Iowa law prohibits driving without a valid license. This article explains what constitutes a violation, the possible penalties, and the exemptions to the rule.
Generally, every person who operates a motor vehicle on an Iowa highway must have a valid driver's license in his or her immediate possession.
License not in possession. A driver who has been issued a license but does not have it in his or her possession can be charged with a simple misdemeanor. However, the driver can avoid the conviction by presenting a then-valid license in court. But drivers who can do so will still have to pay court costs.
Driving without a valid license. Unlicensed driving is a simple misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $65 to $625. The penalty is the same for those driving on an expired license.
Exceptions. Subject to Iowa age restrictions, a non-resident driver with a valid driver's license from his or her state of legal residence can drive in Iowa without an Iowa license. Farmers driving certain machinery and military personnel in military vehicles are also exempt from licensing requirements.
A person who operates a vehicle while his or her license is suspended, barred, or revoked will face possible jail time, fines, and an extended driver's license suspension.
Suspended. Driving while suspended is a simple misdemeanor. Convicted persons will face a $250 to $1,500 fine and up to 30 days in jail. Most convictions will result in an additional driver's license suspension similar to the one originally imposed.
DUI-related. Violators whose license was suspended due to a DUI will be guilty of a serious misdemeanor. Convicted motorist face up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. Violators will have their original suspension period doubled and their vehicle impounded.
Habitual violator. Persons who are convicted of driving while suspended three times within six years are considered habitual violators. Habitual violators are barred from receiving a license for two to six years and may face prison time for any future violations.
The state will also impose an additional $200 fee any time a driver's license is suspended, revoked, or barred.