You can be charged for any of these instances and, if pulled over for an additional offense like speedy, you may face a hefty penalty. 

Driving Without a Proof of License

Forgetting your wallet or purse at home happens, but even if you have a legal driver’s license, you’re still held responsible for driving without it. 

If you forgot your license or lost it, you’re usually fined by the officer who pulled you over. This fine can be easy to fight as long as you can prove that you had a valid license when you were pulled over. 

Driving With an Expired License

If your license was expired, suspended, or revoked at the time you are pulled over, there may be harsher penalties. State Vehicle Codes require anyone operating a motor vehicle in the state to hold a valid license. 

If you’re caught driving without a valid license, you may be subject to up to six months of jail time, in addition to a fine, depending on the state’s law. For example, in Texas, you must pay a $200 fine, but in California, this fine is $1,000. 

 

If you continue to drive without a license, you’re subject to further fines and punishments, especially if you’re involved in an accident that causes serious injuries or death.

Driving without ever having a license

State Vehicle Codes require a valid driver’s license to drive. Without a driver’s license, you don’t have to worry about your license expiring, being suspended or revoked, but you are not exempt from the punishments of operating a motor vehicle without a valid license.

If you drive without ever having a license, you may be subject to the same penalties as someone driving with a suspended or revoked license. 

Allowing an Unlicensed Driver to Drive Your Vehicle

Driver’s license requirements not only apply to those without a license while driving but also to those enabling the behavior. For example, Section 257,904 of Michigan’s Vehicle Code makes it illegal to allow someone without a valid license to drive your vehicle.

What this means is that if you knowingly allow someone without a license to operate your vehicle, you are liable for the same punishments which include jail time and fines.

License at 18 Without a Permit Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Once you turn 18, how can you apply for a driver’s license?

If you’re 18, and legally a citizen of the state you reside in, then you should be eligible for a driver’s license. You’ll need to go to your local Secretary of State (SOS) and receive your temporary permit. You must have: 

  • A valid SSN (Social Security Number) or proof of ineligibility. 
  • Proof of legal presence in the United States
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of state residency (varies from state to state, but generally two documents)

Do you need a permit to get a license?

Yes, even if you’re over 18, you need a permit to get a license. It’s a different kind of permit called a Temporary Instruction Permit. You’re required to have this permit for at least 30 days before you can apply to receive your driver’s license.

Can you get your driver’s license online? 

You cannot receive your driver’s license online. You’ll need to prove your identity and residence at your local Secretary of State. However, you can renew your license online. 

How do I make a DMV appointment? 

This varies by the state you reside in, but generally, you can make an appointment online at your local Secretary of State (SOS). Search “your state + SOS appointments” to make an appointment online.

How old can you be to get your driver’s license?

You must be at least 18 years old to receive a valid driver’s license.

If you are a teen, getting your learner’s permit is the first step in the process of getting your driver’s license. In most states, you must be at least 16 years old to get a learner’s permit and you must wait until you are 18 years old to get your driver’s license. There are two processes for getting your first driver’s license, either you’re a teen getting your learner’s permit or you’re an adult getting your first driver’s license. The processes are different and vary from state to state. Make sure you know what the requirements are in your state so that you can follow the correct process.

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