What Happens If You Drive Without a License in Pennsylvania?

As a driver, it’s always important to keep track of the necessities.

When you get into your vehicle, you probably know where the car’s registration and manual are. You know exactly how to put on your seatbelt and you probably have your sunglasses and aux cord on hand.

What’s one of the most commonly forgotten yet most essential items for every driver? A driver’s license! It can be so easy to misplace an ID card, but it’s important to stay organized.

What happens when a person drives a motor vehicle without a license? Is it a violation? Driving without a license in Pennsylvania is a pretty serious offense, but there are some different circumstances, from suspension to plain old forgetfulness, that can affect your possible punishment.

PENNDOT, otherwise known as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, has set aside some strict guidelines for drivers hitting the roads of PA. Here’s what you need to know.

Driving without ever having a valid license

Here’s a scenario: maybe you’re driving without a license because you never actually earned one. If a police officer pulls you over, they can actually STILL legally suspend your license. In this case, not only will you face the legal ramifications of driving a vehicle without a license, you’ll also affect the status of your future license if/when you do decide to follow the law and get one. Basically, think of it as a delayed suspension. You can also receive points on a license that will become active once you do decide to legally acquire an ID. A person convicted of the crime will also most likely be subjected to a fine of up to $200 by PA authorities.

When you go to the PA DMV, whether it’s for a permit or a renewal, they will inform you of the suspension and make it clear how long it will be until your license can be reinstated fully. Though this isn’t usually a matter of years, it still can hold you back from obtaining a form of legal driver’s identification.

driving with a suspended license

Driving with a suspended or revoked license

Driving with a revoked license is a slightly different circumstance. If you are driving without a license in Pennsylvania because yours was revoked, there are a few different things that could happen, depending on which offense this is. If it’s your first offense, you will probably be subjected to a $500 fine.

Driving with a suspended license could illicit a similar punishment, with the fines being of a similar cost.

In either of these aforementioned cases, if you’re caught driving without a license because it was revoked or suspended for a DUI, you could also face mandatory jail time, which is an even bigger punishment than points or fees. You could end up in jail for 90 days or more if you’re pulled over by a police officer for DUI-related offenses. Your punishment really just depends on the PA local authorities and the PENNDOT stipulations.

driving with a revoked license

Forgetting a valid license at home

Let’s say you simply forgot your license when you hit the road. Obviously, this isn’t ideal, but the consequences are much less serious than the former set of legal ramifications.

If you have a legal driver’s license that isn’t revoked or suspended and you are simply not in possession of it when asked by a police officer, PENNDOT gives you the opportunity to prove that you have one afterward.

You must produce a valid driver’s license within 15 days of the violation and take it to the issuing authority’s office. If you can prove that it wasn’t on you because it was forgotten, lost, stolen or destroyed, you’ll be subjected to a $25 fine.

forgotten license in Pennsylvania

Driving is a privilege, and it’s one that comes with a few necessities. Keep track of yours or else you’ll have to face some pretty tough consequences.

Krista Doyle
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