Driving Without a Valid (or on a Suspended) License in Arizona

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

In Arizona, it's illegal to drive without a valid driver's license. This article discusses what constitutes driving without a license, the possible penalties for a violation, and what it takes to reinstate a suspended or revoked license.

Driving Without a License

A driving-without-a-license violation usually involves one of four circumstances:

The driver never obtained a license. Arizona law forbids driving a car on a highway in the state without first obtaining a driver's license. A violation of this law is an infraction in Arizona and normally results in a $120 fine.

The driver is licensed but can't find it the license when pulled over. Arizona law requires all licensed drivers to actually have their license in their possession while driving. However, a violation is just a civil offense (less serious than a criminal charge) and will likely lead only to a $120 fine. Additionally, most judges will dismiss the ticket if you show up to court with proof that your license was valid at the time you were pulled over.

The driver's license is expired. In Arizona, a driver license is valid until the driver's 65th birthday. After that, it is renewable for five-year periods, and the driver must renew the license before it expires. Driving on an expired license is an infraction and typically results in a $120 fine.

The driver's license is suspended or revoked. Driving on a suspended or revoked license is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor—a more serious offense than those discussed above. The penalties vary depending on the reason for the suspension or revocation. For instance, if your license is suspended because of a DUI conviction, you'll have to pay a fine of $572. Also, you can be charged with a felony if arrested for a DUI while driving on a suspended license.

Violations That Result in Loss of Driving Privileges

As mentioned above, a DUI conviction results in the loss of driving privileges. Other violations that lead to loss of driving privileges include:

  • someone who is under 21 and using a fake ID to buy alcohol
  • failure to appear at a scheduled court date
  • failure to pay court-ordered fines, surcharges, or assessments
  • automobile homicide or aggravated assault resulting from the operation of a car
  • any felony in which a car is used to commit the offense, and
  • two convictions for reckless driving or racing on highways within 84 months.

The length of suspension or revocation depends on the violation.

Reinstatement of Driving Privileges

Drivers who fail to reinstate their license once eligible are still violating the law each time they drive. If caught, the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) can extend the suspension period for up to a year. If you are caught while driving on a revoked license, the MVD will extend the suspension period by one year.

For reinstatement of a suspended license, the individual must complete the suspension period and apply for reinstatement. And if failure to show up in court or pay a court fine was the reason for the suspension, the individual must first show up in court and/or pay the fine before the MVD will reinstate the license.

Reinstating a revoked license is a bit more difficult. The driver must first complete and submit an investigation packet, which the MVD reviews to determine eligibility to reinstate. If the license was revoked due to alcohol-related or drug-related convictions, the driver must also obtain proof of "Future Financial Responsibility" (known as an "SR-22"). If eligible, the MVD will mail the driver a "Permission to Reapply Notice," and the driver can then reapply.

Undocumented Immigrants

Under two federal court rulings in 2017 and 2018, some undocumented immigrants who have been issued Employment Authorization Documents may be eligible for driving privileges in Arizona. Contact your local immigration law attorney to see if you qualify.

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