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Penalties For Driving With an Expired License



Driving with an expired license is an easy mistake to make. Life is busy and sometimes details escape us. Forgetting to renew a driver's license (or not quite getting it done by the deadline) is a problem quite a few people face.

For those who wish to avoid bureaucratic headaches, needless fines, and (in the most serious cases), vehicle impound or arrest, licenses should remain diligently updated.

Regardless of which state you live in, a valid driver's license is required to get behind the wheel of a car. If you've accidentally broken this law or are curious to know what breaking it might entail we've got you covered. In this article, we'll break down the following….

Fines For Driving With an Expired License
What Insurance Penalties Can You Face?
How Do You Renew Your License?

Let's get started….

Fines For Driving With an Expired License?

Driving without a current driver's license is a risk, simple as that. Even if you just forgot and had no conscious negligent intent there is no guarantee a police officer will take it easy on you. Driving with an expired license is a ticketable offense, and depending on which state you live in perhaps much more.

Some people may get off easy with a warning from an officer or a “fix-it ticket” (a lesser fine attached to a date to fix the problem quickly -- or else pay a higher price). If you're issued a fix-it ticket you may be required to show proof of license renewal in order to avoid the higher fine.

Fix-it tickets aside, what happens to you if you're caught with an expired license depends almost solely on which state you live in. A few examples.

  • In Texas, you will likely be charged $155 for a first offense [1].
  • In Florida (according to numerous attorney websites) driving without an expired license can be classified as a second-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. If this is your first offense you'll likely face less steep penalties.
  • In the state of Washington, this is considered a traffic violation and not a misdemeanor charge. Fines are typically $250 [2].
  • Being convicted of violating New York State's driver license laws can result in a $300 fine.
  • In California not having a current license can result in a misdemeanor charge or a fine. The misdemeanor can equate to 6 months in jail and a criminal record and the fine runs at around $1000.

These are a few examples but they should give you some feel for the type of consequences you might face. The other big factor that plays a role in what happens to you if you're caught with an expired license is the mood and personality of the police officer in question.

As mentioned above, some might be lenient and let you off with a stern warning. Others might be sticklers and enforce the very letter of the law on you. Which could even mean that they insist you stop using your vehicle and secure another method of transportation in order to "prevent the continuation of the offense."

What Insurance Penalties Can You Face?

The biggest financial hit you take from driving on an expired license may not actually come from a ticket. In the eyes of an insurance company not renewing your license (especially for a long period of time) signals additional risk. So, it's not uncommon for insurance premiums to react to an expired license citation and these changes can last for a long time.

The other issue is that if you're driving with a license that is expired you may be in violation of your insurance contract because you were not legally operating your vehicle. What does this actually mean?

It means that your insurance coverage may not apply or the insurance carrier may have grounds to deny your claim. If you're in an accident involving serious damage or injuries this can leave you on the hook for thousands and thousands of dollars.

How Do You Renew Your License?

It's important to renew your license in a timely manner for all the reasons mentioned above plus the fact that if you're late you may face administrative fees from the Department of Motor Vehicles. In Connecticut, you will be charged $25 if you're 1 day late renewing or 2 months. In Washington, you'll get hit for $10 if your license is expired for longer than 60 days.

Also, if your license goes renewed for an extended period of time you may face retesting and/or some continuing education requirements to get it back.

These days renewing your license is getting easier. A lot of states allow you to do it completely online and/or via the mail. This is great because it allows you to skip the infamous DMV lines.

The first step is contacting your local DMV to figure out the process and requirements. Here is a great resource to get you started.

Summary

Intentional or not, driving with an expired driver's license is a poor idea. You open yourself up to be ticketed, have your insurance premiums go up, and in cases of repeat offense you may even face jail time. It's a small detail but one that needs to be underlined on your to-do list. Remember:

  • Getting caught with an expired license can result in a verbal warning, a fix-it ticket, a fine ranging $100-1000 and/or arrest and impoundment of your car.
  • Getting caught with an expired license can lead to a hike in your insurance premiums and it calls into question your insurance coverage (carriers may deny claims).
  • Renewing a license can be done online. Processes vary by state, but however it is done it's best not to wait.


Sources

1 - Harris County Court
2 - Washington State Legislature
3 - USA.Gov


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