Virginia law requires all drivers on the highways and roads of the state to have a valid drivers license. It is understandable that unlicensed drivers are drawn to the convenience of having an automobile as a means of transportation. Additionally, daily obligations such as work, doctor's appointments or family gatherings may serve as further motivation to get behind the wheel. However, the penalties for getting caught driving without a license far outweigh the short term convenience of using the vehicle.
Description of the Law
If you are caught driving without a license in Virginia, the state can impose harsh fines or even jail time. Virginia Code section §46.2-300 states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle on any road or highway within the Commonwealth unless the vehicle operator has applied for a license, passed all relevant examinations, and has been issued a driver's license. Additionally, the license must be valid. Many drivers convicted of driving without a license aren't even aware they are committing a crime until they are pulled over for an unrelated offense, such as Reckless Driving by Speed, simple Speeding, or failure to obey a highway sign.
Penalties for Driving Without a License in Virginia
Virginia maintains harsher penalties for operating a motor vehicle without a license than many other states. In Virginia, driving without a license is a serious criminal offense, and is classified as a Class 2 Misdemeanor for a first offense. A Class 2 Misdemeanor conviction carries with it harsh penalties, such as a suspension of a person's license up to 90 days (in cases where the license is invalid), jail time of up to six months, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Repeat offenses for the charge carry more severe penalties. A second or subsequent conviction of driving without a license is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500.00, and/or suspension for up to ninety days.
Exceptions Under the Statute
In some cases, there are exceptions to the requirement that all drivers must maintain a Virginia driver's license in order to operate a motor vehicle on the roadways of the Commonwealth. Some of these exceptions are listed below:
- When operating a military vehicle as a member of the armed forces, or as a spouse or dependent child of the service member. The individual must have a valid license in another "home state or country." Virginia Code §46.2-306
- When operating a vehicle classified as farm equipment, or “for farm use only”. Virginia Code §46.2-303
- New residents of Virginia who have yet to receive a valid Virginia driver's license and have a valid license from another state (60 day grace period). Virginia Code §46.2-308
- Residents of other states passing through the Commonwealth, who have an existing license in their state. Virginia Code §46.2-307
Benefits of an Experienced Traffic Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been charged with operating a motor vehicle without a license in the Commonwealth of Virginia, consider hiring a good lawyer to appear in court for the case. It is advisable to have counsel review the facts of your case and prepare a strategy for defending it in court. This can be done on a reasonable, flat fee to minimize your costs.
An experienced attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a non-criminal offense. Failure to Carry License in Possession, for example, is a traffic infraction and carries only a $10 fine. It is a non-criminal conviction that is a traffic infraction.
Many jurisdictions in the state nolle prosequi (dismiss) this type of charge for compliance if the accused gets his or her driver's license issued before court. This may save you a conviction on your criminal record (CCRE) and driving record, a three point demerit on your Virginia DMV transcript, and expensive fines and court costs. A conviction for Driving Without a License (No Valid Operator's License) stays on the Virginia driving record for three years.
It is advisable to get a certified copy of the driving record from the DMV before court showing that the license is valid. It is difficult to get an appointment with the Virginia DMV during the current COVID-19 pandemic emergency. The Virginia DMV website allows you to order a certified copy of the driving record that may be mailed or emailed to you directly. Do this well in advance of your court date so you will have the document in hand when you appear before the judge.
Effective July 12, 2021, the prosecutors (Commonwealth Attorneys) in Fairfax County are involved in the disposition of misdemeanor traffic cases. The case may be disposed of by entering into an agreement with the prosecutor so it does not have to go to trial. Prosecutors in Arlington County are not involved in Driving Without a License cases. It is advisable to have a qualified and experienced lawyer to protect your legal interests in any county where you need to appear.
Getting the license issued and the charge dismissed helps clients avoid a permanent criminal conviction on their personal record for employment, security clearances, and immigration purposes. If you need help getting a continuance of your court date for a reasonable period to get the license re-instated, call the law office. Attorney Yeargan can arrange for the date to be postponed by filing proper paperwork with the clerk of court.
Expungement of the arrest is available when this misdemeanor charge is dismissed or nolle prosequi.
Free Initial Attorney Consultation - Hire an Attorney With 22 Years of Experience in Traffic Cases - Fairfax County, Prince William County and other Locations Throughout Virginia
If you are facing an upcoming case for Driving Without a License in Fairfax County, Prince William County, Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, Loudoun County, Warren County,Stafford County, the Town of Herndon, Fairfax City, the Town of Vienna, the City of Falls Church or any other location in Virginia, turn to the Law Office of Wilfred W. Yeargan for help. Attorney Yeargan has a history of vigorously defending clients charged with traffic offenses in the General District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, and Circuit Courts. He has effectively represented clients countless times, getting charges dismissed or reduced. He works hard to deliver the best outcomes for his clients. His office charges reasonable, flat fee rates. If you are looking for an experienced traffic defense lawyer that gets results, contact the office today by phone or online for a free initial consultation.