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What Is the Penalty for Driving Without a License in North Carolina?

Every driver in North Carolina must have a valid driver’s license to legally operate a motor vehicle. Driving without a license, or on a suspended, revoked, or expired license, is a crime that can come with charges and penalties. Although limited exceptions to the rule exist, for the most part driving without a license will have negative consequences. If you are facing charges for driving without a license, seek help from a Raleigh criminal defense attorney to minimize your penalties.

Obtaining a Driver’s License in North Carolina

Driving is a privilege in North Carolina, not a right. Drivers cannot operate motor vehicles without valid driver’s licenses. It is even against the law to sit in the driver’s seat of a vehicle without a license if the motor is running, regardless of whether the driver planned on moving the car. To obtain a driver’s license, a driver must be at least 16 years old. The driver must have a learner’s permit for the minimum amount of time first. A learner’s permit is obtainable for teens starting at 15 years old.

Applicants for new driver’s licenses in North Carolina must visit the local Department of Motor Vehicles, provide several required documents, pass a knowledge and road sign recognition test, pass a vision test, and pass a driving test to obtain their licenses. They must also pay the fee. Driver’s licenses are valid for eight years for drivers up to 65 years old, at which point they expire every five years. It is up to the driver to renew his or her driver’s license after expiration.

Driving Without a License

Police may charge you for driving without a license under a few different circumstances. If you never obtained your driver’s license, if you are driving with an expired license, or if you have an out-of-state license but you have lived in North Carolina for at least 60 days (30 days for a commercial driver’s license), police may charge you with driving without a license. The potential penalties for this crime can range from a ticket to license suspension.

  • Class 3 misdemeanor
  • Fine of up to $200
  • Driver’s license suspension up to one year (or up to three years as a repeat offender)
  • 15 days probation for prior convictions
  • Up to 20 days in jail for five or more prior convictions

Drivers in North Carolina must have valid licenses, and they must also have their license with them every time they driver. Driving without a valid license or without it in possession is an infraction. If you have a license at home, you must appear in court and show the judge your license for the city to drop the charges. Otherwise you could face a misdemeanor conviction.

Driving With an Invalid License

Driving while you have a suspended, revoked, expired, or otherwise invalid license is also a crime in North Carolina. You can face various penalties depending on the reason for the suspension or revocation, as well as the number of prior offenses. Driving on a suspended license can come with the same penalties as driving without one, unless you have the suspension from drunk driving. Suspension from drunk driving can lead to a class 1 misdemeanor, with up to 120 days in jail.

Driving on a cancelled or revoked driver’s license or knowingly showing a cop a fictitious license can lead to a class 2 misdemeanor, up to 60 days in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000 depending on the situation. You could also face further license suspension. The best way to minimize your penalties for driving without a license in North Carolina is to hire a defense lawyer. It is especially important to hire an attorney if you have a prior criminal record.