A common type of misdemeanor traffic violation is driving without a driver’s license. In every state in this country, it is illegal to be operating a vehicle of any sort without proper driver licensing. This offense, while considered mild in nature, is actually quite a serious crime that carries with it like kind serious penalties. In the following article, we review what purpose a driver’s license serves, what reasons are common to not having a driver’s license, common penalties, as well as what legal variables may affect the sentencing of one of these offenders.
The purpose of a driver’s license is to ensure that all members of community and property are kept as safe as possible by only allowing drivers on the road who know how to properly operate a vehicle. This code of law is put into action by regulating through driving instruction and renewal who is able to operate a vehicle properly on the roads, in adherence to all traffic laws. From the legal age of driving which is 16 in all states, and 15 for a learner’s permit (though learner’s permits regulations vary by state), anyone who wishes to operate a vehicle legally, must know and adhere to all traffic laws, pass all tests necessary, and renew their license according to the renewal schedule of the state jurisdiction in which they live.
With this in mind, there are a variety of reasons why an operator of a vehicle may be charged with driving without a license. In all instances, it is unlawful and therefore, not acceptable; but typically, there is a specific reason why they do not have the proper driving documentation to operate any vehicle. The most common are as follows: 1. That they never applied for a driver’s license, 2. That they never updated their license after moving to another state, 3. That they had their driver’s license suspended or revoked due to prior traffic violation impropriety. 4. That they never renewed their driver’s license according to the renewal schedule in their state. In some states, a driver of a vehicle with a current license can still have the same penalties inflicted upon them if they allow someone else who doesn’t have a current license to operate their vehicle.
One major consideration to add to the topic of driving without a license is the possibility that the incident has to do exclusively the presence of said driver’s proof of driving authorization, as opposed to the credibility of one. Just because a particular individual does not have a copy of driving authorization on hand at the time of the traffic stop, does not mean that they do not have a valid driver’s license at all. Most states will differentiate between whether a person has a valid driver’s license in their possession when stopped and whether they have a valid driver’s license at all. In most cases, someone who has a valid driver’s license but neglected to bring it with them, will only face a verbal or written warning and/or a small fine. On the other hand, if a person does not have a valid license at all, they will be subject to the full process of the law, and depending on what state they have been charged with driving without a license as well as the reason why they don’t have a license will determine how severe the punishment will be.
A good example of how states can vary in how they regard the processing and sentencing of this offense is as follows. In California, drivers without a valid license will be charged with the misdemeanor, have the car impounded for 30 days-if not forfeited, and arrested for the charge. In Illinois, these offenders are charged with a misdemeanor and their driving privileges suspended and/or revoked. In the state of New York, an offender of this sort will be charged with a misdemeanor, a fine up to $500, and jail time up to 30 days. While other states fall outside this range of penalties as more severe or less severe, the standard penalty lies within this range.
With these standard penalties in mind, it is necessary to consider what variables could affect these standard range of penalties. First, the state jurisdiction in which the criminal is convicted will determine how severe the punishment will be for an offense of this kind. Second, if the offender is a repeat offender of operating a vehicle without a license, they will most probably incur a heavier sentence by the court. Third, depending on why a particular perpetrator of said crime committed the offense will help sway a court for more mild or serious punishment. When we refer to the reason, we mean under what circumstances the individual did not have a license in possession at the time of the incident. The most common of these-as discussed previously-are if their license was suspended/revoked, if they never had a license, if they did not renew their license, or if they let another driver who doesn’t have a license operate their vehicle. Each state has a different perspective on each of these characteristics of the offense, and therefore, offers different severities of penalty to the offenders.
Not only will these penalties ensue for anyone operating a vehicle without proof of a valid documentation for any of the above reasons, but moreover, an offender will also have a possible mark on their criminal record, higher insurance rates, extended periods of driving suspension or possible revocation, as well as higher fees to reapply for a new license. Moreover, a variety of educational classes and community services may also be added onto the sentencing, depending on strict the jurisdiction and court is in the hearing of the criminal driving case.
This is not to say that just because a misdemeanor traffic violation such as driving without a license-was committed, that it will necessarily be available to the public and private entities possibly searching for this information. In many cases, traffic violations, by nature, are restricted according to the state jurisdiction as well as the potential use of these criminal records. Moreover, many states consider misdemeanors offenses that should not be accessible to the public, as they are deemed less severe in comparison. As a complement to this, many records by nature of the crime or arrest are restricted from public view and/or expunged altogether. This is why a thorough investigation should always be done on the jurisdiction, the criminal case, the driving offender, as well as the specifics of the case in question; to get as much information that’s available for the most informed of entities.