Washington prohibits driving without a valid license, whether the person’s license was suspended, expired, or revoked or the person never had a license. This article explains these violations, the possible penalties for a conviction, and the exemptions to the license requirement.
Generally, every person who operates a motor vehicle in WA must carry a valid license while driving.
Driving without a valid drivers license. Driving without a license is a misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum 90 days in jail. However, persons who have an expired license or other proof of identity will be guilty of only a traffic infraction, which carries a $250 fine. The fine is reduced to $50 if the driver obtains a valid license before the court date.
License not in possession. A driver who was licensed but was not carrying the license while driving can be found guilty of a nonmoving violation.
Exceptions. A non-resident driver with a valid driver’s license from his or her home state or country can drive in Washington without an in-state license, subject to Washington age restrictions. Military personnel driving military vehicles, road workers driving road machinery, farmers driving tractors, and engineers driving trains (crossing roads) are also exempt from license requirement.
A person who operates a vehicle while on a suspended or revoked license often faces fines, jail, and extended license sanctions.
First-degree driving while suspended. Habitual violators who drive with a suspended or revoked license are guilty of a first-degree driving-while-suspended violation. A conviction carries a fine of up to $5,000 and a maximum 364 days in jail. A first offense results in a minimum ten days in jail, a second offense a minimum 90 days in jail, and a third offense a minimum 180 days in jail. Also, the driver’s license will be revoked an additional year.
Second-degree driving while suspended. Violators who were suspended due to a felony, a prior DWLS, DUI (driving under the influence), or other serious offense will be guilty of a second-degree DWLS. A second-degree DWLS is a gross misdemeanor and carries up to 364 days in jail and a maximum $5,000 in fines. The person’s suspension or revocation period will also be extended for one year.
Third-degree driving while suspended. Suspensions due to failure to pay child support, failure to pay tickets, or failure to appear for court can lead to a third-degree DWLS. A conviction is a misdemeanor and will result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum 90 days in jail.