The Law Dictionary

Your Free Online Legal Dictionary • Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed.

What Happens When You Get Pulled Over Without a Driver’s License?

You Get Pulled Over Without a Driver's License

To drive in accordance with the law, an individual must have a driver’s license. Driving is a privilege according to federal law – one that can be revoked if certain conditions are not met. Getting pulled over without a license can lead to serious consequences, depending upon the circumstances.

There are two reasons why someone may be driving without a license. One, the driver has a valid driver’s license but simply forgot it or misplaced it, which is why it is not in the vehicle with them. This is called a “correctable offense” or “fit-it ticket.” The other possibility is that the driver does not have a valid license at all. This could be due to the license being suspended or revoked, or the driver may have never been issued a valid license in the first place. This offense is called a “willful violation” because you knowingly disregarded the law. Let’s take a deeper look at what happens when you get pulled over without a driver’s license.

Getting Pulled Over Without A License

Driving without a license is considered a crime in all 50 states. However, the consequences of this infraction vary depending on the state you live in, as well as if the infraction is a correctable offense or a willful violation.

The consequences for getting pulled over without a license can include fines, community service, and/or possibly jail time,  though the latter is uncommon for correctable offenses. Varying by state, the fines for driving without a license range anywhere between $100 and $1,000. The severity of the penalty for getting pulled over without a license increases if you are unable to present a valid driver’s license later on in court. The penalty can also be more severe based on the seriousness of your traffic infraction. For example, if someone is driving without a license and gets in a car accident or is driving under the influence – the consequences tend to be much more severe. Here’s a bit more detail on the difference between a correctable offense and a willful violation when it comes to getting pulled over without a license.

How To Find Out If A License Is Active Or Suspended?


Forgetting a License – A Correctable Offense

If you simply forget to bring your license in the car with you, the infraction is a bit different. Most states will differentiate forgetting your license and not having one at all, as humans are subject to forgetfulness and making mistakes. Usually, if an individual doesn’t have a driver’s license to show to the police officer when they get pulled over – but they do have a valid driver’s license issued under his or her name – they will be issued a much less severe traffic citation. If the individual appears before court (with their valid license), the citation can often be pleaded down or dismissed altogether.

Steps to take if you forget your license and are pulled over:

  • Be honest, and tell the police officer you have a valid driver’s license but it is not with you.
  • Provide the officer with your full name, date of birth, and current address. If he or she asks you for any other information, give an honest answer.
  • Keep in mind, not carrying your driver’s license is an arrestable offense in most states, so it is important to be cooperative with the police officer.

Remember, you will still be charged for the traffic violation that you were pulled over for (speeding, running a red light, etc.) even if the correctable offense is dismissed.

When You Get Pulled Over Without a Driver's License

Driving Without a Valid License – A Willful Violation

Regardless of the circumstance, it is never a good idea to get behind the wheel if you do not have a valid driver’s license. Driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license is an arrestable offense that is much more serious than driving with no driver’s license or simply forgetting it.

People whose licenses have been suspended or revoked are not supposed to be driving at all until they resolve the issues that led to the suspensions or revocations. Additionally, people who are caught driving on suspended or revoked licenses could lose their driving privileges even longer than they did initially and have to serve longer lengths of jail time and pay higher fines and fees.

What to do if you get pulled over and have a suspended or revoked license:

  • Tell the officer that your license is revoked or suspended. He or she will find out either way, so it’s better to be honest from the beginning.
  • Provide your full name, date of birth, current address, and the reason why your license was revoked or suspended.
  • Do not give the officer false information to try to get out of the situation. He or she will look up your record and see that you were lying, which is another offense.
  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license is an arrestable offense. If you are honest and cooperative, you may receive a citation. But, if you lie and are disrespectful, you may be arrested and charged.

Have You Gotten Pulled Over Without a License?

There is no guarantee that you will get your traffic infraction dismissed if you get pulled over without a license. However, your chances are better if you are honest and respectful to the police officer and in court. If you have been pulled over without a license, whether you forgot yours at home or you do not have a valid ID, it is a good idea to speak with a traffic ticket lawyer who can tell you the best way to proceed.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Recent Traffic Violations Articles