Could You Face Jail Time for Driving Without a License in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, all drivers must have a valid driver’s license in their possession to operate a motor vehicle. If a police officer requests to see your license during a traffic stop and you cannot show them a current, valid license, or you refuse to comply with their request, you may face criminal penalties, including mandatory jail time. A knowledgeable Atlanta criminal defense attorney can explain what you need to know about the penalties for being caught driving without a license and how a misdemeanor traffic offense conviction can impact your life.
Why Might Someone Be Without a Driver’s License?
There may be some cases where an individual does not have a license because they are not eligible or have not gone through the process to receive one. However, the majority of individuals driving without a valid license are in this situation because their valid license has been suspended or revoked by the state.
Common reasons for license suspension or revocation include, but are not limited to:
- Failing to appear for a scheduled court date
- Being convicted of a DUI
- Accumulating 15 or more points on your license in 24 months
- Not paying Super Speeder fines within 120 days
- Failing to maintain insurance coverage
- Falling behind on child support payments
If you are uncertain whether your license has been suspended or revoked, the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) has a mobile app that can be used to check your driving record, license status, and more.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Driving Without a License?
Driving without a license in Georgia is usually a misdemeanor offense. The exact penalties you face will depend on the details of your case, your prior driving record, and any criminal history you may have. However, there are general guidelines for first-time and repeat offenders.
If you have no previous convictions for driving without a valid license (either expired license or a suspended license), you may face the following consequences if convicted:
- A minimum of two days in jail
- A six-month license suspension and reinstatement fees for your license following the completion of the suspension
- A fine of at least $500
- Two mandatory defensive driving classes
Law enforcement takes repeat offenses seriously. If you are convicted of driving without a valid license twice within five years, you may be subject to these increased penalties:
- At least ten days in jail
- A one-year license suspension and applicable reinstatement fees
- A minimum fine of $1000
- Two mandatory defensive driving classes
What if You Have a License, but It Was Not on Your Person When You Were Pulled Over?
Life can be hectic; some days, you may accidentally walk out of the house without your purse or wallet. Or you may have temporarily misplaced your driver’s license for a time. Unfortunately, a small mistake like this can lead to big legal issues if you are pulled over for a traffic stop. If you cannot show the law enforcement officer your driver’s license when they request it, you will be charged with a misdemeanor for driving a motor vehicle without a license.
The good news is that you can present your valid license to the court at your hearing to clear the charges. You will not face jail time or have a misdemeanor conviction on your record. However, you still must go through the hassle of appearing in court. You will also need to pay a mandatory minimum fine, usually around $10, for failing to have your license during the traffic stop.
How Can the Impact of Driving Without a License Extend Beyond Jail Time and Fines?
In addition to the legal consequences of a conviction for driving without a valid Georgia driver’s license, individuals may experience unexpected social and professional challenges. The ability to drive is often vital to a person’s ability to maintain a job and provide for themselves and their family.
If your suspended license is extended because you attempted to drive during a previous suspension, this significantly prolongs your time without a valid license. Some individuals may be able to request an exception that lets them drive to work or doctor appointments. However, the court is often more hesitant to allow this if the person has already been convicted of driving without a license.
While misdemeanor penalty offenses are not as serious as felonies, they will still appear on your criminal record, and this information is available to the public. If you are applying for a job, housing, or student aid program that requires a background check, a misdemeanor conviction could derail your chances of acceptance.
Many professions, such as teaching and governmental jobs, require individuals to maintain specific ethical standards, and criminal convictions may jeopardize a professional license. There may also be unwanted impacts on your relationships and reputation from the stigma surrounding a criminal record.
Why Contact a Georgia Traffic Violations Lawyer?
If you are facing a charge of driving without a license, it is critical to mount the best possible defense to avoid jail time and other potential negative outcomes that can result from a misdemeanor conviction. An experienced Georgia traffic violations lawyer can help you determine the best course of action for your case and represent your interests in court.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, our skilled defense lawyers may be able to get the charges dismissed, negotiate a plea deal for reduced penalties, or help you get a restricted license instead of a total revoked license so you can still drive to your job.
Contact Sessoms Law Group today to discuss your case with our helpful legal team and learn more about your legal options: 678-853-7402.