What happens if you drive without a license and get stopped by the police?

Knowing what happens if you drive without a license can be tricky since each state has different penalties. A first offense is usually a misdemeanor but can have fines as high as $10,000. You can also face jail time and lose your vehicle. If you are a new driver, you will also have to wait longer to get a valid driver’s license. To drive legally in most states, you must have a valid driver’s license as well as auto insurance.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jan 31, 2022

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Things to Remember

  • If you drive without a license, you can face fines, a driver’s license suspension, and jail time
  • If you simply don’t have your license on you, you can receive a fine that may be dismissed if you show your license
  • In general, driving without a license is a misdemeanor for the first offense, not a felony

Most states require you to have a valid driver’s license and auto insurance to drive legally. But, what happens if you drive without a license? Chances are, you’ll have to pay a hefty fine and might even face jail time.

If you’re caught driving without insurance, the penalties are much the same, but can also include having your driver’s license suspended and your car impounded.

Driving without a license is very risky. It’s much easier and less expensive to either get your driver’s license or have another way to get around.

If you don’t have auto insurance, now is the perfect time to shop around for great coverage with low rates. Make sure you have insurance in place when you have a valid driver’s license.

Keep reading to learn more about driving without a license. Enter your ZIP code now to compare free auto insurance quotes from companies near you so you will be ready when you do get your driver’s license.

What happens if you drive without a license?

Driving without a license will cost you time and money. There is simply no way around the fact that you need a valid driver’s license to drive legally and avoid fines and possibly jail time.

Every state has penalties for people caught driving without a license. Generally, the more often you are caught, the stiffer the penalty. Fines can be as high as $10,000 for a first offense.

This table shows penalties for each state the first time you get caught driving without a license.

Penalties for Driving Without a License by State
StateFeesFirst Offense
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.
ArizonaClass 1 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for up to 6 months; possible vehicle impoundment for up to 30 days
ArkansasMisdemeanor: Fine no more than $500Imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 months
California$300-$1,000 FineImprisonment for between 5 days and 6 months
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.
Connecticut$150 - $200Imprisonment for no more than 3 months
Delaware$500-$1,000Imprisonment for between 30 days and 6 months. Possible vehicle impoundment of at least 90 days
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 fine
GeorgiaMisdemeanor - $500 -$5,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 2 days and 1 year; possible additional fine of no more than $1,000.
Hawaii$250-$2,000First Offense - Imprisonment for 3-30 days; $250-$1,000 fine; license suspension increased by 1 year; 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.
IllinoisMisdemeanor - $2,500 -$25,000First Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; fine of no more than $2,500.
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.
KentuckyMisdemeanor: Up to $250First Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment up to 90 days; license suspension increased by 6 months. Fine up to $250
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.
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.
MassachusettsMisdemeanor - $500 -$1,000First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 10 days, $500-$1,000 fine, or both
MichiganMisdemeanor - $500 -$1,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 93 days, a fine of no more than $500, or both.
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.
MontanaMisdemeanor - No more than $500First Offense – Fine not to exceed $500 and term of imprisonment not to exceed 6 months.
NebraskaFirst Offense - Class II Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 1 year; license revocation for a 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.
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.
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.
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.
OhioMisdemeanor - $1,000First Offense - Unclassified Misdemeanor: Fine of no more than $1,000; 500 hours community service.
OklahomaMisdemeanor - $50-$1,000First Offense - $100-$500 fine.
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.
South Carolina$300-$1,000First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $300 fine, or both.
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 the like period of time.
TexasMisdemeanor - $500 -$2,000First Offense - Class C Misdemeanor: Fine of no more than $500.
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.
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.
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 have a valid license but don’t have it on you, you might still get charged a fine. Generally, the court will drop the fine if you can show you do have a valid license.

If you are caught driving without a license, it can delay you from getting a valid driver’s license. In many cases, if your license has been suspended, you can get high-risk auto insurance or SR-22 so that you can drive for important reasons such as going to work or a doctor appointment.

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What happens if you don’t have a permit or parent with you while driving?

Most states have a graduated licensing system where young drivers start by getting a permit. This permit requires a licensed adult to be with you when you are learning to drive. A permit also restricts the hours you are allowed to drive.

What happens if you get pulled over with a permit and no adult passenger? While every state is different, you will generally have to wait longer to get your license. You will also have to pay a fine.

What happens if you drive without a license and are under 18? Usually, the penalties are the same no matter your age. However, it can cause you to have to wait longer to get your driver’s license.

Is driving without a license a felony?

The first time you get pulled over with no license, you will usually be hit with a misdemeanor. However, this will depend on the circumstances. If you were intentionally driving recklessly, cause a lot of damage or injuries, or were impaired, the charge may be upgraded to a felony.

If you are also driving without auto insurance, you can face higher fines and have your car impounded according to the Insurance Information Institute.

You will also face higher auto insurance rates when you do get your license. Since you will be considered a high-risk driver, expect to pay higher-than-normal rates.

What Happens if You Drive Without a License: The Bottom Line

If you drive without a license, you will face fines up to $10,000 and possibly even jail time. It will also take you much longer to get a valid driver’s license.

Every state is different, but all states require drivers to have a valid license and valid auto insurance. Getting caught without either one will cost you money in fines, add a misdemeanor or felony to your record, and get your vehicle impounded.

Make sure you have a valid driver’s license and the correct amount of auto insurance in place before you go out for a drive. Shop around to find the best coverage with the lowest rates so that you are driving legally.

We hope you’ve learned all you need to know about what happens if you drive without a license. Before you go, enter your ZIP code to compare auto insurance quotes from companies near you for free.

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