Driving Without a License in North Carolina

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

What does it mean to “drive without a license” in North Carolina?

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).  North Carolina Code § 20-7states that "to drive a motor vehicle on a highway, a person must be licensed." Penalty is typically a fine of up to $500.
  • Your license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. A person who (1) drives (2) a motor vehicle (3) on a street or highway (4) while his or her license has been revoked by the State of North Carolina (4) knowing that his or her license is revoked commits a Class 3 misdemeanor. For first time offenders, this offense is punishable by a fine of $500 to $2500. If the suspension/revocation was for impaired driving (DUIs, etc.), the violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Who doesn’t have to have a valid North Carolina driver’s license?

North Carolina exempts the following persons from having to possess a valid North Carolina license:

  • Any person operating a motor vehicle that is the property of and in the service of the armed forces of the United States;
  • Any person driving farm machinery on a highway; or
  • A nonresident who is at least 16 years old who has in his immediate possession a valid driver’s license issued to him by his home state or country.

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 North Carolina?

An undocumented immigrant is not permitted to obtain a driver's license in North Carolina.


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