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What Are the Penalties for Driving With an Expired License?

Although there are plenty of vagaries and gray areas in daily life, the rules of the road are not one of them. The Department of Motor Vehicles is crystal clear as to what is legal and what is illegal, and will hold you to account at each point. Most people inherently understand these differences, but that doesn’t stop them from pushing the line at various points. Everyone has been there before, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. Perhaps one of your taillights went out, and you waited a couple of weeks to have it fixed. Maybe your registration is overdue, and you’ve been lazy about having it renewed. Almost everyone has forgotten to pay a parking ticket at one time or another, always regretting the steep added fees that pile up. But what are the penalties for driving with an expired license?

There aren’t really any great excuses for this oversight, as the expiration date is written out plainly on your license. But life intervenes, and there could be any number of reasons why you missed it. Maybe you couldn’t get an appointment at the DMV, or work is incredibly busy and they wouldn’t let you leave for the couple of hours it normally takes to wait out those long lines. Regardless of the problem, it will be way too late when you get pulled over. The police officer obviously will be pulling you over for some other reason, but then things will get more complicated when you hand over your license and he notices it is expired.

Luckily, police officers have a bit of leeway in how they handle this situation. They are allowed to use their own discretion, and won’t always give you a ticket. It’s going to entirely depend on the officer who pulls you over, and probably what you were pulled over for as well. If you have a busted taillight or some other minor infraction, you may well be let off with a simple warning. If you were speeding or driving recklessly, chances are you’re going to get that ticket. Some officers want to simplify their paperwork and will be generous if you’re respectful with them. Others are looking for any reason to write up a citation.

The level of ticket you will face will depend on several situations. In general, you’ll have to pay a flat fee of as much as $250, or as little as $30. The length of time your license has been expired for will play a role in the scale of the ticket. Your previous driving record will also come into play. If you have several infractions on the books that you haven’t handled you could see your car impounded, and might even spend the night in jail. The more issues you’ve had with the police and the DMV, the less appealing this process will be. So it’s just a good idea not to end up in this position at all.

Each state has different guidelines for renewals. In some states you will be charged a penalty if you renew your license after it has already expired. In others you can renew simply through an online system, no matter the expiration date. Some states will require you go into the DMV and handle things in person, especially if you are two months or more past your deadline. Luckily this isn’t nearly as complicated as situations that require a DUI attorney. You can handle the ticket yourself, and reach out to the court in your county if you feel you were wrongly cited.

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