Virginia prohibits driving without a valid license. This article defines this violation, the possible penalties, and the exemptions to the license requirement.
Generally, every person who operates a motor vehicle on a Virginia highway must carry a valid license while driving.
Driving without a valid license. Unlicensed driving is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum six months in jail. A second offense is a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum $2,500 fine, and vehicle impoundment. The vehicle will be impounded until the driver obtains a valid driver’s license (maximum three days). However, vehicle impoundment does not apply minor drivers or to drivers whose licenses have been expired for less than one year.
The driver will also receive three demerit points and may be prohibited from obtaining a license for up to 90 days.
License not in possession. A driver who was issued a license but was not carrying it while driving can be charged with an infraction and charged a $10 fine. However, the driver can get the charge dismissed by paying court costs and providing a then-valid license to the court.
Exceptions. Non-resident drivers (including military and family) with valid driver’s licenses from their home state or country can drive in Virginia without an in-state license, subject to Virginia age restrictions. However, new residents must obtain an in-state license within 60 days of residency. Farmers driving tractors along the highway and road workers driving road machinery are exempt from licensing requirements.
A person who operates a vehicle while on a suspended or revoked license is subject to fines, jail, vehicle impoundment, extended license sanctions, and six driver’s license demerit points.
Driving while suspended. Driving while suspended or revoked is a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 12 months in jail (a third driving while suspended conviction within ten years mandates at least ten days in jail). The driven vehicle will also be impounded for 30 days. The driver’s license suspension or revocation will be extended for a like period of time from the original suspension or revocation. A restricted license may be available to certain drivers.
Revoked for DWI. A violator whose license was suspended due to a DWI (driving while intoxicated) will still be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or a maximum 12 months in jail. However, the driver’s vehicle will be impounded for 30 to 120 days and a restricted license is not available. Finally, a third offense in a ten-year period is a class 6 felony. A class 6 felony carries one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
Driving while revoked for a DWI results in an additional one-year revocation.