Washington, D.C. prohibits driving without a valid driver's license, whether suspended, revoked, or never issued. This article explains the different types of violations and possible penalties.
D.C. has some unique laws and jurisdictional issues, but like all jurisdictions, a valid driver's license is required to operate a motor vehicle.
Driving without a valid license. A driver who was never issued a driver's license can be convicted of unlicensed driving. A conviction carries a maximum $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. However, diversions agreements (a way to avoid a conviction) are common in unlicensed driving cases, especially if the offender takes steps to obtain a valid license.
License not in possession. A driver who was issued a license but was not carrying it while driving can be cited for a violation that carries a $10 to $50 fine.
Exceptions. Non-resident drivers with a valid driver's license from their home state or country can drive in D.C. without a D.C. license (subject to the city's age requirements). However, new residents must generally obtain a D.C. license within 60 days of establishing residency. Because D.C. is the nation's capital, there are many licensing exceptions, including for political representatives, students, administration, and the president. Military personnel can also receive a special military exemption that permits the operation of military vehicles in D.C.
Driver's licenses are most often suspended or revoked for impaired driving or accumulating too many license demerit points. Driving while suspended or revoked can lead to fines, jail, and additional license penalties.
Driving while suspended. Driving while suspended or revoked is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $2,500, and/or a maximum one year in jail.
Suspension extension. In addition to jail and fines, the offender will also be issued 12 license demerit points, which will result in an additional six months driver's license revocation. This six-month suspension can turn into a one- or two-year suspension if the driver was previously revoked for point violations.