Driving Without a License in North Dakota

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

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

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).  North Dakota Code § 39-06-01 provides that, "an individual may not drive any motor vehicle on a highway or on public or private areas to which the public has a right of access for vehicular use in this state unless the individual has a valid license." Violation is typically a fine of $250 to $1,000.
  • Your license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. For first time offenders, this offense (a Class B misdemeanor) is punishable by a fine of $250 to $1000 and up to 30 days in jail.

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

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

  • An employee of the United States government while operating a motor vehicle owned by or leased to that government and being operated on official business.
  • A nonresident who is at least sixteen years of age, who has in that individual's immediate possession a valid operator's license issued to that individual in that individual's home state or country.
  • A nonresident who is at least sixteen years of age, whose home state or country does not require the licensing of operators, for a period of not more than thirty days in any calendar year without making an application for or obtaining an operator's license of this state, if that individual has in that individual's possession while driving in this state an official certificate showing the lawful registry of the motor vehicle and be able to prove that individual's lawful possession or the right to operate the vehicle and to establish that individual's identity.
  • A member of the armed forces of the United States while that individual is stationed in North Dakota, if that individual has a valid current operator's license from another state.
  • An individual over sixteen years of age who becomes a resident of this state and who has in possession a valid operator's license issued to that individual under the laws of some other state or country or by military authorities of the United States for a period of not more than sixty days after becoming a resident of this state.
  • A member of the North Dakota National Guard operating any military vehicles as authorized by a National Guard operator's license while on duty.

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 North Dakota?

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


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