What happens if you get caught driving without a license?

Every state determines its own penalties if you get caught driving without a license. Although penalties vary for each infraction, you can expect fines and possible jail time. While driving without a license is usually a misdemeanor, it can be a felony if your license has been suspended or revoked. However, if you leave your driver’s license at home, you will only be issued a ticket.

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Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Cynthia Lanctot is an insurance professional with ten years of industry experience. Cynthia is licensed in several states, and holds an associate in claims law, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English. Cynthia’s experience includes the New England and Northeast states. She currently works as a liability claims professional and an occasional online contributor.

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Reviewed by Cynthia Lanctot
Licensed Agent Cynthia Lanctot

UPDATED: May 10, 2022

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A Concise Overview

  • Driving without a license is usually a misdemeanor but can still result in fines and jail time
  • Penalties for driving without a license will vary by state
  • You can get auto insurance without a license if you are listed as an excluded driver

While there are many reasons you may be driving without a license, none of them are legal. In most cases, you will be charged with a misdemeanor and can expect fines and maybe jail time, depending on your state.

However, if you are driving with a revoked or suspended license, you may be facing a felony and much more severe penalties.

You can definitely expect higher auto insurance rates if you’ve been charged with driving without a license. You might have to get high-risk auto insurance, which is significantly more expensive.

Keep reading to learn more about what happens when you drive without a license. Whether or not you have a driver’s license, you may still need auto insurance. Enter your ZIP code now to compare free auto insurance quotes from companies in your area.

What is the penalty for driving without a license?

All states require you to have a valid driver’s license to get behind the wheel. This requirement is to ensure you understand the rules of the road and can safely reach your destination.

Although every state has its own laws regarding unlicensed drivers, you can generally expect to see fines and possible jail time. Your vehicle can also be impounded. However, these penalties may vary based on your particular situation.

If you are under 18 or only have a driving permit, you may face longer wait times to get your driver’s license. Some states may not allow you to get a license until you reach a certain age or require additional training.

This table breaks down penalties for driving without a license in each state. You can see that some states have higher penalties for driving without a license than others.

