North Carolina prohibits driving without a valid license, whether revoked, suspended, or never issued. This article explains what constitutes these violations, the possible penalties, and the exemptions to the license requirement.
Generally, every person who operates a motor vehicle on a North Carolina highway must carry a valid license while driving.
Driving without a valid license. Unlicensed driving is a class 3 misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $200. A convicted person may also be sentenced to up to 20 days in jail, depending on his or her criminal history.
License not in possession. A driver who was issued a license but was not carrying it while driving can be convicted of an infraction but can avoid a conviction by presenting proof of a valid license to the court.
Exceptions. Non-resident drivers with valid driver’s licenses from their home state or country can drive in North Carolina without an in-state license, subject to North Carolina age restrictions. Farmers driving farm implements and military personnel driving military vehicles are also exempt. And North Carolina permits all persons 16 years of age and older to operate a moped without a driver’s license.
A person who operates a vehicle while on a suspended or revoked license is subject to varying penalties depending on the reason for the suspension, the circumstances of the stop, and the number of prior offenses within the last ten years.
Driving while suspended. Generally, driving while suspended or revoked is a class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $200 and a maximum of 20 days in jail.
Suspended for DWI. A violator whose license was suspended due to an impaired driving incident will be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction will hold up to 120 days in jail and a fine in whatever amount the judge decides to be appropriate. The judge can also prohibit any alcohol consumption for up to 90 days and require an alcohol monitoring system. Finally, the driver’s license will be revoked for an additional year for a first offense, an additional two years for a second offense, and revoked permanently for a third offense.
Moving violation while suspended. Any time the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles receives a report of a moving violation, it will check to see if the driver had a valid license at the time. If the driver was suspended at the time of the moving violation, the division will suspend the driver’s license for a like period of time. If the driver’s license was revoked, the revocation period will be extended one year for a first offense, two years for a second offense, and revoked permanently for a third offense.
Driving while suspended and impaired. Drivers who choose to drive in violation of license suspensions while also under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol face possible vehicle seizure. And the driver will still be subject to all the other penalties for driving while suspended and for driving while impaired.
Persons subject to extended suspension or revocation periods may be eligible for conditional restoration of driving privileges.