Driving without a valid operator's license is a misdemeanor in Virginia. If your license is expired, suspended in another state, or if you drive without first obtaining a driver's license, you may be charged with driving without a license in violation of Virginia Code Section 46.2-300. A first offense is a class 2 misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of up to 6 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, plus court costs and a possible suspension of your right to get a license. A second or subsequent offense is a class 1 misdemeanor, which increases the jail sentence and fine to no more than 12 months in jail and/or up to a $2,500 fine. If convicted, there are mandatory court costs and an increased likelihood of a suspension of the right to apply for a driver's license.
Some first offenses in Northern Virginia do not result in active jail time if there is nothing extraordinarily bad about the circumstances of the stop. That's not to say they can't do it; it's just not very common for a first offense where no one was endangered and the defendant was reasonably polite and cooperative with the police officer. A second offense, however, often results in a jail sentence and/or license suspension.
If you've been charged with driving without a valid operator's license, you should consult with an attorney to verify what you are facing under the particular circumstances of your case. Call Jennifer Raimo to schedule a free consultation with no obligation to you.
DRIVING WHILE SUSPENDED WHEN YOU DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE SUSPENDED IS NOT A VALID REASON TO BE CONVICTED OF DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENSE.
Until recently it was not uncommon for a person who did not know his or her license was suspended to face a driving without a license charge. This was very unfair since some were being convicted of a misdemeanor when they never had any reason to believe the piece of plastic they thought authorized them to drive was in fact invalid. The Court of Appeals has ruled that the driving without a license statute does not apply to people who were once licensed and for whatever reason do not have legal notice of that license being suspended.
That does not mean you can't be charged. The simple fact is a police officer cannot allow you to drive if you do not have a valid license, even if the officer is the first one to tell you your license is suspended. That means, you may very well get a ticket (which is actually starting a misdemeanor criminal case against you and not “just a ticket”). You would have to go to court and prove you didn't know in order to get the case dismissed.
If you've been charged with driving without a valid license or “NOL”, the best two things you can do to prepare for court are get a license and bring a lawyer to court. Lawyers know how to work their way through the system and avoid unpleasant surprises far better than someone who's not familiar with the law or how things work in the local courthouse. Call us at (703)591-4868 to schedule a free consultation about your case. You will learn what to expect in court and what you can do about it.