Driving Without a License in Florida

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 Florida?

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). Florida Statutes Section 322.03 states that, “Except as otherwise authorized in this chapter, a person may not drive any motor vehicle upon a highway in this state unless such person has a valid driver’s license issued under this chapter.” Any person whose driver’s license has been expired for 4 months or less is guilty of an infraction and subject to a fine.
  • Your license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. This offense is punishable as misdemeanor (resulting in a fine and possible jail time) unless it’s a third offense in which case it is treated as a felony. (Florida Statutes § 775.082). The offense is actually broken into classes: Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) Without Knowledge is a civil infraction. (Florida Statute 322.34 (1)) This is a lesser offense that occurs when you did not know your license was suspended. The more serious offense is DWLS With Knowledge, a criminal infraction (second degree misdemeanor)and is considered a major moving violation.

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

Florida exempts the following persons from having to possess a valid Florida license:

(a) Any employee of the United States Government, while operating a noncommercial motor vehicle owned by or leased to the United States Government and being operated on official business.

(b) Any person while driving or operating any road machine, farm tractor, or implement of husbandry temporarily operated or moved on a highway.

(c) A nonresident who is at least 16 years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid noncommercial driver’s license issued to the nonresident in his or her home state or country, may operate a motor vehicle of the type for which a Class E driver’s license is required in this state.

(d) A nonresident who is at least 18 years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid noncommercial driver’s license issued to the nonresident in his or her home state or country may operate a motor vehicle, other than a commercial motor vehicle, in this state.

(e) Any person operating a golf cart, as defined in s. 320.01, which is operated in accordance with the provisions of s. 316.212.

(2) The provisions of this section do not apply to any person to whom s. 322.031 applies.

(3) Any person working for a firm under contract to the United States Government, whose residence is without this state and whose main point of employment is without this state may drive a noncommercial vehicle on the public roads of this state for periods up to 60 days while in this state on temporary duty, provided such person has a valid driver’s license from the state of such person’s residence.

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 Florida?

An undocumented immigrant is not permitted to obtain a driver's license in Florida. 

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