Operating Without a Driver’s License in Florida
If you want to drive in Florida, you must have a valid driver’s license. But it’s not enough to simply have a valid license ― it must be with you at all times while you’re driving.
You cannot drive any motor vehicle in Florida unless you have a valid driver’s license. By definition, a valid driver’s license is a certificate from the State that grants an individual a privilege to drive a motor vehicle. Without it, you are technically unauthorized to drive.
But what if you have a valid license and forgot it at home? Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter to the police. If you get pulled over and the officer asks to see your driver’s license, they could arrest you if you don’t present it to them, regardless of the reason.
While it appears as if ALL Florida drivers are required to have a driver’s license in order to operate a motor vehicle, some exceptions may apply. According to Florida statutes, you may be allowed to drive without a valid license in Florida under the following circumstances:
- You are an employee of the United States Government operating a noncommercial motor vehicle owned by or leased to the US Government for official business
- You are driving or operating any road machine, farm tractor, or implement of husbandry temporarily operated or moved on a highway
- You are a nonresident who is at least 16 years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid noncommercial driver license issued to the nonresident in his or her home state or country operating a motor vehicle of the type for which a Class E driver license is required in this state
- You are a nonresident who is at least 18 years old who operates a motor vehicle and have in your immediate possession a valid noncommercial driver license issued to you in your home state or country
FL Penalties for Driving without a License
Driving a non-commercial motor vehicle without a license is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or up to $500 fines. If you were never issued a valid Florida driver’s license but drove anyway, 3 points may be added to your driving record. If you have a valid license but didn’t carry it or present it on demand, no points will be added to your driving record, but you may still end up with a criminal record if convicted of this misdemeanor offense.
If you are accused of driving a commercial motor vehicle without a valid CDL, you could suffer a first-degree misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Not to mention, you could lose your job.
Among the harshest consequences you could experience for driving without a valid license is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. These penalties will apply if you are convicted of driving without a license resulting in serious bodily or death due to the careless or negligent operation of a vehicle.
Elements of Proof for Driving without a License
Prosecutors only have to prove that you were driving a motor vehicle upon a state highway and had no valid driver’s license present. They do not need to prove that you had knowledge of such. This means that even if you didn’t realize you were operating without a license in Florida, you could still get convicted of this offense and experience the penalties described above. The State only needs to prove you were operating a vehicle upon a highway without a license.
Possible Defenses to Operating without a License in Florida
The thought of going to jail and paying steep fines can be terrifying, but not all hope is lost. Depending on the circumstances that lead to your arrest, the following defenses to operating without a driver’s license may work to your advantage:
- Unlawful traffic stop
- Lack of evidence
- You have a valid license but didn’t possess while driving
- You were not on a street, highway, or other place open to the general public
- You possessed a valid foreign or out-of-state driver’s license at
the time of the stop
While I cannot guarantee a favorable outcome in your case, I can guarantee your case will receive the priority and dedication it deserves. As a former prosecutor with over 40 years of experience, you can count on me to fight
for your freedom and do it right.