driving without a license: a legal and financial overview

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Driving is a privilege that some don't want to give up — even when that privilege has been officially suspended or revoked. Here we'll explain why licenses are suspended and how driving without a license can lead to legal penalties and higher car insurance rates.

common ways to lose driving privileges

Drivers lose their licenses for a variety of reasons. Here are some common causes:

  • Accumulating too many points on a driving record. In New York, for example, drivers who accumulate 11 points or more within an 18-month period will be summoned to a hearing and may have their licenses suspended or revoked.
  • Getting one or more serious moving violations, like reckless driving, hit-and-run, or DUI.
  • Driving before having a license.
  • Having a physical impairment, like deafness or any condition that causes seizures.
  • Failing a state-mandated vision exam.
  • Refusing to take a blood alcohol test. States have implied consent laws stipulating that drivers must agree to a chemical test when a police officer requests one.

Most states take a hard stance on drinking and driving. First-time offenders who fail a breath or chemical test in California, for example, can have their licenses suspended for 4 months. A second offense may result in a 2-year suspension.

the difference between suspended and revoked licenses

While the outcome of either is the same, there's a legal difference between a suspended and a revoked drivers license.

  • Suspended license: a license can be suspended when a driver accumulates too many driving-record points or is unable to provide proof of insurance when requested. Refusing to take a chemical or breath test may also result in suspension of driving privileges.
  • Revoked license: this is the more serious of the 2. License revocation is usually the result of major moving violations like DUIs, DWIs, or hit-and-run charges. Getting a license back after it's been revoked is more difficult than after a suspension. Generally, a waiting period is mandated before an application for reinstatement can be filed.

legal penalties for driving without a license

Driving without a license can get you in trouble, not only with your state licensing authority, but also with the criminal courts system. If you live in Colorado and are caught driving with a suspended license, you could face jail time in addition to a fine up to $500. You could also have an additional year tacked onto your license suspension.

Regardless of which state you live in, and this probably goes without saying, driving without a license is never a good idea. The legal ramifications are usually costly and severe.

car insurance rates and unlicensed drivers

Unfortunately, if you've lost your driving privileges, you'll have a gap in car insurance coverage. Gaps in coverage drive up insurance rates — so the longer you stay unlicensed, the more you could pay for a new policy after your license is restored.

loaning your car to unlicensed drivers

If you have unlicensed friends or family members itching to borrow your car, say "no." Because car insurance generally follows the car and not the driver, an accident caused by an unlicensed (and uninsured) driver can be a financial nightmare. Your car insurance company may deny the claim because an unlicensed driver was behind the wheel. And in some states, like California, the car may be impounded for as many as 30 days (depending on how the infraction is discovered).

getting your license back

Depending on the state and the specifics of the suspension or revocation, there are several ways you can get your license reinstated. In some cases, you may simply have to wait out your suspension/revocation, pay the required fines, and retake your road exam. Some states, such as Georgia, give you the option of taking a defensive driving class or regular traffic school (in certain instances).

In the long run, the best way for you to avoid a suspended or revoked license is to drive safely and maintain a clean driving record. (But you probably knew that.)

If you're an Esurance policyholder and have questions regarding a suspended or revoked drivers license, give us a call at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262). You can also connect with us on our Facebook Wall or tweet us @esurancecares.

Driving uninsured
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