To put it quite simply, you must have a valid driver’s license to legally drive on Virginia roads.
If an officer catches you driving on an invalid license (such as if your license is expired or suspended) they will charge you with a crime.
In this article, we’ll quickly explain Virginia’s expired license laws.
We’ll also quickly cover a few common ways for you to fight the charges against you.
A Quick Look at Virginia’s Expired License Laws
Virginia’s laws on driving on an expired license are relatively straightforward.
Basically, since it’s illegal to drive without a license, driving on an expired license is also illegal.
Or, as noted by the Virginia Code:
“No person…shall drive any motor vehicle on any highway in the Commonwealth until such person has applied for a driver’s license…and obtained a driver’s license, nor unless the license is valid.
A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.”Virginia Code § 46.2-300
Note that there are a few minor exceptions to this rule, such as for active duty military members or individuals from other countries.
However, the basic “gist” of this law is that you must have a valid driver’s license to drive on Virginia roads.
An expired license is an invalid license, and does not allow you to legally drive in the Commonwealth.
What are the penalties for driving with an expired license?
As you can see in the quoted law above, your first violation of driving on an expired license is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Commonly, this means that you will face a small fine (likely between $50 and $100) among other associated penalties (such as points on your driving record).
Additionally, as noted later in the same code section:
“Upon conviction under this section, the court may suspend the person’s privilege to drive for a period not to exceed 90 days.”
A second or subsequent offense will often lead to much harsher penalties.
Not only does the crime become a Class 1 misdemeanor, but the court is much less likely to offer you leniency for a second or third offense, and fines will get higher with each citation.
Additionally, repeat offenders may end up with their driving privileges suspended on a long-term basis.
Driving on a suspended license can also carry serious consequences. Multiple offense can lead to high fines and possibly even jail time.
How Can I Fight the Charges?
To start, make sure to remember that driving on an expired license is a crime, and not a traffic infraction.
You can’t simply pay a fine at the courthouse and expect the ticket to go away, you’ll have to show up in court and fight the charges.
Generally speaking, the best thing you can do in the days after you receive a ticket for driving without a license is speak with an attorney about your case.
However, as a close second, it’s usually a good idea for you to take steps to renew your expired license.
Being proactive can often help your case, as courts will often view these actions positively, and may even reduce your penalties.
Renewing Your License
Renewing an expired Virginia driver’s license is actually surprisingly simple.
Just like with all other official vehicle-related business, you’ll have to go through the DMV.
You can find most of this information on the DMV’s website, and specifically on their page “Renewing Your Driver’s License.”
Further, you can renew your license, by mail, in person, or online through the DMV Now portal.
Argue for a Dismissal of the Charges in Court
There are several ways to fight a charge for driving on an expired license.
If you renew your license before your first court date, and you attend court and inform the judge, it’s possible that the charge will be dismissed.
Alternatively, based on your compliance, they may decide to find you guilty of an infraction rather than a misdemeanor.
If you’ve hired an attorney, they may argue for dismissal of the charges by making a full legal defense, such as by arguing that you weren’t driving on statutorily defined highway, or that the officer’s stop was improper.
Regardless of the defense you might have in mind, is always in your best interests to discuss your case with an attorney before you appear in court.
Despite the seemingly minor nature of the offense, driving on an expired license is a serious crime in Virginia that has the potential to lead to massive fines and even jail time.
Driving on a Virginia highway without a valid driver’s license is a criminal offense, punishable by fines, jail time, and the suspension of your driving privileges for up to 90 days.
If an officer catches you driving on an expired license, they will charge you under this statute.
The best defense against a conviction is to speak with an attorney, who will normally recommend that you take steps to renew your license.