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Moving to Virginia Driver’s License – FAQ

Driving without a valid license is an offense that can lead to serious consequences in Virginia, even if it’s your first offense. The first time you are caught driving without a license, you may be subject to a fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Your driving privileges may also be suspended for 90 days. 

Any person operating a motor vehicle in the State of Virginia must have a valid license to do so. A driver’s license is a privilege obtained only after passing certain tests. To keep this privilege, a driver must obey traffic laws. Speeding, drunk driving, reckless driving, and other infractions could lead to the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license.

Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License in Virginia

Repeated traffic infractions can lead to the loss of the driving privilege through license suspension or revocation by the court and/or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

Suspended License

A suspended license means the driver cannot drive for a temporary time. The driver must wait until the end of the period and pay the required fee for driver’s license reinstatement. Only then may the driver return to the road. Suspensions can arise from reckless driving, aggressive driving, and refusing to take a breathalyzer test.

Revoked License

A revoked driver’s license means the driver has permanently lost his or her driving privileges. It is the termination of the driving privilege. The only time someone with a revoked license may operate a motor vehicle is if he or she reapplies for a new driver’s license after the revocation period. 

The driver will have to pass all the necessary driving tests again, including road skills, knowledge exams, and vision exams. License suspensions and revocations can arise from offenses such as driving under the influence, lying to the DMV, causing a hit-and-run accident, eluding the police, and vehicular manslaughter.

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What Are the Penalties for Driving with a Suspended License in Virginia?

If someone drives on a suspended or revoked driver’s license in Virginia, Code of Virginia §46.2-301 states that it is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties for this offense include further driver’s license suspension, license revocation, and vehicle impoundment. The offender may also have to pay a hefty fine of up to $2,500. 

Serious cases could lead to jail sentences for up to one year. A third or subsequent offense within ten years comes with a required term of at least ten days in jail. A third offense for driving on a suspended license due to a driving while intoxicated conviction is a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Driving with an Expired License

Most driver’s licenses in Virginia expire on an eight-year cycle. Code of Virginia §46.2-330 states that the DMV cannot issue a driver’s license for over eight years or less than five years. Once the issuance period expires, the driver will have until their birthday in the last year of license validity to renew.

Failing to renew and driving with an expired license is against the law. A first offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor, while a second offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction for a first offense can lead to up to 90 days of driver’s license suspension, as well as up to $1,000 in fines and/or 6 months in jail. 

Many municipal courts in Virginia, however, typically issue fines of about $100 for driving on an expired license – especially if the driver has a strong defense strategy.

Driving without a License

Operating a motor vehicle in Virginia without a valid driver’s license is against the law. Unlicensed driving can come with a $1,000 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail as a Class 2 misdemeanor offense. A second offense is punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and 12 months in jail, as well as vehicle impoundment. 

The unlicensed driver can also receive three demerit points on his or her driving record. The driver will have to wait up to 90 days after a conviction to apply for his or her license. Driving with a valid license, but without having it present during a traffic stop, is an infraction with a $10 fine. 

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How Can I Reinstate My Driver’s License?

If Virginia revoked or suspended your license, check in with an attorney to see if there are any steps that you’re required to take before requesting reinstatement. Once you’ve cleared your legal path forward, you can work with a representative at the DMV to meet the state’s expectations. These can include:

  • Presenting an SR22 or FR44 from your insurance provider
  • Participating in a driver improvement course
  • Participating in a Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program and completing an intervention interview
  • Submitting evidence of payments submitted to local jails, as necessary
  • Acquiring comprehensive insurance coverage and submitting evidence thereof
  • Paying the state’s reinstatement fees, ranging between $145 and $220

Virginia will also require you to provide proof of residency and identity upon requesting a reinstated license. You may also be expected to retake your road skills and knowledge test before taking to the road again.

Under most circumstances, you can submit a request for reinstatement online or over the phone.

What If I Recently Moved?

New residents have 60 days upon moving to Virginia to get a new state driver’s license. If you wait too long and you’re caught by the police, the consequences can vary. If your out-of-state license is still valid, you may get off lightly and be told to transfer your license as soon as possible.

However, if it is expired, then it will be treated like any other expired license. It is up to the court to decide whether an out-of-state license held long after the 60-day deadline should be treated as driving without a license.

What If I don’t Have the Right Documents?

With the new REAL ID requirements, many drivers renewing their licenses get a rude awakening. The new requirements have far more paperwork than previous license renewals. Depending on when you read this, Virginia may still offer the old license type or require a REAL ID.

REAL ID will eventually be required for domestic air travel and to enter federal buildings, so it’s a good idea to get one if you can. This is a federal program, so you can find the requirements at this site at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

If you want to replace your existing Virginia license with a REAL ID, you’ll have to visit your area DMV. The state of Virginia does not allow residents to request REAL ID-compliant credentials through their online platform.

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Will Driving without a License Impact My Insurance Coverage?

If you’re caught driving without your license because you forgot it at home, your insurance provider isn’t likely to change your coverage. However, most officers will make a note of the incident on your record. If you’re caught driving without a license for a second time, your insurer’s response will change.

There’s a chance that your insurance premiums will be significantly higher once you get back on the road again. If you don’t have insurance coverage when you first lose your license, it may also be more difficult for you to secure coverage in the future.

Virginia is also quick to punish drivers caught driving on a suspended or revoked license. Insurance providers can increase your premium the first time you’re caught driving on an unapproved license. Certain carriers may even opt to cancel your coverage.

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How Can I Renew or Request a Virginia License?

Unless you’ve had your license suspended or revoked, you can request a replacement through the Virginia DMV’s website. It costs $20 to replace a license, and you are required to provide proof of legal residence within the state. 

When do I Need to Visit the DMV?

There are circumstances under which Virginia may require you to submit additional paperwork when requesting a replacement or restored license. You’ll need to schedule an appointment with the DMV service center if you:

  • Want to change the name on your driver’s license
  • Owe money to the DMV
  • Want a new photo for your license
  • Move to another state

Once you’ve scheduled your appointment with the DMV, representatives will require you to complete a driver’s license application. Provide proof of identity and proof of residence in the state, and you should leave the DMV with the credentials you need to get back on the road.

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