The offense of “driving without a license” is a charge of varying severity depending on the underlying factual circumstances. There are many reasons why a person would be charged with this offense. These reasons can vary anywhere from the innocent act of forgetting to carry the license at the time of the traffic stop to driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol while being an unlicensed driver. As might be expected the penalties for these also vary depending upon the seriousness of the charge.
No License In Your Possession
Virtually anyone can make the mistake of leaving a drivers license at home by accident. In effect, this means that the driver is licensed but was unable to offer proof of licensure at the time of the traffic stop. Usually a dismissal fo this charge can be obtained by the mere act of appearing on the court date and showing that the driver has a valid drivers license and that the license was valid at the time and date of the traffic stop. Even if the charge is dismissed for this reason, there might still be a fine to pay for court costs.
Expired or Nonexistent License
While this situation may be obvious for most of us, it still bears repeating. New York state law requires that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway “or upon any sidewalk or to or from any lot adjacent to a public garage, supermarket, shopping center or car washing establishment or to or from or into a public garage or car washing establishment” must have a valid drivers license. This means that if the driver has never applied for a drivers license, he or she may not drive in public places. Moreover, this means that if a driver allowed his or her license to expire, the license is no longer valid. If the license is invalid, the driver may not operate a motor vehicle in a public place in the state of New York.
Regarding punishment, the fine for having no license is $75 to $300 and there is the possibility of 15 days in jail. Where the driver has allowed the license to lapse, the fine is an additional $40.
License Suspended, Cancelled or Revoked
If the driver knows his license is suspended, cancelled or revoked, but decides to drive on public roads anyway, then the failure to be licensed while driving becomes significantly more serious. Under these circumstances, if the driver is convicted of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended licensed, the fine is likely to be in the range of $500 to $5,000 and the incarceration period can be up to 180 days.
Unfortunately for the charged driver, there are no defenses to the charge other than that there was a valid drivers license in force when the traffic stop occurred. If this is not the case, the defendant will probably lose the case if it goes to trial. If, however, the defendant driver has retained counsel, there might be a substantial benefit to negotiating the charge down to an offense that is less serious.
A person who is an undocumented immigrant is not entitled to obtain a drivers license in the state of New York.
Hiring a Lawyer
Because the traffic laws in New York state are strict and because there are few defenses to the offense of driving without a license, it may be very helpful to hire a qualified lawyer for guidance through the legal process. Many of the driving without a license offense do carry the possibility of incarceration, which could be avoided with the assistance of counsel.