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

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

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.

Consequences

Driving without a license is considered a crime in all 50 states. In most cases, the charge for driving without a license for the first time will be a misdemeanor. These consequences may include fines, community service, and/or possibly jail time. Varying by state, the fines for driving without a license range anywhere between $100 and $1,000. However, 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.

Forgetting a License

If you simply forget to bring your license in the car with you, the infraction is a bit different.

Most states will differentiate between the two, 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 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.

Driving on Suspended or Revoked Licenses

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 you up and find out that
    • 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.

For more information about the legalities of your driver’s license, here’s a deeper look at what happens if you drive without a license.

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