Driving Without a License in Colorado

What does it mean to drive while your license is expired, revoked, suspended or cancelled?

What does it mean to “drive without a license” in Colorado?

Driving without a license can refer to three scenarios. You’re stopped for an offense and:

  • You have a license but it’s not in your possession. In other words, you were licensed to drive but lacked proof, an infraction that may be dismissed once you can prove that you possessed a valid license at the time of the incident.  (Note: you may have to pay a fine.)
  • You never applied for a license (or your license expired). The law requiring a valid license in Colorado is located at Colo. Rev. Stat. § 42-2-101. It states that “Except as otherwise provided, no person shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway in this state unless such person has been issued a currently valid driver's or minor driver's license or an instruction permit by the department under this article.”
  • Your license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. This offense (referred to as “driving under restraint”) is generally punishable as a misdemeanor. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 42-2-138(1).) In most cases, the maximum penalty is six months in jail and a fine of not more than $500. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 42-2-138(1)(a).) If you have a second or subsequent conviction within five years, you may not be eligible for a driver’s license for three years. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 42-2-138(1)(b).)

Who doesn’t have to have a valid Colorado driver’s license?

Colorado Rev. § 42-2-102 states that the following persons need not obtain a Colorado driver's license:

(a) Any person who operates a federally owned military motor vehicle while serving in the armed forces of the United States;

(b) Any person who temporarily drives or operates any road machine, farm tractor, or other implement of husbandry on a highway;

(c) Any nonresident who is at least sixteen years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid driver's license issued to such nonresident by his or her state or country of residence. A nonresident who is at least sixteen years of age and whose state or country of residence does not require the licensing of drivers may operate a motor vehicle as a driver for not more than ninety days in any calendar year, if said nonresident is the owner of the vehicle driven and if the motor vehicle so operated is duly registered in such nonresident's state or country of residence and such nonresident has in his or her immediate possession a registration card evidencing such ownership and registration in his or her own state or country.

(d) A nonresident on active duty in the armed forces of the United States if that person has in his or her possession a valid driver's license issued by such nonresident's state of domicile or, if returning from duty outside the United States, has a valid driver's license in his or her possession issued by the armed forces of the United States in foreign countries, but such armed forces license shall be valid only for a period of forty-five days after the licensee has returned to the United States;

(e) The spouse of a member of the armed forces of the United States who is accompanying such member on military or naval assignment to this state, who has a valid driver's license issued by another state, and whose right to drive has not been suspended or revoked in this state;

(f) Any nonresident who is temporarily residing in Colorado for the principal purpose of furthering such nonresident's education, is at least sixteen years of age, has a valid driver's license from his or her state of residence, and is considered a nonresident for tuition purposes by the educational institution at which such nonresident is furthering his or her education; or

(2) Any person who has in his or her possession a valid driver's license issued by such person's previous state of residence shall be exempt, for thirty days after becoming a resident of the state of Colorado, from obtaining a license, as provided in section 42-2-101.

How do you fight the charge?

Fighting a “driving without a license charge” can be difficult.  Once the district attorney or prosecutor alleges that you drove without a valid license, the burden of proof is on you to prove that you did possess a valid driver’s license at the time of your offense. If you don’t evidence of a license, you lose! Depending on your circumstances, you may benefit from the advice or negotiating skills of an attorney.

Can an undocumented immigrant obtain a driver’s license in Colorado?

In 2013, Colorado became the 10th state to permit undocumented aliens to obtain a driver’s license. However, political maneuvering has limited funding for the program and currently only one DMV in Denver offers driving tests for undocumented aliens. That program is booked for over a year in advance.

 

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