Driving Without a License in Rhode Island

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

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

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). Rhode Island Statutes § 31-10-1 states that “no person … shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway in this state unless that person has a valid license …” Violators are subject to a fine of $250 - $500 fine and a maximum of thirty days jail time. Rhode Island Statutes § 31-11-18.
  • Your license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. For first time offenders, this offense is punishable by a fine of $250 to $500 unless the suspension was for a DUI (or refusing a chemical test) in which case there is a mandatory fine of $500 and a minimum jail term of 10 days. Rhode Island Statutes § 31-11-18.1.

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

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

  • Any employee of the United States government while operating a motor vehicle owned by or leased to the United States government and being operated on official business;
  • A nonresident who is at least sixteen (16) years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid operator's license issued to him or her in his or her home state or country may operate a motor vehicle in this state only as an operator;
  • A nonresident who is at least eighteen (18) years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid chauffeur's license issued to him or her in his or her home state or country may operate a motor vehicle in this state either as an operator or chauffeur. Subject to the age limits applicable to chauffeurs in this state, that license shall be accepted as a chauffeur class I license. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a nonresident must submit an application for a chauffeur class I license which must be approved before a nonresident may be employed as a chauffeur in this state;
  • Any nonresident who is at least eighteen (18) years of age, whose home state or country does not require the licensing of operators, may operate a motor vehicle as an operator only, for a period of not more than ninety (90) days in any calendar year, if the motor vehicle so operated is duly registered in the home state or country of that nonresident;
  • Any operator of any traction engine, road roller, farm tractor, crane, power shovel, well-borer, and any other road and building construction machinery and equipment, other than a truck used for the transportation of materials.

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 Rhode Island?

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


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