Driving Without a License in Pennsylvania

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

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 fine.)
  • 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).
  • Your 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 business.
  • 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.


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