Driving without a license is illegal in Florida, as it is in other states. While you may feel that you have no other alternative than to drive illegally, the consequences of doing so are serious and could put you in a much worse position. You need to understand the laws and the potential harm you may experience if you choose to drive without the proper license.
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Who Needs a Driver’s License?
Everyone, with very few exceptions, must have a driver’s license to operate a vehicle, including motorcycles, in the United States. If a police officer asks to see your license, you must have it with you and you must provide it. If you have a valid license, but you can’t show it to the officer, you will be issued a citation. This may result in a fine and some inconvenience at the court clerk’s office.
What Are the Consequences of Driving Illegally?
You may have had a legal license at one time only to have it suspended or revoked. If this is the case and you drive anyway, the risks include fines, vehicle impoundment, and jail time. These fines range from $60 if you don’t know your license is suspended to $5000 if you have multiple violations. These consequences may also apply if your valid license has expired or if you have moved to Florida from another state, but haven’t updated your license and plates within the 30-day window. Remember it is your responsibility to keep track of when you need to renew your license before it expires.
If you don’t have a valid license at all, you may be charged with a misdemeanor which could result in a fine of up to $500 and an extended stay in jail. Although there is information available regarding exemptions for non-residents, the information probably does not apply to you. Check an official government website for clear, accurate details regarding your status. These websites end with a .gov or .us; don’t be misled by websites promising an easy path to citizenship or shortcuts to driving legally.
Is There Help Facing Charges?
You don’t have to face these charges alone. Some law firms specialize in charges related to driving without a license. With legal representation, you may have the chance to get your license situation straightened out, reduce fines, or avoid jail time. There isn’t much of a chance that you can get out of trouble altogether, but a good lawyer may help you get back on a legal path.
How Can You Get a Driver’s License?
As a resident of Florida, you can obtain a driver’s license with the right documentation. This varies based on your citizenship status. Fill out an application at the local Department of Motor Vehicles office. In addition to filling out the application and providing copies of required documents, you may need to complete a vision test, a written test, or a road test. There are fees for taking classes, taking the tests, and getting the license. These fees and related costs should be posted in the DMV office.
What If You Aren’t a Legal Citizen?
If you are in Florida without legal immigration status, it is very difficult to obtain citizenship; don’t get caught up in immigration scams that offer shortcuts or an expedited path to citizenship. Most of the time, you will probably have to leave the country and apply for a green card.
If you have undocumented immigrant status, you may qualify to be a Registered Provisional Immigrant; after ten years, you can apply for a green card. Some immigrants, such as those with valid green cards and several years in the country, may be eligible for naturalization. Driving without a license when in Florida illegally may result in deportation.
Are There Options Other Than Driving?
It is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to obtain and maintain employment without a reliable means of transportation. This is often a big reason people choose to drive without a license in Florida. However, there are alternatives:
- Public transportation
- Rideshares and carpools
These options may not be convenient, but they are much more attractive than the consequences of driving without the proper license.
Ultimately, it is not worth the risk to drive without a current driver’s license. The potential consequences of driving with an outdated, suspended, or non-existent license include financial penalties, jail time, and even deportation. Don’t put your future at risk for the convenience of driving.