Driving Without a License in North Carolina (2024) – What Happens?

The state enforces many laws for drivers, and one important law is that it is illegal to drive without a valid driver’s license. If you are caught driving without a license, especially if you caused an accident, you are likely to face a wide range of penalties along with liability for any damages you cause to others. Driving without a license is a traffic violation that carries multiple penalties, some of which may not be immediately obvious.

The attorneys at Christina Rivenbark & Associates provide defense counsel to drivers heading to traffic court to contest their tickets; we can also defend those accused of driving without a license. Since you are legally required to have your license with you when you drive, there may not be a way to avoid punishment entirely, but we can potentially help reduce your penalties.

Penalties for Driving Without a License

When it comes to the penalties assigned for driving without a license, the offense qualifies as a civil infraction, meaning the at-fault driver will not face misdemeanor-level penalties. However, driving without a license is taken very seriously, and the driver will still face a fine and potentially jail time.

They will also have three demerit points added to their driving record. Under state law, if you accrue 12 or more of these points, your driver’s license is automatically suspended. It is also important to know the difference between driving without a license and driving on a revoked or suspended license. If a driver does not have a license at all and they are caught driving, they face a civil infraction and a penalty of a $100 fine and three demerit points. However, if a driver drives with a suspended or revoked license, it is a misdemeanor charge.

Driving with a revoked license for a second time or driving while your license is revoked for driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge will automatically increase your penalties. If you have lost your license for any legal reason, but you need to be able to drive for legitimate purposes, it is vital to consult an experienced attorney. They may be able to help you secure a restricted license or early reinstatement, but only under certain conditions.

What to Expect in Traffic Court

Whenever you are issued any type of traffic ticket, the ticket will include instructions both for paying the associated fine or contesting the ticket. Do not assume that paying the fine resolves the issue and allows you to forget about it; by paying the fine, you are admitting guilt for the offense and accepting all associated penalties. While your ticket fine may appear manageable, admitting to a traffic violation can cause other problems you may not immediately recognize.

If your insurance company learns of your traffic violation, they may increase your insurance premium or even drop you from your policy if you violate its terms with the offense. These penalties can amount to thousands of dollars over time, so any traffic ticket has the potential to be far more expensive than the fine listed on the ticket. If you plan to contest a traffic ticket in the state, you will need the help of a seasoned attorney.

Traffic court may not be as intense and imposing as criminal court proceedings, but it is still crucial to have trustworthy legal counsel for your case. Your attorney can help prepare for your hearing, and there are many possible defenses you could have overlooked on your own. The officer who issued your ticket will be asked to attend the hearing, but they may not show up. While this does not automatically mean you will win your case, it does significantly improve your chances. Ultimately, whatever your traffic ticket case entails, you have the greatest chance of reaching a positive outcome and minimizing your penalty with an attorney’s assistance.

FAQs About Driving Without a License in North Carolina

What Is the Minimum Penalty for Driving Without a License?

At a minimum, a driver found guilty of driving without a valid driver’s license in North Carolina faces a $100 fine and three demerit points added to their driving record. They will also be prohibited from driving until they obtain a license or their license is reinstated. Additionally, accruing too many demerit points can lead to license suspension.

What Is the Penalty for Letting an Unlicensed Driver Drive Your Car?

The penalty for this offense is similar to what you would face if convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor in the state. Knowingly allowing an unlicensed driver to operate your vehicle carries a penalty of a $200 fine and up to 20 days in county jail. You will also need to pay any associated court costs and could have your auto insurance premiums increased.

Do You Physically Need to Have Your Driver’s License to Drive in the State?

If you have a valid driver’s license, you are legally required to have it with you in your car any time you drive. If you are pulled over or have an accident while driving without your license, you face the same penalty as you would if you did not have a license at all. Always keep your driver’s license with you every time you drive, including whenever you drive someone else’s car.

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for Traffic Court?

You have the right to challenge any traffic ticket, and it may be worth doing so if you did not commit the offense in question or believe the ticket to be unfair in any way. Having trustworthy legal counsel will significantly improve your chances of winning your case. They can help identify any failings on the part of the officer who issued your ticket or other avenues of defense you may have overlooked.

Christina Rivenbark & Associates has years of experience helping clients navigate complex traffic ticket cases, and we have successfully defended many drivers who have been charged with driving without their licenses and other offenses. Whatever your case involves, contact us today and schedule a consultation with our team to learn more about the legal services we can offer in your situation.

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