This post is part of EverQuote’s Traffic Ticket Series. Learn more about other traffic tickets and how they affect auto insurance here.

Maybe you left your license at home—an honest mistake, a lost wallet, an ID left behind at a restaurant. Or, perhaps, your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked and you were caught behind the wheel. There are many possible reasons you may be driving without valid ID, but none are acceptable on the road. Here’s a look at the ticket consequences for driving without a valid driver’s license. 

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Fines and Penalties for Driving Without a Valid Driver’s License:

  • Valid Driver’s License but Not With You:

There’s a difference between driving without a valid driver’s license and driving without proof of a valid driver’s license. While neither is an action you want to take, the latter is certainly a less serious offense.

Drivers who leave their licenses at home because of a forgotten wallet won’t face the same penalties as those who don’t have a license at all, though they may receive a ticket. In all fifty states, drivers are required to have their driver’s licenses on them at all times. Driving without proof of one is often considered a misdemeanor. As a result, you may receive a ticket and pay a small fine. Motorists may also decide to fight the ticket by showing the court proof of a valid driver’s license. In some cases, the ticket and fine will then be dropped—commonly known as “fix-it tickets”. If it’s a subsequent offense, the penalties may increase.

  • Expired License or No License at All:

Renewing your driver’s license is typically easy to do. Most states allow you to do so online or by mail, though some renewals may still require an in-person visit at the local DMV. Failing to renew can have consequences. Each state has their own laws, but some tack on a late fee, typically around $10–$25. If your driver’s license has been expired for a significant length of time, you’ll face a retesting of your vision, knowledge and road skills. If you’re caught behind the wheel with an expired license, you may face other repercussions, including fines, arrest and vehicle impoundment. In a points system state, points may also be added to your record.

  • Driving With Suspended or Revoked License:

Driving with a suspended or revoked license is a more serious offense than driving with an expired license or with one left at home. Why? A suspended or revoked license means at least one offense has already occurred, as some type of issue(s) or action(s) led to the suspension or revocation in the first place. As a result, you may be arrested and could face jail time from 2 days up to 2 years—depending on your state. Furthermore, your suspension period will increase and you’ll likely face a fine ranging from $50 to more than $2,000. In a points system state, you may also receive up to 10 points on your record.

The Effects of Driving Without a Valid Driver’s License on Auto Insurance:

Yikes, driving without a valid license has some serious consequences. Your premium is likely to increase significantly and your car insurance policy may even be cancelled by your provider. If your policy is cancelled, then you may have a gap in car insurance coverage, which could lead to a costlier premium down the road. All of these consequences are, of course, dependent on the degree of the traffic violation. If your license or wallet was simply forgotten at home, you’re unlikely to see any auto insurance penalties for that. However, if your driver’s license was suspended and you were caught behind the wheel—your insurer will see that as risky behavior and hike your rate. If your initial reason for suspension/revocation was due to a DUI-related offense, the penalties may be harsher.

cop car with lights on sirens, patrol car, police carFurthermore, your state may also require you to file an SR-22 form. This form shows proof of insurance, but carriers often charge higher rates to file it as it’s usually only required for drivers who have committed serious violations.

How to Bring Your Car Insurance Rate Back Down:

Prove yourself. If you received a ticket for driving on a suspended or revoked license, car insurance carriers likely see you as a high-risk driver. Show them that you’ve changed and are a careful, safe driver by focusing on the roadways and avoiding aggressive driving behavior.

Take a class. Once you’re allowed to drive again, take a defensive driving or safe driving class. While your rate won’t drop to pre-offense rates, you’ll likely see a discount for showing providers that you are serious about driving safe.

Wait it out. Often, drivers dealing with serious offenses have no choice but to wait it out. Once your license is reinstated, you’ll likely have skyrocketing car insurance rates. Try shopping around for quotes and know that the last 5 years of your driving record are the most important for insurers looking at your driving history.

Fight it. If you simply left your wallet at home, you may decide to fight the ticket all together. In most cases, you can by simply providing proof of your driver’s license in court. These are known as “fix-it tickets”. However, if you’re planning to fight a ticket for driving on a suspended or revoked license—good luck. Those are serious offenses and evidence is usually hard to counter.

Driving without a valid driver’s license is dangerous for you and everyone else on the road. There’s never a justifiable reason for driving on a suspended or revoked license. When your driving privileges are reinstated, remember to be smart, stay safe and remain aware behind the wheel. And if you’re unsure about your driving skills, you can test them out with EverDrive.

Photo credits: TheArmadillo, Scott Davidson