Penalties for Driving Without a License by State
StateFeesFirst OffenseSubsequent Offences
AlabamaMisdemeanor: $100-$500Possible imprisonment for no more than 180 days and immediate vehicle impoundment. Possible license suspension increase by 6 months.
AlaskaFirst Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: 10 days suspended imprisonment provided at least 80 hours of community service are completed; possible forfeiture of the vehicle; license suspension increased by at least 90 days.Subsequent Offense -Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for at least 10 days; possible forfeiture of the vehicle; license suspension increased by at least 90 days.
ArizonaClass 1 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for up to 6 months; possible vehicle impoundment for up to 30 daysDriving on a suspended or revoked license - Class 2 misdemeanor This charge carries a potential sentence of 4 months in jail and fines of up to $750.
ArkansasMisdemeanor: Fine no more than $500Imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 monthsShall extend the period of the suspension for an additional like period and, if the conviction was upon a charge of driving while a license was revoked, the office shall not issue a new license for an additional period of one (1) year from and after the date such person would otherwise have been entitled to apply for a new license.
California$300-$1,000 FineImprisonment for between 5 days and 6 monthsSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 10 days and 1 year; $500-$2000 fine.
ColoradoMisdemeanor - No more than $500Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, license suspension increased by 1 year. If the license restraint is due to an alcohol-related offense there is a mandatory 30 days to 1 year in jail for a first offense. Minimum fine of $500 to $1,000.Subsequent Offense - Driver ineligible to be issued a driver’s license for a period of three years. A second alcohol-based driving under restraint will result in a mandatory 90-day to a 2-year jail sentence. Minimum fine of $500 to $3,000.
Connecticut$150 - $200Imprisonment for no more than 3 monthsSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $200-$600 fine, or both.
Delaware$500-$1,000Imprisonment for between 30 days and 6 months. Possible vehicle impoundment of at least 90 daysSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 60 days and 1 year; $1,000-$4,000 fine; possible vehicle impoundment of at least 1 year.
District of Columbia$2,500Imprisonment for no more than 1 year
FloridaMisdemeanor $500 - $5,000First Offense -2nd Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 60 days or $500 fineSecond Offense -1st Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year or $1,000 fine.Subsequent Offense- 3rd Degree Felony: Imprisonment for no more than 5 years or $5,000 fine. Immediate vehicle impoundment.
GeorgiaMisdemeanor - $500 -$5,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 2 days and 1 year; possible additional fine of no more than $1,000.Second or Third Offenses - High and Aggravated Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 10 days and 1 year; possible additional fine of $1,000-$2,500. Fourth or Subsequent Offenses - Felony: Imprisonment for 1-5 years; possible addition fine of $2,500-$5,000.
Hawaii$250-$2,000First Offense - Imprisonment for 3-30 days; $250-$1,000 fine; license suspension increased by 1 year; additional, inapplicable penalties.Second Offense - Imprisonment for 30 days; $1,000 fine; license suspension increased by 2 years; additional. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for 1 year, $2,000 fine. permanent license revocation; Additional, inapplicable penalties.
IdahoMisdemeanor - $1,000 -$3,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 months; fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 180 days.Second Offense - Imprisonment for between 20 days and 1 year; fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 1 year. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 30 days and 1 year; fine of no more than $3,000; license suspension increased by 2 years.
IllinoisMisdemeanor - $2,500 -$25,000First Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; fine of no more than $2,500.Subsequent Offense - Class 4 Felony: Imprisonment for 1-3 years; fine of up to $25,000. Possible vehicle impoundment. Fourth or Subsequent Offenses - Possible seizure of license plate; possible vehicle immobilization.
IndianaFelony - No more than $10,000Class 6 Felony - Imprisonment for between 6 months and 2 years, 6 months; fine of no more than $10,000.
IowaMisdemeanor - $250 -$1,500License suspension increased for an additional like period or for one year, whichever is shorter.
KansasMisdemeanor: $100First Offense - Class B Nonperson Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for at least 5 days; fine of at least $100.Subsequent Offense - Class A Nonperson Misdemeanor: Imprisonment without eligibility for parole until completion of 5 days; fine of at least $100. License suspension increased by 90 days.
KentuckyMisdemeanor: Up to $250First Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment up to 90 days; license suspension increased by 6 months. Fine up to $250Second Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 90 days and 1 year; license suspension increased by 1 year. Third or Subsequent Offense - Class D Felony: Imprisonment for 1-5 years; license suspension revoked for additional 2 years.
Louisiana$500-$2,500Person with a Class D or E driver’s license: Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, fine of no more than $500, or both. May be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,250. A person with a Class A, B, or C driver’s license: Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, fine of no more than $5,000, or both. May be subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500.Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 7 days and 6 months; fine of $300-$500; potential civil fine of no more than $1,150. Subsequent Offense - Class A, B, or C driver’s license: Imprisonment for between 7 days and 6 months; fine of $300-$500; potential civil fine of no more than $2,500. License suspension increased by 1 year
MaineClass E Crime: Up to $1,000First Offense – Class E: Crimes punishable by up to six months incarceration and a $1,000 fine
MarylandMisdemeanor - $1,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, fine of no more than $1,000, or both; possible license suspension increased by no more than 1 year.Subsequent Offense - Misdemeanor Imprisonment for no more than 2 years, fine of no more than $1,000, or both; possible license suspension increased by no more than 18 months if the second offense, no more than 2 years for subsequent offenses. Possible vehicle impoundment.
MassachusettsMisdemeanor - $500 -$1,000First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 10 days, $500-$1,000 fine, or bothSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 60 days and 1 year. License suspension increased by 60 days.
MichiganMisdemeanor - $500 -$1,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 93 days, a fine of no more than $500, or both.Second Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, a fine of no more than $1,000, or both. Cancellation of vehicle registration plates. License suspension increased by like period.
MinnesotaMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 90 days, fine of no more than $1,000, or both.
MississippiMisdemeanor - $200 -$500Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for between 48 hours and 6 months; $200-$500 fine; license suspension increased by 6 months.
MissouriFirst Offense - Class D Misdemeanor: Up to $500 fine. No set term of imprisonment; not to exceed one year.Second Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Fine not to exceed $2,000. Imprisonment for between 6 months and 1 year. Subsequent Offense - Class E Felony: Imprisonment for no more than 4 years.
MontanaMisdemeanor - No more than $500First Offense – Fine not to exceed $500 and term of imprisonment not to exceed 6 months.Imprisonment for no less than 2 days and not to exceed 6 months, license suspension increased by 1 year, the vehicle used is seized and rendered inoperable for 30 days.
NebraskaFirst Offense - Class II Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 1 year; license revocation for a like period.Second or Third Offense - Class II Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 2 years; license revocation for a like period. Fourth or Subsequent Offense - Class I Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 2 years; license revocation for like period.
NevadaMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, a fine of no more than $1,000, or both. If the license is suspended, an extension of suspension by like period. If license (revoked), an extension of the period of ineligibility for license by 1 year.
New HampshireMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for a period not less than 7 consecutive 24-hour periods to be served within 6 months of the conviction, fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 1 year.
New Jersey$500-$1,000First Offense - $500 fine.Second Offense - Imprisonment for 1-5 days; $750 fine. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for 10 days; $1,000 fine. License suspension increased by no more than 6 months.
New MexicoMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Imprisonment for 4-364 days; possible fine of no more than $1,000. Possible vehicle immobilization.
New YorkMisdemeanor - $250 -$500First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $200-$500 fine, or both.Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 180 days; fine of no less than $500.
North CarolinaMisdemeanor - No more than $300First Offense - Class 3 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for 1-10 days; fine of no more than $200; license suspension increased by 1 year.Second Offense - License suspension increased by 2 years. Third Offense - Permanent license suspension.
North DakotaMisdemeanor - $1,500 -$3,000First, Second or Third Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $1,500 fine, or both.Fourth or Subsequent Offense - Class A Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $3,000 fine, or both.Possible destruction of license plate.
OhioMisdemeanor - $1,000First Offense - Unclassified Misdemeanor: Fine of no more than $1,000; 500 hours community service.Subsequent Offense - 1st Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 180 days; $1,000 fine. Possible license plate impoundment.
OklahomaMisdemeanor - $50-$1,000First Offense - $100-$500 fine.Second Offense): $200-$750 fine. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $300-$1,000 fine, or both.
Oregon$220-$2,000Class A Traffic Infraction: $220-$2,000 fine. Possible vehicle impoundment.
Pennsylvania$200Summary Offense: $200 fine; license suspension increased by 1 year if originally suspended, 2 years if it was originally revoked.
Rhode IslandMisdemeanor - $250-$1,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 30 days; $250-$500 fine; license suspension increased by 3 months.Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; $350-$1,000 fine; 2nd Offense - license suspension increased by 6 months, license revoked.
South Carolina$300-$1,000First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $300 fine, or both.Second Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 60 days, $600 fine, or both. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 90 days; $1,000 fine.
South DakotaMisdemeanor - No more than $2,000Revoked - Class 1 Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; fine of no more than $2,000. Suspended or Cancelled - Class 2 Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 30 days; fine of no more than $500.
TennesseeMisdemeanor - $500 -$2,500First Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for not more than 6 months, fine of no more than $500, or both; license suspension increased by like period of time.Subsequent Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for not more than 11 months, 29 days, fine of no more than $2,500, or both; license suspension increased by like period of time.
TexasMisdemeanor - $500 -$2,000First Offense - Class C Misdemeanor: Fine of no more than $500.Subsequent Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 180 days, fine of no more than $2,000, or both.
UtahMisdemeanor - $1,000Class C Misdemeanor: Imprisonment of no more than 90 days; up to $750 fine.
VermontNo more than $5,000First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 2 years, fine of no more than $5,000, or both.Sixth or Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 2 years, fine of $5,000, or both. Possible seizure of license plates.
VirginiaMisdemeanor - No more than $2,500Class 1 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 12 months, fine of no more than $2,500, or both.
WashingtonMisdemeanor - No more than $5,000Gross Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 364 days, fine of no more than $5,000, or both.
West VirginiaMisdemeanor - $100 -$500First Offense Misdemeanor - $100-$500 fine.Second Offense - Misdemeanor: $100-$500 fine. Third or Subsequent Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for 30-90 days; $150-$500 fine.
Wisconsin$50-$2,500Suspended - $50-$200 fine. Revoked - Fine of no more than $2,500.Vehicle may be impounded
WyomingMisdemeanor - $750Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, fine of no more than $750, or both.
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If you’ve just left your driver’s license at home, you will likely only receive a ticket for not having your license with you. Sometimes, the ticket can even be dismissed if you show a valid license.

