Consequences of Driving Without a License in South Carolina
Driving without a valid driver’s license is a very serious matter in South Carolina. You must have a valid driver’s license on you to drive in this state, and the consequences if you don’t can in some cases be severe. Consequences for driving without a license can include financial penalties and jail time – even for a first offense.
There are a number of reasons why someone may drive without a valid license. It may have expired, been suspended, or been revoked. Some people drive who never had a valid driver’s license in the first place. Still some others have a valid license, but don’t have it in their possession while driving.
If you are a victim in a motor vehicle accident and do not have a valid driver’s license, that does not preclude your right to pursue a claim against the at-fault party. If you do not have a driver’s license, but have been injured through no fault of your own please contact the attorneys at The Carolina Law Group to discuss what your rights may be and to recover the compensation you deserve.
TYPES OF DRIVER LICENSING VIOLATIONS
Under South Carolina law, there are a number of violations related to driver’s licenses, including:
– Unlicensed driving
– License not in possession
– Driving with an expired license
– Driving with a suspended license
– Driving with a revoked license
Let’s look at each of these violations in more detail.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DRIVE WITHOUT A LICENSE IN SOUTH CAROLINA?
What this question is really asking is, “What happens if you get caught driving without a license?”
Driving without a valid license in South Carolina is a misdemeanor and comes with penalties (described below). There are two types of driving without a license: unlicensed driving, where the driver never had a valid license, and license not in possession, where the driver doesn’t have their valid license on them while driving.
Driving without proof of license at the time you were pulled over is different from driving without a license entirely. If you’ve simply left your valid driver’s license at home, then note that the charges must be dismissed if you provide proof to the court that you were licensed at the time of the violation.
CAN YOU DRIVE WITH AN EXPIRED LICENSE?
The short answer is that you should not drive with an expired license, because, as stated above, South Carolina requires a valid driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle.
However, driving with an expired license in South Carolina is different from driving with a suspended or revoked license. When your license has been suspended or revoked, it means you’ve broken the law, which led to the suspension or revocation. But it can and does happen that a driver unknowingly drives with an expired license, perhaps because they didn’t realize their license had expired. (Remember this for the future: Your license is always set to expire on your birthday, so around your birthday each year take a look at your license to see if this year is the year you need to get it renewed.)
Whether you realized your license was expired or not at the time you were pulled over, you may be able to have your ticket for driving with an expired license dismissed. You can do this by having your driver’s license renewed within a week of receiving the ticket.
PENALTIES FOR DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENSE IN SOUTH CAROLINA
It’s a violation to drive without a valid license in South Carolina. The penalty for driving without a license depends on how many times you’ve committed the offense. This is a misdemeanor and with a conviction, the penalties are:
1st offense: $50-$100 fine or imprisonment for 30 days
2nd offense: $500 fine and/or imprisonment for 45 days
3rd offense and beyond: imprisonment 45 days to 6 months
PENALTIES FOR DRIVING WITH A SUSPENDED OR REVOKED LICENSE IN SOUTH CAROLINA
While some people drive who have never had a valid driver’s license, the more common scenario is someone driving after their license has been suspended or revoked.
In South Carolina, a driver’s license may be suspended for a variety of reasons, including DUI, accumulating too many points (12 or more), driving without acceptable insurance, failing to pay traffic tickets, and failing to pay child support. A driver’s license can be revoked for conviction of manslaughter resulting from the motor vehicle or for the commission of a crime involving a motor vehicle.
Driving on a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor under South Carolina Code Section 51-1-460 and upon conviction carries the following penalties:
If the original suspension was not related to alcohol or DUI:
· 1st offense: $300 fine and/or imprisonment up to 30 days
· 2nd offense: $600 fine and/or imprisonment up to 60 days
· 3rd offense and beyond: $1000 fine and imprisonment up to 90 days or home detention up to 90 days
If the original suspension was related to alcohol or DUI:
· 1st offense: $300 fine and/or imprisonment 10 to 30 days
· 2nd offense: $600 fine and/or imprisonment 60 days to 6 months
· 3rd offense and beyond: $1000 fine and imprisonment 6 months to 3 years
In addition, the suspension on the license will be extended, usually by the amount of time of the original suspension.
It’s also important to know that if your license is suspended, your license is not automatically valid once the suspension period ends. You must get your license reinstated first. To get your license reinstated, you must pay a $100 reinstatement fee per suspension and follow other steps that are dependent on the type of violation (for example, paying other fines, completing an alcohol safety course, or getting a special car insurance certificate).
If your license has been revoked, you may be able to get it reinstated, too, depending on a number of factors. This is when you need the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at The Carolina Law Group.
LEGAL REASONS TO DRIVE WITHOUT A SOUTH CAROLINA LICENSE
Having said all the above, there are situations in which a person can legally drive in South Carolina without a South Carolina license under SC Code Section 56-1-30.
A visitor from another state or another country does not need to have a South Carolina license to drive in this state, though they must have a valid license from their own state or country.
Someone who has just moved to the state has 90 days to get a South Carolina license, and in the meantime can drive with a license that’s valid in another state or country.
Finally, there are some exceptions for farm machinery, including tractors. A valid license is not required to “temporarily” (according to SC Code) drive it along a highway.
IN TROUBLE FOR DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENSE? TALK TO THE CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS AT THE CAROLINA LAW GROUP
Driving without a license in South Carolina can have serious consequences. If you have had your license suspended or revoked, speak to the criminal defense attorneys at The Carolina Law Group about your options and where to go from here.
The Carolina Law Group has four offices in upstate South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), and Spartanburg (principal office; call 864.757.5555). Call today.