Driving Without a License: Consequences Per State
Driving without a license is a serious offense. Unlicensed drivers can receive criminal charges, hefty fines and a prison sentence for their first conviction. Multiple violations may lead to felony charges, vehicle impoundment and a suspension increase on driving privileges.
State penalties for driving without a license vary and so do penalties for driving a car without insurance. If you've lost your license, you may still need to have your car insured. Here is everything you need to know about getting caught driving without a license and how to find cheap insurance if you've already been convicted.
Driving Without a License: Consequences Per State
Penalties for Unlicensed Drivers
21 Del. C. §2756
District of Columbia
ND.C. Code Ann.
730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-55
730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-45
Ind. Code Ann.
Ch. 90; §23
Title 47: §6-303
Or. Rev. Stat. Ann.
75 Pa. CSA
HB 7679 (2016)
Tex. Penal Code
Ann. § 12.23; §12.22
W. Va. Code
Ann. § 17B-4-3
*This chart was compiled from the National Council of State Legislatures
How Much Is a Ticket for Driving Without a License?
Unlicensed drivers will pay different fees for a citation depending on the state. Wisconsin residents pay some of the nation's lowest rates. Convicted drivers will pay $50 for driving on a suspended license in the state. Illinois drivers pay the highest fines in the U.S. Unlicensed drivers may pay $25,000 for their second conviction.
What Happens if You Drive Without a License?
According to a John Hopkins University study, unlicensed drivers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors and cause car crashes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia impose heavy penalties on unlicensed drivers. The consequences and penalties vary depending on state laws.
Here are a few examples of how widely they range:
Penalties for a First Offense
In Hawaii, unlicensed drivers may spend three to 30 days in prison, if convicted. Additional penalties include a $250-$1,000 fine, a one-year license suspension and inapplicable penalties.
In Idaho, unlicensed drivers may receive a misdemeanor offense. Upon conviction, these drivers may receive two days to six months in prison, up to a $1,000 fine and a 180-day license suspension.
In Maryland, driving while uninsured is a misdemeanor offense. Unlicensed drivers can receive a one-year prison sentence, pay up to $1,000 in fines or both. Additionally, these drivers may get a possible one-year license suspension increase.
In Michigan, first-time offenders may receive a misdemeanor charge, spend up to 93 days in prison and pay up to $500 in fines.
In North Carolina, unlicensed drivers may receive a Class 3 misdemeanor and spend one to 10 days in jail. Additionally, convicted drivers may pay up to a $200 fine and receive a one-year license suspension increase.
Penalties for a Second Offense
In Illinois, courts may charge unlicensed drivers with a Class 4 felony. Convicted drivers may receive a prison sentence of one to three years or pay fines up to $25,000 for their second offense.
In Florida, unlicensed drivers may receive a one-year prison sentence or pay a $1,000 fine for subsequent offenses.
In New York, unlicensed drivers may spend up to 180 days in jail or pay up to $500 in fines for subsequent offenses.
In Oklahoma, unlicensed drivers may pay $250 - $750 in fines for their second conviction.
In West Virginia, unlicensed drivers may receive a misdemeanor charge and pay fines up to $500 for their second conviction.
What Is a Suspended License?
A license suspension occurs when a state's department of motor vehicles temporarily withdraws a person's driving privileges. A DMV may suspend a driver's license for several reasons, including:
Receiving multiple traffic tickets in a short period
Driving without insurance or failing to show proof of coverage
After a license suspension, drivers can't legally operate a vehicle until they meet their DMV's requirements to reinstate their privileges. Whether a driver can get the suspension lifted will depend on the reason a state suspended the driver's license.
Getting Insurance With a Suspended License
If your state's DMV has suspended your driver's license, you should still maintain your car insurance coverage for the following reasons:
Lapses in coverage are associated with high-risk drivers. Although your insurance rates may rise due to a license suspension, your car insurance premiums will be even higher if you have insurance coverage gaps.
You need car insurance to apply for a restricted or hardship license. These licenses allow you to drive to medical appointments, work and school. The state decides to grant these licenses based on certain circumstances. You'll still need car insurance to operate your vehicle.
You need car insurance to get your driver's license reinstated. You must complete the state's recommended courses, pay any fines and present proof of car insurance coverage. In some cases, your insurer must submit either an SR-22 or FR-44 form to prove you have car insurance coverage.
Your loan or lease company requires car insurance on your automobile. If you are financing your car, your loan or leaseholder will still require you to carry car insurance to satisfy the contract's terms.
If your license was suspended, you can still buy car insurance by following these steps.
1. Apply for a Restricted License
Some car insurance carriers will sell you coverage if you qualify for a restricted license, also known as a hardship license.
