Driving Without a License in the District of Columbia

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 the District of Columbia?

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). .) D.C. law (D.C. Code § 50‑1401.02) states, “No individual shall operate a motor vehicle in the District … without first having obtained an operator's permit.” The penalties may include a fine (D.C. Code § 50-1403.01)
  • Your license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. . If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you could be charged with a crime. (D.C. Code § 50-2302.02.) The maximum sentence for a conviction is a fine of $5,000, and up to one year in jail. (D.C. Code § 50-1403.01(e).) Your license may be suspended or revoked for a longer period of time. (D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 18, § 303.)

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 have 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 the District of Columbia?

As of May 1, 2014, the District of Columbia began issuing “limited purpose” driver’s licenses to undocumented aliens.

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