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

Read about the penalties for driving without a valid license in Illinois.

Illinois prohibits driving without a license or while your license is suspended. This article explains what constitutes these violations, the possible penalties, and who is exempted from the normal licensing requirements.

Driving Without a License

Generally, every person who operates a motor vehicle on an Illinois highway must possess and be able to display a valid driver’s license.

License not in possession. Licensed drivers who do not have a license in their immediate possession can be cited for a petty offense and fined up to $500. However, a person can’t be convicted of the offense if he or she had a valid license issued at the time of the citation and can produce evidence of such in court.

Refusal to produce license. A driver who possesses a license but refuses an officer’s request to see it can be convicted of a petty offense and faces a fine of up to $500.

Driving without a valid license. Unlicensed driving is a class A misdemeanor. A class A misdemeanor conviction can result in up to one year in jail and a fine of $25 to $2500. The vehicle driven will be immediately impounded and released only to a licensed driver who shows proof of insurance. Finally, the driver will be prohibited from obtaining a license for:

  • two months for a first offense
  • four months for a second offense
  • six months for a third offense
  • 12 months for a fourth offense, and
  • life for a fifth offense.

Exceptions. Non-resident drivers with valid driver’s licenses from their home state or country can drive in the state without an Illinois license, subject to Illinois age restrictions. However, new residents to Illinois must obtain an Illinois license within 90 days. Farmers, military personnel and emergency responders are also exempt from the normal licensing requirements under certain circumstances.

Driving While Suspended or Revoked

A person who operates a vehicle while on a license suspension or revocation will be subject to jail time, fines, and an extended driver’s license suspension. The court is even authorized to immobilize the driver’s vehicle or seize the license plates.

A first-offense driving while suspended or revoked is a class A misdemeanor. A conviction carries up to one year in jail and a fine of $25 to $2,500.

Driving while suspended is a class 4 felony if the driver caused an injury accident or has any prior convictions. The convicted motorist will face one to three years in prison, a fine up to $25,000, and 100 hours of community service.

A driver who was suspended for DUI (driving under the influence) will be required to serve at least ten days in jail or perform 30 days of community service. Drivers who were suspended for aggravated DUI or manslaughter must serve 30 days in jail or 300 hours of community service.

These penalties can continue to increase all the way to a level one felony, depending on the number of prior offenses and the circumstances of the current offense.

License penalties. Any person convicted of driving with a revoked license will have an additional year added to the revocation period. Drivers who had revocations due to DUI or manslaughter will have their license revoked for an additional three years. Any person convicted of driving while suspended will have their original suspension period doubled.

Driving without insurance. Persons who drive with a suspended license and fail to carry required insurance face immediate vehicle impoundment. A vehicle accident without a valid license and insurance will result in vehicle forfeiture.

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