If you were pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket for driving without a valid license, you are looking at some serious problems. Contrary to what many people believe, getting a ticket for driving without a valid license, 625 ILCS 5/6-101, is the same as getting arrested. Legally speaking, the fact that you were not handcuffed and taken to jail does not mean that you were not arrested. The law says that a ticket for driving while license suspended is an arrest.
The reason is driving without a valid license is a crime.
In Illinois, driving without a valid license is a Class B misdemeanor offense. The potential penalties for this offense include up to 180 days in jail, and a maximum fine of $1500. Driving without a valid license is punished as severely as other crimes like possession of cannabis, criminal trespass, etc.
In addition to the criminal penalties for driving without a valid license, you face additional penalties from the Secretary of State. This is where many people get confused.
A person who does not have a driver’s license, or never had a driver’s license, is still governed by the Illinois Secretary of State. Whether they are licensed or not, everyone has a privilege of operating a motor vehicle within the state borders of Illinois. The Secretary of State can suspend and even revoke that privilege, regardless of whether that person ever had a driver’s license. In fact, the Illinois Secretary of State can take away the driving privileges of the person who was a license from another state. This sanction would apply while that person is inside the borders of Illinois.
A ticket for driving without a valid license will cause the Secretary of State to suspend or even revoke your privilege of driving within the state. This means that if you are convicted of driving without a license, the Secretary of State will suspend your privileges.
This is the issue that causes so much confusion. Even if you do not have a license in Illinois, your privileges of driving here will be suspended. The consequence of his suspension is that your ability to get a license is taken away during the term of suspension.
This explains why so many people go to traffic court every day and are surprised to hear that their license is suspended. Many people respond by saying, “But I never had a license.” In these cases, there privileges are suspended, and their ability to get a license has been taken away for a period of time.
These are the penalties for driving without a valid license which are imposed by the Secretary of State:
- First conviction. Two-month suspension.
- Second conviction. Four-month suspension.
- Third conviction. Six-month suspension.
- Fourth conviction. One year suspension.
- Fifth or subsequent conviction. License revoked.
As you can see, driving without a license can cause serious problems. If your driving privileges are suspended, you cannot legally operate a motor vehicle. Even if you have to drive to get to work to support your family, you cannot drive. If charged with driving while suspended, it is not a defense to say, “But I have to drive.”
Driving while license suspended is a crime, and it is more serious than driving without a license.
Driving while license suspended is a Class A misdemeanor offense. 625 ILCS 5/6-303. Driving while suspended can result in a jail sentence of up to one year. In addition, if you are found guilty of driving while suspended, the Secretary of State will increase the length of your suspension. Basically, your suspension will be doubled each time you are found guilty of driving while license suspended.
And so, if you get a ticket for driving without a license, you need to hire an attorney. In fact, most judges in traffic court will refuse to hear your case without you having legal representation. The reason the judge wants you have an attorney is because the law says that a person cannot be sentenced to jail unless they a represented. Basically, the judge wants to protect his ability to sentence you to jail. Contact an attorney immediately.