In short, yes. It is important to note that in every single state, operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license is illegal and could lead to criminal penalties. Similar to other states, driving without a valid driver’s license is considered a criminal offense in Illinois. It is important to note that driving with an expired license in Illinois is also considered to be driving without a valid license.

Specifically, the law in Illinois states that it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle on a public highway in Illinois without a license, permit, or restricted driving permit. Typically, a ticket for operating a motor vehicle without a license is charged as a petty offense. This means that the ticket cannot result in prison time, and has a maximum fine of $1,000.

Driving without a license in Illinois, and the penalties linked to the criminal act, is heavily dependent on the situation in which the individual is driving without a license. The following is a list of different scenarios in which an individual may be considered to be operating a motor vehicle without a license:

  • Operating a motor vehicle in Illinois with a suspended license;
  • Operating a motor vehicle in Illinois with a revoked license;
  • Operating a motor vehicle in Illinois with an expired license;
  • Operating a motor vehicle in Illinois, but refusing to show an officer;
  • Operating a motor vehicle in Illinois without a license, while also under the legal driving age, which is 18 years of age in Illinois;
  • Failing to obtain a driver’s license or to timely renew a driver license; and/or
  • Operating a motor vehicle in Illinois with an invalid license for some other reason than the above scenarios.

What Are the Consequences of Driving Without a License in Illinois?

As can be seen above, there are numerous different scenarios in which an individual may be considered to be driving without a license in Illinois. Driving without a license in Illinois can result in numerous different fines or criminal penalties, including, but not limited to:

  • A possible arrest by the officer issuing the citation;
  • A citation, with criminal fines up to $1,500;
  • A Class B misdemeanor charge, which carries fines of up to $1,500, imprisonment of up to six months, or a combination of both;
  • Probation of up to 24 months, dependent on whether or not the individual cited is a repeat offender; or
  • Criminal fines of up to $2,500, imprisonment of up to one year, or a combination of both if the individual cited was instead driving with a license that had been suspended or revoked. It is important to note that operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license is considered a more severe crime, and is charged as a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois.

In addition to the above possible penalties, driving without a license may also result in having the cited person’s car towed at their own expense. This is especially true if the offense of driving without a license is combined with another criminal citation, such as failure to provide insurance or operating the vehicle while intoxicated. In those cases, the cited individual may be arrested at the scene.

Further, the cited individual’s car may be impounded and auctioned off if the individual is unable to timely get their car out of the impound lot. Additionally, an individual may also be stopped from obtaining a license for a certain period of time.

Finally, it is important to note that the criminal penalties above may be increased if an individual is cited for driving without a license multiple times. Repeat offenders will face harsher consequences such as increased criminal fines of up to $25,000, imprisonment of up to 3 years, and/or community service of up to 100 hours. Habitual offenders, such as those cited more than 3 times for driving without a license in Illinois may be prohibited from acquiring a driver’s license or commercial license for life.

Additionally, failure to appear at the designated court date on the citation, may result in heavier fines or greater lengths of imprisonment, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

Can I Use My Out of State License in Illinois?

Yes, an individual can use their valid out of state driver’s license for up to 90 days after moving to the state of Illinois. After the 90 day period, an individual will need to get a license issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, or risk being ticketed for driving with a valid driver’s license. The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office is in charge of issuing driver’s licenses in illinois.

In order to obtain an Illinois driver’s license, an individual only needs to show their valid out of state license, proof of Illinois residency, and pass a simple vision test. An individual may also be asked to take a written exam or driving exam, depending on the circumstances.

What if I Had a Valid License but Not in My Possession?

If an individual did have a valid driver’s license, but they simply did not have it in their possession at the time of the citation, this is a different violation altogether than driving without a valid driver’s license. Driving without proof of a valid license in Illinois, whether by mistake or not, is still illegal. In fact, having a valid driver’s license, but not in your current possession, is actually one of the most common driving violations.

Luckily, the criminal penalties for driving without proof of a valid license are typically less severe than other license violations. For instance, If you are unable to produce your license at the time of a citation, you may be able to get the infraction dismissed completely if you are able to prove that you were validly licensed at the time you got pulled over.

If the infraction is not dismissed entirely, the fine may be reduced to a smaller fine, such as a fine of $100. It is important to note that you should always ensure that you have your driver’s license on your person when you operate a motor vehicle in Illinois. Further, providing proof of a valid driver’s license at the time of citation will typically drop the charges completely, but you must ensure that you do so before the date listed on the citation.

Will a Conviction of Driving Without a License Affect Future Driving Privileges?

As mentioned above, Illinois is unique among states in that the Secretary of State’s office may suspend the driving privileges of a person who is convicted for driving without a license. Once again, this is dependent on the specific circumstances of the case. If the individual had a license, but forgot it at home, their future driving privileges will not likely be suspended.

However, if the person did not have a validly registered license at all, or was operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license, they may be required to complete a longer suspension period before they are allowed to apply for a new license. Once again, upon a third offense of driving without a license, the person’s driving privileges may be totally revoked for life. After that, the individual’s driver’s license can only be reinstated after a formal hearing.

Do I Need an Attorney if I’m Facing Driving without a License Charges?

As can be seen, driving without a license in Illinois may result in criminal penalties, including the possibility of a criminal misdemeanor with substantial fines or possible imprisonment. Therefore, if you have been charged with driving without a license, it may be in your best interests to promptly consult with an experienced Illinois traffic violation attorney that specializes in traffic citations.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to help you assert your best legal defenses to the charges, if any, and may even get your charges dropped altogether. Further, a criminal defense attorney will also be able to represent your interests in court, as necessary.