Like in all other states, it's unlawful to drive without a license in Delaware. This article explains what constitutes driving without a license, the penalties for a violation, and some exceptions to the rule.
Generally, every person who operates a motor vehicle on a Delaware highway must possess and be able to display a valid driver's license. Failure to do so can result in a misdemeanor conviction.
License not in possession. Failure to display a valid license upon the request of an officer is an infraction, punishable by a $25 to $115 fine. However, the presentation of a valid license in court is a defense to the charge. Drivers who can prove they had a license that was valid at the time of the citation are normally entitled to dismissal of the charge.
Driving without a valid license. A first-time conviction for driving without a valid license in Delaware is punishable by a $50 to $200 fine. For second and subsequent offenses, convicted persons face a $100 to $500 fine and/or up to six months in jail.
Exceptions. Non-resident drivers with valid driver's licenses from their home state or country can drive in the state without a Delaware license, subject to Delaware age restrictions. Under certain circumstances, military personnel and persons driving husbandry implements (tractors) are also exempt from the normal license requirements.
A person who operates a vehicle while on a suspended, restricted, or revoked license may face jail time, fines, and an extended driver's license suspension.
Suspension. Drivers who are convicted of driving while suspended may be subject to extended suspension or revocation periods.
Fines. Typically, the fine for a first driving-while-suspended-or-restricted violation is $500 to $1,000. The minimum fine is increased to $600 if the driver was suspended due to a DUI, and even higher if the suspension was related to a vehicular homicide or other serious offense. Second and subsequent offenses within three years will result in a $1,000 to $4,000 fine.
Jail. For a first driving-while-suspended-or-restricted offense, the driver is subject to a jail sentence of at least 30 days, with a maximum of six months. For a second or subsequent conviction, the convicted will serve 60 days to one year in jail.
Impounded. For every driving-while-suspended conviction, the judge is permitted to impound or immobilize (seize the license plate for) the driver's vehicle. For a first offense, the vehicle will be impounded or immobilized for 90 days. For a second offense, the vehicle will be impounded or immobilized for one year.
Habitual violator. Persons who are convicted three or more times within a five-year period can be designated as habitual violators. Habitual violators face increased penalties and at least five years without a driver's license.