Driving Without a License in Texas

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 Is it Illegal to Drive Without a License in Texas?

If an individual drives without ever having been issued a valid driver’s license, they will typically face an infraction or a misdemeanor, depending on the state. An infraction typically only results in a fine of between $25 and $250.

In addition, some states will assess a demerit point to the individual’s driving record. If the state considers the violation a misdemeanor, the fine can be as high as $1,000 and may include the possibility of jail time.

In some cases, if an individual receives a ticket for driving without a license, a court may be willing to reduce the fine or dismiss the charges. This can often happen if the driver obtains a valid driver’s license prior to their court date.

The Texas Transportation code, Chapter 521 requires all individuals who operate motor vehicles on highways to carry a valid driver’s license. Violations of these provisions will likely result in a misdemeanor charge. 

If an individual commits multiple or repeat offenses, it will likely lead to progressively more severe consequences. The penalties for these violations in Texas may include:

  • A fine of up to $200 for a first time offense;
  • For a second violation within one year of the first offense, a fine ranging from $25 to up to $200 is imposed; and
  • A third conviction within one year of the second offense will result in a fine of up to $500, along with jail time of no less than 72 hours and no greater than 6 months. 

What Happens if You Get Pulled Over Without a License in Texas?

No matter how well an individual can drive, law enforcement officers will only be concerned whether or not the individual has a valid driver’s license. If an individual cannot produce their driver’s license upon request, there may be serious consequences, which may include:

  • If there is not a licensed driver in the car as well as a valid car registration and insurance, the motor vehicle will be impounded;
  • The driver will receive a ticket;
  • The driver will be arrested and taken to jail;
  • The bail, fees and fines are usually around $1,000.

If an automobile accident occurs when another driver is injured and the driver without a license is at fault, the driver may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty may be up to a year in jail as well as a fine up to $4,000.

An individual may also receive a fine of up to $200 for driving with an expired license in Texas. They may also be required to pay a surcharge of $100 a year for three years. 

An individual can take the following steps prior to their scheduled court date to avoid larger fines:

  • Obtain a driver’s license renewal;
  • Provide proof of the driver’s license renewal; and
  • Pay a $20 fee.

If an individual fails to take these steps prior to their scheduled court date, they may face a Class C misdemeanor in addition to the traffic violation.

How Much is the Maximum Fine for a First Conviction of Driving Without a License in Texas?

If an individual faces a first conviction of driving without a license in Texas, the maximum fine is $200. This is different from driving on a suspended or revoked license, which may cause an individual to be subject to fines, jail time, and an extended driver’s license suspension.

The charges and the corresponding punishments include:

    • A Class C misdemeanor. Driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license is a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of $500;
    • A Class B misdemeanor. If the driver did not possess proof of insurance or if they have a prior driving while suspended violation may be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail; and
    • A Class A misdemeanor. A driver can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if they did not have insurance and caused an accident with injury. If convicted, the individual may face a fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail.


Are There Any Other Consequences Besides a Fine?

Individuals who are charged with driving without a license in Texas may be required to pay other related fees and costs. The State of Texas has a Driver Responsibility Program which is mandatory for certain vehicle-related violations.

This program requires an individual to pay a yearly surcharge for up to three years, as previously noted. The offense of driving without a license, the surcharge amount is $100 per year.

There are also restrictions which may be placed on the driving privileges of the individual, such as having an existing driver’s license revoked. It is important to note that the offense of driving without a license is different from the offense of driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Both of these offenses are misdemeanors. However, driving with a suspended license is typically a more serious offense that carries greater penalties.

In addition, some jurisdictions require that the offender’s vehicle be towed and impounded. The defendant would be required to pay for those costs as well.

It is important to be aware that the total amount which an offender may be required to pay in relation to the offense is largely up to the discretion of the court. An individual should contact their local municipality in order to determine the exact amount of the possible costs as well as if they have any other additional questions or concerns.

Are There Any Defenses to Driving Without a License in Texas?

An individual who has a driver’s license but was not carrying their license while driving will typically receive a citation similar to a fix-it ticket. Although an individual may be required to pay a small fine or fee, a court will, in most cases, dismiss a ticket if the driver is able to present their valid driver’s license in court.

In some states, a driver may be able to show their valid driver’s license at the police station or law enforcement office. If an individual forgot their license at home, so long as they have a valid driver’s license, they will typically not face serious consequences. In some cases, the individual may simply receive a written warning.

Do I Need a Texas Lawyer for a Driving Violation?

Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of a Texas traffic violation attorney for any driving violation issues you may be facing. Because driving without a license may result in misdemeanor charges, having a lawyer is important for your case.

It is especially important if you have multiple offenses on your record because you may be facing possible jail time. Your attorney can explain the offense you have been charged with under Texas laws and represent you in court. 

LegalMatch can provide the contact information for numerous bi-lingual Houston lawyers who will be able to represent you if you have been cited for driving without a license. Your lawyer may be able to assist you with having your charges reduced or dismissed, which may keep you from having multiple offenses on your driving record.

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