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What Are the Consequences of Driving Without a Valid License in Virginia?

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

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 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.

What Are the Penalties?

If someone drives on a suspended or revoked driver’s license in Virginia, Code of Virginia section 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 10 years comes with a required term of at least 10 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

Every eight years (for most drivers in Virginia), a driver’s license will expire. Code of Virginia section 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 on 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. 

What if I Just 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. In short, you’re playing with fire if you wait too long.

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 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.

If your license is expiring fast, you may not have time to get the documents together before it expires. We encourage you to read through the document list now so you can prepare when you go to the DMV for your renewal.