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Is driving without a license a felony?

According to NOLO, some people may drive without a license because they never got one in the first place, didn’t apply for a new license when they moved, or have had their license revoked or suspended.

If you have never had a valid driver’s license, didn’t renew your license, or didn’t apply for a new license when you moved to a new state, you will usually face a misdemeanor charge. Penalties will generally be mild but will depend on the situation.

However, if you are driving with a suspended or revoked license, you may be charged with a felony. If you have your driver’s license revoked or suspended, it’s because you committed a significant infraction, such as reckless driving, getting a DUI, or causing multiple accidents.

Whatever the reason, your state decided you shouldn’t be behind the wheel. If you continue to drive, your penalties will severely increase and can include jail time and much higher fines.

Can you get auto insurance without a driver’s license?

Even if you don’t have a valid driver’s license, there may be times you will need auto insurance.

If you don’t plan on driving but own a vehicle, you will need to be listed as an excluded driver on auto insurance. For example, if you cannot drive and have another person drive you around in your car, the auto insurance will need to include you as the owner.

If your driver’s license is suspended, you may be able to get a hardship license. This type of license allows you to continue to drive for specific reasons like going to work or doctor’s appointments. You must have auto insurance in place even with a hardship license.

Penalties for driving without insurance are similar to driving without a license. You can face fines, having your car impounded, and possible jail time. Also, the consequences of driving without a license and registration are similar.

Driving without a license, insurance, and registration leads to fines and maybe even jail time. Losing your vehicle is also a possibility.

Additionally, your auto insurance rates will skyrocket if you have a suspended or revoked license.

Driving Without a License: What You Need to Know

While driving with a license is a misdemeanor in most cases, it can be a felony if your license has been suspended or revoked.

Every state determines its own penalties for driving without a license, but you can expect fines and possible jail time. In addition, penalties will increase significantly with more infractions.

You can still get auto insurance if you don’t have a valid driver’s license, although rates will be much higher. Since every car insurance company will offer you different rates, shop around for coverage.

Now that you know the penalties for driving without a license, make sure you have a valid driver’s license and auto insurance to avoid fines and jail time. Enter your ZIP code now to compare auto insurance quotes from nearby companies for free.

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