Restricted licenses provide a conditional reinstatement of driving privileges when a license is previously suspended due to a traffic violation. These licenses only allow a person to drive during daytime hours or for specific purposes, such as work, medical appointments or school. If a driver has multiple suspensions, they may be ineligible for a restricted license.
Drivers can obtain a restricted license from their state's DMV. Some states may require SR-22 insurance coverage to reinstate driving privileges.
2. Apply for a Conditional License
Conditional licenses are another choice for drivers in some states. These licenses enable drivers to get back their licenses after the persons complete a DMV-sponsored driving program. For example, the New York DMV offers conditional licenses to drivers convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
3. Purchase SR-22 Insurance
Your state may require you to get SR-22 insurance if your license was suspended due to a serious traffic violation, such as driving under the influence or without insurance.
SR-22 car insurance is coverage where an insurer affirms that a driver has the state's required minimum coverage.
Most national car insurance companies prefer not to insure high-risk drivers. When you have a restricted license you will likely have to sign up for car insurance with a non-standard insurance company that offers car insurance to high-risk drivers. Two non-standard car insurers are:
What Is a Revoked License?
Revocation of your license is a complete termination of your driving privileges for a specific period. In some cases, the revocation is for an indefinite period, and there is no guarantee the state will return the person's driving privileges.
Offenses that can result in a revocation, include:
Reckless driving (drag races, speed driving)
Habitual driving offenses
Failure to stop and render aid
Attempting to elude an officer
License suspensions are temporary, and drivers get their previous licenses returned. After a license revocation period ends, drivers must apply for new driver's licenses, present all required documents and pass the written knowledge and road tests.
How to Purchase Car Insurance Without a License
You can buy car insurance without a license, but the process can be difficult. There are several reasons unlicensed drivers may need car insurance. Here are just two:
You have a teen driver in the house. Many insurance carriers won't allow students to buy insurance policies on their own because underaged drivers can't enter into a legal contract.
You need a personal driver or caregiver. If you can't drive due to health reasons, you may need a personal caregiver who can drive you places. You'll still need car insurance if they use your automobile.
If you don't have a license, the car insurer may allow you to buy an insurance policy on a car, but they may require you to list yourself as an excluded driver. Even if you're listed as an excluded driver on a car insurance policy, you'll still be responsible for any damages and injuries that the primary driver causes in an accident.
The car insurance carrier may also allow you to buy coverage using the name and license number of the vehicle's primary driver. Primary drivers can be spouses, teens, roommates or caretakers. When selecting the policy's primary driver, make sure this person has a clean driving record, so your car insurance premiums will stay affordable. What Is the Penalty for Driving Without Insurance in California?
California requires drivers to carry insurance coverage on every vehicle they own. Convicted uninsured drivers may pay fines or have their licenses suspended. Additionally, uninsured drivers can have their vehicles impounded.
Before we discuss California's penalties for uninsured drivers, let's take a few minutes to explain the Golden State's car insurance requirements.
California law considers drivers as uninsured if they don't carry the state's mandated car insurance coverage. The state requires drivers to have liability coverage that meets the following requirements:
$15,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person
$30,000 bodily injury liability coverage per accident
$5,000 property damage liability coverage
Insurance policies written in California with these limits would read as "15/30/5" in your car insurance declarations page.
Liability coverage financially protects your assets when you cause an accident with another driver. Liability car insurance pays for the other driver's damages and injuries up to the listed limits, or higher amounts if you select higher limits. Liability insurance doesn't pay for your vehicle damages or medical expenses. For that you'd have to buy collision and/or comprehensive coverages, which are optional.
According to the California Vehicle Code 16029(a), uninsured drivers must pay a fine between $100 and $200, plus penalty assessments upon their first conviction. California currently charges penalty assessments of $26 for every $10 of the base fine amount.
On a $200 fine, a convicted driver may pay a penalty assessment of $520 ($26 x $20=$520), for a grand total of $720 ($200 + $520=$720). The state may also impound the car owner's vehicle when the person can't provide evidence of financial responsibility.
In California, uninsured drivers may receive a fine of $200 - $500, plus penalty assessments of $520 - $1,300 if convicted for a second time within three years.
For instance, if a convicted driver receives a $200 fine, the state may add a penalty assessment of $520, for a total of $720 ($200 + $520=$720). Uninsured drivers may also have their vehicles impounded.
Buying Affordable Insurance With or Without a License
People caught driving without a license or without car insurance can receive criminal charges, hefty fines and even prison time. Repeat violators may see felony charges or have their vehicles impounded. However, unlicensed drivers or those with suspended or revoked licenses can still purchase car insurance and may be required to do so by their lender or by the state.
Whether you're a high-risk driver, need an SR-22 or have a spotless record, you can only find the lowest rates for car insurance by comparison shopping. SmartFinancial can do the work for you by offering free car insurance quotes from local insurers offering superior coverage at the lowest rates. Enter your zip code below and answer a few questions to get started.
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