No Operator’s License in Virginia
Driving without a Valid License – Virginia Code Section 46.2-300
No Operator’s License Traffic Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with Driving Without a License under Va. Code § 46.2-300, this is considered a serious criminal charge in Virginia. Law enforcement will typically write “no operator’s license” or a similar phrase on a summons for court, but you should check the law section listed on the summons to see if 46.2-300 is listed. This charge is different from driving on a suspended license, under Va. Code § 46.2-301. For driving without a valid license, a first time offense is a class 2 misdemeanor, but a second or subsequent offense is a class 1 misdemeanor. Read on to learn more about what the penalties and possible defenses are for a “No Valid Operator’s License” charge in Virginia. You should speak to a Virginia traffic defense attorney about your case as soon as possible to prepare properly for court.
What does the prosecution need to prove for a Driving without a License conviction in Virginia?
Virginia law states that a person shall not drive any motor vehicle on any highway in the Commonwealth until they have received a valid driver’s license and the license is valid. The term “highway” is a legal term which basically means any public road in Virginia. Unlike the DUI statute which requires “operating” and not “driving”, 46.2-300 requires driving.
What is the penalty for Driving without a License in Virginia?
For a first time offense, driving without a license is a class 2 misdemeanor that is punishable by jail for up to 6 months, a fine of up to $1,000, and a suspended license for up to 90 days. For a second or subsequent offense, driving without a license is a class 1 misdemeanor that is punishable by jail of up to 1 year, a fine of up to $2,500, and a suspended license for up to 90 days. Judges can give jail for first time offenses. Every judge is different in his temperament and considers each fact pattern differently. One judge in Virginia Beach often gives jail time for first time “no license” offenses and opines that driving with no license is worse than driving with a suspended license, since driving on a suspended license means the driver had at least passed a road test previously.
What if I just moved to Virginia? How long do I have to transfer my out-of-state license to Virginia?
Virginia law indicates that if you have resided in Virginia for 60 days, you need to get a Virginia driver’s license. (See Va. Code § 46.2-300.) Being a resident of Virginia is not the same as living in Virginia so it may be helpful to explore whether you are indeed a resident of Virginia. We look at factors such as where you are registered to vote, where you file and pay your income taxes, where you spend most of your time, and where you receive the majority of your bills. There may be situations where you are temporarily stationed here for military duty or attending college in Virginia where we could argue that you are not a resident of Virginia.
If you are a resident of Virginia, you should begin the process of getting licensed in Virginia. You can read more about the Virginia DMV’s requirements for transferring your license to Virginia here. Different rules apply depending on where you are currently licensed now.
What if my license was suspended and I didn’t know it was suspended?
Sometimes police officers charge a driver that has a suspended license (normally charged under Va. Code § 46.2-301) with no operator’s license instead (§ 46.2-300). If you were charged with no operator’s license or invalid license, but your license was suspended and you had no knowledge of the suspension, it may be possible to argue for a dismissal on your pending no license charge. It is usually wise to fix a suspended license even though we may have a good argument for a dismissal on a lack of notice defense. We detail the Carew v. Commonwealth court case here which explains the notice requirement.
How should I prepare for court for a “No Valid Operator’s License” charge in Virginia?
First, you should hire an attorney and discuss with your attorney possible defenses to your charge. Second, it is usually helpful to have a valid driver’s license before appearing in court for your trial. Sometimes we move court dates for our clients to give them time to get their license in hand. We can discuss whether you need a Virginia license before court or if getting a license in another state will be most beneficial.
What is the full text of Va. Code § 46.2-300?
“No person, except those expressly exempted in §§ 46.2-303 through 46.2-308, shall drive any motor vehicle on any highway in the Commonwealth until such person has applied for a driver’s license, as provided in this article, satisfactorily passed the examination required by § 46.2-325, 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.
Upon conviction under this section, the court may suspend the person’s privilege to drive for a period not to exceed 90 days.”