Driving Without a License in Texas

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

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

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). According To Texas Code § 521.021, a person “may not operate a motor vehicle on a highway in this state unless the person holds a driver's license.” First-time violators are subject to a maximum fine of $200.
  • Your license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. For first time offenders, this offense is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. If the suspension was for DUI, it is a Class B offense punishable by up to six months in jail.

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

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

  • a person in the service of the state military forces or the United States while the person is operating an official motor vehicle in the scope of that service;
  • a person while the person is operating a road machine, farm tractor, or implement of husbandry on a highway, unless the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle;
  • a nonresident on active duty in the armed forces of the United States who holds a license issued by the person's state or Canadian province of residence;  and
  • a person who is the spouse or dependent child of a nonresident exempt under Subdivision (3) and who holds a license issued by the person's state or Canadian province of 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 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 Texas?

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


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