In short, there are numerous penalties for driving without a license in Florida. In fact, in every single state within the United States operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license is an illegal act that could lead to criminal penalties.
Similar to every other state, operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license is considered a criminal offense in Florida. Further, driving with an expired license in Florida is also considered to be an offense on par with driving without a license.
Specifically, driving without a valid license is considered to be a misdemeanor in Florida. If an individual is found guilty of operating without a valid license, the conviction carries the following criminal penalties:
- A criminal fine up to $500; and/or
- Imprisonment in a county jail for a maximum of 60 days
It is important to note that eligible motorists do have the option of resolving a citation for driving without a license by paying a $25 court fee. However, this option is only available if the defendant has not had any citations resolved in a similar manner within the past 12 months.
It is also important to note that driving without a license is not the same as not having a driver’s license in one’s possession. The failure to have and properly display a valid license upon the request of an officer will ultimately result in the same citation as operating a motor vehicle without a valid license. However, if the cited driver is able to later produce their driver’s license, that was valid at the time the citation was issued, then the court will typically dismiss the ticket after collecting a dismissal fee.
Additionally, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended, restricted, or revoked license is also an illegal act that will result in jail time, criminal fines, and the operator’s vehicle being impounded.
How Are Drivers License Violations Categorized in Florida?
Once again, drivers license violations are charged and categorized as misdemeanors. This means that the penalties associated with driving without a valid license in Florida will carry less harsh criminal penalties than that of a felony charge.
There are some cases in which a person may be charged with a felony charge for operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license, but such a charge is often reserved for cases in which the individual caused harm to another person or significant property damage. Additionally, there are cases in which a person is classified as a habitual offender and they may receive a felony charge in such cases as well.
Additionally, in some cases, such as a person that was unaware their driver’s license was suspended or a person that had a valid license but did not produce it during a traffic stop, the violation is considered an even lesser offense known as a moving violation. Moving violations are minor offenses in Florida that result in a simple fine of up to $60.
Can I Drive with a Revoked License in Florida?
As mentioned above, it is an illegal act in the state of Florida to operate a motor vehicle with a revoked license. In fact, operating a motor vehicle with a license that has been permanently revoked is considered a misdemeanor crime.
The criminal penalties associated with operating a motor vehicle with a revoked license include:
- First Time Offense: For individuals that are first time offenders and charged with driving with a revoked license may be criminally fined up to a maximum $500, imprisoned for up to 60 days in a local jail, or a combination of both penalties;
- Second Time Offense: A second conviction of driving without a revoked license will result in imprisonment of up to one year in jail, a maximum criminal fine of $1,000, and even vehicle impoundment;
- Third Time or Subsequent Offense: Any third or subsequent conviction of driving without a revoked license will be charged as a felony. As such, a conviction for three time or more offenders include the following:
- Up to five years in prison; and
- Up to $5,000 in criminal fines; and
- Habitual Offenders: If an individual is convicted three times for driving with a revoked license within a fiver year period, they will be considered a habitual offender, which may result in a permanent revocation of their license, as well as more severe criminal fines and prison sentences.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Driver’s License Requirement?
In short, yes there are numerous exceptions to the general requirement of having to have a valid driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Florida.
Specifically, Section 322.04 of the Florida motor vehicle statutes provide that the following persons are exempt from the general driver’s license requirement:
- Employees of the U.S. Government who are operating a non-commercial government-owned vehicle for use in official business;
- Drivers of any road vehicle, farm tractor, or other husbandry (farming) vehicle temporarily moving on a highway;
- Non-residents in possession of a valid non-commercial license issued from their home country or state;
- Drivers of golf courts operating pursuant to Florida vehicle provisions; and
- Out-of-state workers employed in a government contract passing through the state on temporary duty, provided they have a valid license in another U.S. state.
Are There Any Legal Defenses Available for Individuals Charged With Driving Without a Driver’s License?
Yes, there are numerous legal defenses that may be asserted by an individual that was pulled over and charged with driving without a driver’s license. One of the main legal defenses is to later show that the defendant possessed a valid driver’s license at the time that they received the citation.
Examples of other common legal defenses to a charge for driving without a valid driver’s license include:
- The defendant was not actually operating the motor vehicle on a roadway which was open to the public;
- The defendant possessed a valid foreign or out of state driver’s license at the time the citation was issued;
- The traffic stop was unlawful, or the defendant was unlawfully detained following their traffic stop; and/or
- The state prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence to show that the defendant did not have a driver’s license at the time the citation was issued.
Should I Contact a Florida Lawyer?
As can be seen, operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license is considered to be a serious criminal offense in Florida. As such, if you have been charged with driving without a license in Florida, it is in your best interests to immediately consult with an experienced Florida traffic violation lawyer.
An experienced attorney is especially necessary in cases in which you may be a repeat offender, or if you have been charged with multiple offenses and are facing more serious misdemeanor or even felony charges. An experienced attorney will be able to ensure that your legal rights are protected, and help you form a solid legal defense to the charges.
Additionally, an attorney may be able to help get the charges against you reduced or dropped completely. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you at any in person criminal proceedings, as needed.