Driving Without a Valid (or on a Suspended) License in Rhode Island

Read about the penalties for driving without a valid license in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island prohibits driving without a valid license as well as driving while suspended or revoked. This article explains how the law defines these violations, the possible penalties for a conviction, and the exemptions to the license requirement.

Driving Without a License

Generally, every person who operates a motor vehicle on a Rhode Island highway or public area must carry a valid license while driving.

Driving without a valid license. Drivers who had never applied for a driver’s license, applied and were denied, or were for other reasons unlicensed can be convicted of a misdemeanor. A first offense results in a $250 to $500 civil penalty and a second offense a $350 to $500 civil penalty. A third or subsequent offense carries a maximum 90 days in jail, a $500 to $1,000 fine, and possible license suspension for up to 90 days. Drivers who are charged due to an expired license can avoid conviction if renewed within ten days of the citation.

License not in possession. A driver who was licensed but not carrying it while driving can be charged with a misdemeanor. However, the driver will not be convicted if he or she presents a then-valid license to the court.

Exceptions. Non-resident drivers with valid driver’s licenses from their home state or country can drive in Rhode Island without an in-state license, subject to Rhode Island age restrictions. However, new residents must obtain a Rhode Island license within 30 days of establishing residency. Non-residents age 18 and older are also exempt for 90 days if their home country does not require driver’s licenses.

United States' employees in an official vehicle on official business are exempt from licensing requirements. Additionally, the operation of certain road machinery, cranes, and farm equipment does not require a license for temporary movement along a highway.

Driving While Suspended or Revoked

A person who operates a vehicle while on a suspended or revoked license is subject to fines, jail, and other sanctions.

Driving while suspended. Driving while suspended or revoked is a misdemeanor offense with the following penalties:

  • 1st offense: $250 to $500 fine
  • 2nd offense: $350 to $500 fine
  • 3rd offense: $500 to $1,000 fine, up to 90 days jail, and/or a maximum 90 days suspended license.

Aggravated driving while suspended. A violator whose license was suspended or revoked for a DUI/DWI, vehicular manslaughter, or reckless driving conviction or for having three moving violations within one year, will be subject to increased penalties. The penalties depend on the number of violations within the last five years.

  • 1st offense: Misdemeanor, minimum $500 fine, minimum ten days in jail, and three months license suspension or revocation
  • 2nd offense: Misdemeanor, minimum $500 fine, six months to one year jail, and six months license suspension or revocation
  • 3rd offense: Felony, minimum $1,000 fine, and one year prison.

Drivers suspended for moving violations may be eligible for reduced jail time and community service.

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