What does it mean to “drive without a license” in Pennsylvania?
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
- You never
applied for a license (or your license expired). Penn. Statutes § 1501
provides that “No person, except those expressly exempted, shall drive any
motor vehicle upon a highway or public property in this Commonwealth unless the
person has a driver's license.” Violators are subject to a fine of $200, “except
that, if the person charged furnishes satisfactory proof of having held a
driver's license valid on the last day of the preceding driver's license period
and no more than one year has elapsed from the last date for renewal, the fine
shall be $25.” Penn. Statutes § 1501(d).
license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. For first
time offenders, this offense is punishable by a fine of up to $500 unless the
suspension was for a DUI (first time offense is $1,000) (Penn Stat. § 1543).
Who doesn’t have to have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license?
Pennsylvania exempts the following persons from having to
possess a valid Pennsylvania license:
- Any employee of the Federal Government while
operating a motor vehicle owned by or leased to the Federal Government and
being operated on official business unless the employee is required by the
Federal Government or any agency thereof to have a state driver's license. This
exemption does not apply to the operation of commercial motor vehicles.
- Any person in the service of the armed forces of
the United States, including the reserve components, when furnished with a
valid military driver's license and operating an official vehicle on official
- Any nonresident who is at least 16 years of age
and who has in possession a valid driver's license issued in the person's home
state or country except that a person who has been issued a valid driver's
license in a country other than the United States or Canada shall be exempt
only upon showing a satisfactory understanding of official traffic-control
devices. A nonresident may only drive the class or classes of vehicles in this
Commonwealth for which the person is licensed to drive in the person's home
state or country subject to all restrictions contained on the license.
- Any person on active duty in the armed forces of
the United States who has in their immediate possession a valid driver's
license issued in a foreign country by the armed forces of the United States
may operate a motor vehicle in this Commonwealth for a period of not more than
45 days from the date of the person's return to the United States.
- Any person 14 years of age or older operating an
implement of husbandry. Persons 14 or 15 years of age are restricted to the
operation of implements of husbandry on one and two lane highways which bisect
or immediately adjoin the premises upon which such person resides.
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 Pennsylvania?
An undocumented immigrant is not permitted to obtain a driver's
license in Pennsylvania.