Driving Without a License in New Mexico

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

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

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. New Mexico Code § 66-5-16 is violated when an individual has a valid license, but does not have it in his or her possession when stopped. 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 NM Statutes § 66-5-2, "no person shall drive any motor vehicle or moped upon a highway in this state unless he holds a valid license." Violation is a misdemeanor.
  • Your license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. This offense is punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and a “minimum mandatory” of four days in jail, and a maximum of a year. Also, the violator's car may be “booted” for 30 days. The penalties are harsher if the violator was suspended for a DUI.

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

New Mexico (NMSA §66-5-4) exempts the following persons from having to possess a valid New Mexico license:

  • any employee of the United States while driving a motor vehicle owned by or leased to the United States and being driven on official business;  
  • any person who is at least fifteen years of age and who has in his immediate possession a valid driver's license issued to him in his home state or country may drive a motor vehicle in this state, except that the person shall obtain a license upon becoming a resident and before he is employed for compensation by another for the purpose of driving a motor vehicle;  
  • any nonresident who is at least eighteen years of age whose home state or country does not require the licensing of drivers may drive a motor vehicle for a period of not more than one hundred eighty days in any calendar year if the motor vehicle driven is duly registered in the home state or country of the nonresident;  
  • any driver of a farm tractor or implement of husbandry temporarily drawn, moved or propelled on the highway; and    
  • any driver of an off-highway motorcycle.

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 New Mexico?

An individual can obtain a license if they provide an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) or other document designated by the Department of Motor Vehicles, along with proof of identity and residency.


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