What does it mean to “drive without a license” in Illinois?
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). Illinois Code Section Sec.
6-101 states that, "No person shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway
in this State unless such person has a valid license or permit, or a restricted
driving permit, issued under the provisions of this Act." Depending on the
circumstances, you may be charged with a petty offense (up to $500 in fines) or
as a Class B misdemeanor.
license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. This
offense is usually punishable as a Class A misdemeanor. (625 Ill. Comp. Stat. §
6-303(a).) The maximum penalties for a Class A misdemeanor may include a $2,500
fine, and up to a year in jail. Note, you may be charged with a felony (under 625 ILCS 5/11-501 (d) (1) (G)), if you were arrested for a DUI and your license had been suspended for a DUI.
Who doesn’t have to have a valid Illinois driver’s license?
Illinois exempts the following persons from having to
possess a valid Illinois license (Illinois Code Section Sec. 6-102):
- Any employee of the United States Government or
any member of the Armed Forces of the United States, while operating a motor
vehicle owned by or leased to the United States Government and being operated
on official business need not be licensed.
- A nonresident who has in his immediate
possession a valid license issued to him in his home state or country may
operate a motor vehicle for which he is licensed for the period during which he
is in this State;
- A nonresident and his spouse and children living
with him who is a student at a college or university in Illinois who have a
valid license issued by their home State.
- A person operating a road machine temporarily
upon a highway or operating a farm tractor between the home farm buildings and
any adjacent or nearby farm land for the exclusive purpose of conducting farm
operations need not be licensed as a driver.
- A resident of this State who has been serving as
a member of the Armed Forces of the United States outside the Continental
limits of the United States, for a period of 120 days following his return to
the continental limits of the United States.
- A nonresident on active duty in the Armed Forces
of the United States who has a valid license issued by his home state and such
nonresident's spouse, and dependent children and living with parents, who have
a valid license issued by their home state.
- A nonresident who becomes a resident of this
State, may for a period of the first 90 days of residence in Illinois operate
any motor vehicle which he was qualified or licensed to drive by his home state
or country so long as he has in his possession, a valid and current license
issued to him by his home state or country. Upon expiration of such 90 day
period, such new resident must comply with the provisions of this Act and apply
for an Illinois license or permit.
- An engineer, conductor, brakeman, or any other
member of the crew of a locomotive or train being operated upon rails,
including operation on a railroad crossing over a public street, road or
highway. Such person is not required to display a driver's license to any law
enforcement officer in connection with the operation of a locomotive or train
within this State.
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 evidence of a license, you lose! Depending
on your circumstances, you may benefit from the advice or negotiating skills of
Can an undocumented immigrant obtain a driver’s license in Illinois?
Since 2013, Illinois has
a program that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a
"temporary" license that is good for up to three years.