Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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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. 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

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UPDATED: Jun 28, 2022

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The Lowdown

  • Depending on your state and the number of offenses you commit, driving without a license is either a misdemeanor or a felony
  • Fines for driving without a license can be as low as $50 or as high as $10,000, and penalties include jail sentences, car impoundments, and a forfeiture of your driver’s license
  • If you get caught driving without a license, you can also face higher auto insurance rates

Is it illegal to drive without a license on you? And what happens if you drive without a license and auto insurance?

Driving with a suspended or revoked license will carry harsher penalties than merely operating a car without a valid license. You can face fines, a long suspension period, or jail time.

Additionally, the state may either impound or repossess your vehicle. And this will make your auto insurance rates skyrocket.

Read on to find out what type of crime driving without a license is and what penalties it carries. In the meantime, if you would like to review rates from auto insurance companies in your area, you can enter your ZIP code into our free quote tool above.

Is driving without a license a felony?

The level of offense you commit when driving without a license depends on your state and the act itself.

Types of Offenses

Specifically, these are five types of offenses you could commit:

  • Drive without applying for a driver’s license – For example, a resident did not apply for a driver’s license within a given period. Or a non-resident did not apply for a state driver’s license — if required to — after a specific number of days. That may be considered a misdemeanor.
  • Forget to carry your license before driving – If you just lost your valid driver’s license or forgot to take it with you, that is generally an infraction.
  • Drive with an expired driver’s license – That may be an infraction as well.
  • Drive with a suspended driver’s license – If you drive with a suspended or revoked license, that can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. It depends on how many infractions are already on your record.
  • Operate a vehicle despite having a permanently revoked driver’s license – Authorities view this much the same as driving with a suspended license. Your first offense may be a misdemeanor, and some subsequent offenses may be felonies.

Below is a look at the classification of offense by state.


Most first and subsequent offenses are misdemeanors. In rare cases, you would have to drive without a license at least three or more times to receive a felony charge.

Driving Without a License: Offense Classification

StateType of Offense
AlaskaClass A Misdemeanor
ArizonaClass 1 Misdemeanor (first offense), Class 2 Misdemeanor (second offense)
FloridaSecond degree misdemeanor (first offense), first-degree misdemeanor (second offense), felony (subsequent offense)
GeorgiaMisdemeanor, High and Aggravated Misdemeanor (second and third offenses), felony (subsequent offense)
IllinoisClass A Misdemeanor (first offense), Class 4 Felony (subsequent offense)
IndianaClass 6 Felony
KansasClass B Nonperson Misdemeanor (first offense), Class A Nonperson Misdemeanor (subsequent offense)
KentuckyClass B Misdemeanor (first offense), Class A Misdemeanor (second offense), Class D Felony (subsequent offense)
MaineClass E Crime
MissouriClass D Misdemeanor (first offense), Class A Misdemeanor (second offense), Class E Felony (subsequent offense)
NebraskaClass II Misdemeanor (first-third offense), Class I Misdemeanor (subsequent offense)
New HampshireMisdemeanor
New MexicoMisdemeanor
New YorkMisdemeanor
North CarolinaMisdemeanor
North DakotaClass B Misdemeanor
OhioUnclassified Misdemeanor (first offense), First Degree Misdemeanor (subsequent offense)
OregonClass A Traffic Infraction
PennsylvaniaSummary Offense
Rhode IslandMisdemeanor$250-$1,000
South DakotaClass 1 Misdemeanor (revoked license), Class 2 Misdemeanor (suspended or canceled license)
TennesseeClass B Misdemeanor (first offense), Class A Misdemeanor (second offense)
TexasClass C Misdemeanor (first offense), Class B Misdemeanor (subsequent offense)
UtahClass C Misdemeanor
VirginiaClass 1 Misdemeanor
WashingtonGross Misdemeanor
West VirginiaMisdemeanor
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Read on to learn more about the penalties for driving without a license.

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What are the penalties for driving without a license?

If a police officer stops you after you forget to carry your license on your person, you can likely get the charge dismissed in traffic court by proving that you have a valid driver’s license.

However, you will likely still pay extra fines and any court costs, and in some cases, you may go to jail for a short period. If the officer who stops you is not confident that you have provided the correct information, they may take you into a precinct until officers can verify your identity.

Beyond that, you could pay some fines and other harsh penalties.

Fines for Driving Without a License

These are the types of fines you may have to pay, per state:

Fines for Driving Without a License

ArkansasUp to $500
ColoradoUp to $500, a minimum fine of $500-$1,000 if alcohol-related
District of Columbia$2,500
IndianaUp to $10,000
KentuckyUp to $250
MaineUp to $1,000
MinnesotaUp to $1,000
NevadaUp to $1,000
New HampshireUp to $1,000
New Jersey$500-$1,000
New MexicoUp to $1,000
New York$250-$500
North CarolinaUp to $300
North Dakota$1,500-$3,000
Rhode Island
South Carolina$300-$1,000
South Dakota$500-$2,000
VermontUp to $5,000
VirginiaUp to $2,500
WashingtonUp to $5,000
West Virginia$100-$500
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Indiana has the harshest financial penalties. All offenses are felonies, and fines could reach $10,000.

Other Penalties, Based on Offense

First-time offenses can lead to penalties as severe as 180-day imprisonment, vehicle forfeiture, and fines that meet or surpass $1,000. If you already have a suspended license, your suspension period could extend past 90 days.

Second, third, fourth, and subsequent offenses carry stricter penalties. Fines increase, incarceration can reach two years, and some states, like Hawaii, might take your license away permanently.

Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website for a more comprehensive breakdown of state penalties for driving without a license.

What happens when you drive without a license and are under 18 years old?

The law does not necessarily differentiate between the ages of the defenders. However, there may be special penalties for minors (citizens under 18 years), especially drivers in training.

In most cases, states will extend the training period by six months for each moving violation. Thus, a minor will have to wait longer to obtain a driver’s license in addition to paying any fines, plus other penalties, for driving without a valid driver’s license.

What happens if you drive without a license and auto insurance?

If you are caught driving without a license but have auto insurance, your auto insurance company views it as risky behavior. The company may overlook a simple infraction, but driving with a suspended license increases your risk. You will undoubtedly pay higher auto insurance rates.

If you have a suspended license, you will likely need to fill out an SR-22 form and change auto insurance companies provided your older insurance company dropped your coverage.

Failure to comply with state law will likely reset your SR-22 period, meaning you will pay higher auto insurance rates for for a longer time frame.

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Driving Without a License: The Final Word

As you can see, driving without a license can carry harsh penalties when you get caught. It’s best not to take that gamble and, rather, find legal ways to secure transportation. One thing you can do is look for a designated driver.

Also, find out if your state allows you to drive with a restricted license. If you can prove that you have no other viable means of transportation, you might be able to get clearance. However, you must drive only during specific hours and for specific purposes, such as traveling to and from work.

Ultimately, your top concern is to remain safe. Comply with the law, and wait for any suspension to pass, so that you can resume your full driving privileges as soon as possible. Remember, this can also affect your insurance rates.

Now that you know more about what happens if you drive without a license, would you like to see rates from top auto insurance companies in your area? If so, simply enter your ZIP code into our free quote tool below.