Driving Without a License in Minnesota

Read about the consequences for driving without a valid license in Minnesota.

Like in all other states, it is unlawful to drive without a valid license in Minnesota. This article explains what constitutes driving without a license, the penalties for a violation, and license reinstatement requirements.

Driving Without a License

“Driving without a license” typically refers to one of four scenarios listed below. With one noted exception, all of the following violations are misdemeanor offenses.

The driver has not been issued a license. Minnesota law states that "except when expressly exempted, a person shall not drive a motor vehicle upon a street or highway in this state unless the person has a valid license." The cost of a typical citation for this offense is around $200 (a $100 fine plus surcharges).

The driver has a valid license but not in his or her possession. In other words, the person is licensed to drive but lacks proof. This citation may be dismissed by presenting evidence—to the court or officer—of having a valid license at the time of the incident. Failure to provide this information can result in a $100 ticket ($20 fine plus surcharges).

The driver has an expired license. In most cases, driver’s licenses expire after four years (on the person’s birthday). Driving with an expired license can result in a $200 citation (a $100 fine plus surcharges).

The driver has a license that is suspended, revoked, or canceled. A driver’s license may be suspended, revoked, or canceled for various reasons, including a DWI or underage drinking.

Most violations involving driving on a suspended or revoked license are misdemeanors. The fine is $200, and with added fees, the ticket will cost close to $300.

However, if a person’s license was canceled as “inimical to public safety,” the violation is enhanced to a gross misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a gross misdemeanor is one year in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 fine. (As an example, a third or subsequent DWI in ten years may result in a person’s license being canceled as inimical to public safety.)

(Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.54, 171.02, 171.08, 171.24, 171.27 (2016).)

Violations That Result in Loss of Driving Privileges

As mentioned above, a DWI or underage drinking violation results in loss of driving privileges. Some of the numerous other violations that may also result in losing one’s license include:

  • driving without insurance or proof of insurance
  • failure to report a traffic accident (“hit and run”)
  • using false identification to illegally purchase alcohol
  • gasoline theft
  • receiving three or more traffic violations in a 12-month period
  • driving in excess of 100 miles per hour
  • nonpayment of child support or maintenance (limited to certain cases)
  • drug offenses involving a vehicle
  • vehicular felony offenses, and
  • fleeing a peace officer

The length of the suspension, revocation, or cancelation period depends on the violation and, in certain cases, the person’s past driving or criminal record.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 169.09, 169.792, 169.797, 171.17, 171.171, 171.172, 171.175, 171.86 (2016).)

Reinstatement of Driving Privileges

Driver’s license applicants must pay an application fee. If, however, the person’s license has been suspended, revoked or canceled, additional reinstatement fees apply.

The fees and process for regaining driving privileges depend on the violation and licensing sanction. A suspended license typically comes with the least onerous sanction. Revocation and cancelation are more serious and usually involving longer no-driving periods, as well as additional costs and steps for reinstatement of driving privileges.

In some cases, reinstatement requires only payment of a fee. In other situations, a person will also need to retake the driver’s license examination or comply with some other conditions of reinstatement. For example, to get your license back after a DWI, you must retake the written driver’s test and pay $680 in fees and surcharges. And for certain repeat DWI offenders, complete restoration of full driving privileges requires completion of the ignition interlock program.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 171.20, 171.29 (2016).)

Undocumented Immigrants

Under current rules, undocumented immigrants aren’t allowed to obtain a driver's license in Minnesota.

(Minn. Stat. § 171.015, Minn. Rules 7410.0100 to 7410.0800 (2017).)

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