Driving Without a License in Virginia Explained by our
Fairfax Traffic Lawyer
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Intro: Common Driver’s License Offenses in Virginia
46.2-300: Driving Without a License in Virginia
Penalties for Driving Without a License in Virginia
Exceptions and Exemptions
New Residents: Registration and License Requirements
Other Offenses Related to Virginia Suspended or Revoked Driver’s License
If you are looking for information related to your charge and it involves driving without a license, check your Virginia Uniform Summons to see if it contains either the words:
- “License: Driving w/out;” or,
- Virginia Code § 46.2-300.
We discuss this offense on this page. While this is a criminal charge, in Fairfax County it tends to be a relatively common violation. Our Fairfax criminal lawyer recently conducted an analysis of 815 charges in Fairfax County. 98 of the total reported criminal charges (12%) were for a violation of 46.2-300, driving without a license in Virginia. This should not be confused with the much more serious charge of driving after license forfeiture (due to DWI: 18.2-277), or another serious charge, driving with a suspended or revoked license (46.2-301).
There are several other relatively common driver’s license-related criminal offenses. Our Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney covers other offenses on pages you may access below:
- Driving with a revoked or suspended license (46.2-301)
- Driving after license revoked (result of a DUI or other serious conviction – 18.2-272)
It is important for all drivers to realize that in Virginia, conviction of one of several driving and non-driving related offenses may lead to a revoked or suspended license.
Similarly, there are some criminal offenses which, if convicted of, always lead to a suspended or revoked license. Learn about these various offenses here.
Virginia Code 46.2-300
Driving Without a License in Virginia:
Explained by our Fairfax Criminal Lawyer
Virginia Code § 46.2-300, also known as, “Driving without a license,”i may apply to individuals alleged to have been driving under the following circumstances:
- They have not applied for a license
- They have not passed all or some of the required tests to obtain a driver’s license
- They have no valid license at all
This law tells us that no person can drive a motor vehicle on any “highway” until that individual has attained a lawful license. There are some exemptions, but in general, they are rare (e.g., in some cases, an International License in Virginia may be valid for a period of time).
This law makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle “on any highway” unless the driver has a valid license. The term, “highway,” refers to almost every road…not solely interstate highways. This law also indirectly alludes to the fact that for a license to be valid, the driver must have applied for the license, as well as passed the tests and vision exam as required by law.ii
Driving without a valid license in the Commonwealth of Virginia is a criminal offense: either a Class 1 or Class 2 misdemeanor. The severity of fines and potential jail time depends in part, upon whether or not it is a first or subsequent offense. Regardless of whether the conviction is a first or subsequent offense:
- The court may suspend a driver’s privilege to drive for 90 days
- The conviction will remain on an adult’s public criminal record for life
Driving Without a License in Virginia:
A first time conviction is considered a criminal Class 2 misdemeanor, and can result in:
- Up to 6 months in jail; and,
- Up to a $1,000 fine.
Driving Without a License in Virginia:
A subsequent violation is the most serious type of criminal misdemeanor in Virginia: a Class 1 misdemeanor. Possible penalties may be as severe as:
- Up to 12 months in jail; and
- Up to a $2,500 fine.
We encourage any person charged with a violation of this statute in Northern Virginia to speak with a Fairfax criminal defense attorney and request a free case evaluation or consultation.
Exceptions and Exemptions to:
Driving Without a License in Virginia
Explained by Fairfax Traffic Lawyer and Criminal Defense Attorney
Few people and/or vehicles are exempted from the valid license requirementiii – below, our Fairfax traffic lawyer has listed several examples of persons not subject to this law:
- Workers who are conducting road maintenance or construction under the “supervision and control of the Department of Transportation.”
In limited instances, operators who are:
- Nonresidents, but validly licensed to drive by the laws of their state or country
- “New resident[s] licensed under laws of another state”
And in some instances, operators:
- Of farm vehicles, tractors and backhoes
- Of vehicles for agriculture purposes
- Of vehicles used by commercial fisherman
- With a validly registered license in other another state when the vehicle is used for harvesting
Many times, people are legally allowed to drive in the United States for a temporary period with a valid international license, but they may be unaware of the legal time limits applicable when:
- such a license ceases to be valid; and/or
- registration, plates, and fees must be paid.
If you are a new Virginia resident with a valid license issued by another state or country, then you should be aware of the this relevant law:v
A [Virginia] resident over the age of sixteen years and three months who has been duly licensed as a driver under a law of another state or country requiring the licensing of drivers shall . . . [be allowed to drive] a motor vehicle . . . for the first sixty days of [his or her] residency in [Virginia] . . . without a Virginia license.
Another section of the Virginia Code relates to vehicle registration, fees, and license plates; there is a temporary exemption for new residents operating a vehicle registered in another state or country:iv
A new resident of Virginia who owns a car, pickup truck, SUV, motorcycle, or moped [not including oversized vehicles]vi
” . . . that has been duly registered for the current calendar year in another state or country and . . . displays the license plate(s) . . . may operate or permit operation . . . within or partly within [Virginia] for the first 30 days of [his or her] residency” . . . before he or she needs to register or pay any fees to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
According to our Fairfax criminal lawyer, there have been instances of charges as a result an expired international license. According to the law, an international driver’s license is valid for a period of 30 days.iv
Residents who own a vehicle validly registered “for the current calendar year in another state or country” and who display the license plate(s) correctly as issued in the country of origin, may “operate or permit the operation” of the vehicle for 30 days of the individual’s residency in the Commonwealth of Virginia before it must be registered, and before any fees must be paid.
The large numbers of arrests for violation of the law prohibiting driving without a valid license in Virginiai could be due in-part to the diverse ethnic nature of the Washington D.C. Metro area. Our Fairfax traffic lawyer and Fairfax criminal defense attorney has come across numerous drivers who believed their international license to be valid, when in fact, they was not.
§ 18.2-272 “Driving after forfeiture of license” (Revoked due to a DWI)
Virginia Code References
§ 46.2-300. Driving without license prohibited; penalties.
§ 46.2-325. Examination of applicants; waiver of Department’s examination under certain circumstances; behind-the-wheel and knowledge examinations.
§ 46.2-303. Licenses not required for operating road roller or farm tractor.
§ 46.2-304. Limited operation of farm tractor by persons convicted of driving under influence of intoxicants or drugs.
§ 46.2-305. Exemption of persons in armed services.
§ 46.2-306. Exemption of armed services personnel and spouses and dependent children of armed services personnel.
§ 46.2-307. Nonresidents licensed under laws of home state or country; extension of reciprocal privileges.
§ 46.2-308. Temporary exemption for new resident licensed under laws of another state; privately owned vehicle driver’s licenses.
§ 46.2-662. Temporary exemption for new resident operating vehicle registered in another state or country.