Posted on September 20, 2023 in Arizona Law
Driving without a license in Arizona may not sound like a big deal, but it is an offense that can end up leading to some fairly serious consequences. Simply stated, it refers to driving a motor vehicle on a highway without carrying a valid driver’s license as required by state laws.
Under Arizona law, driving means to operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. Highway is defined as “the entire width between the boundary lines of every way if a part of the way is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.”
A “highway,” for this purpose, refers to any public space that is open and designed for vehicular travel – including residential streets or city roads.
Under this definition of driving, it’s possible to be guilty of driving without a license even if you aren’t actually moving a vehicle. Simply sitting in the driver’s seat of a running vehicle could be construed as being in actual, physical control of the vehicle.
Understanding the penalties is crucial as it paints a clear picture of the serious legal repercussions that can arise from driving without a license. The penalties include:
If you possess a valid driver’s license but it just wasn’t physically with you during the traffic violation, this is seen as less severe. You will typically incur a fine of $120 (plus additional surcharges). This is essentially penalizing forgetfulness rather than direct unlawfulness.
However, if you have not obtained a proper driver’s license and drive anyway, this constitutes a more severe offense and will draw heavier punishments. Under Arizona law, this includes being charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor.
A Class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 4 months in jail and a fine of up to $750. For subsequent charges, a defendant could face jail time of up to six months or hefty fines reaching as high as $2,500.
Beyond the immediate fine and potential jail time, there could be long-term impacts as well. The charges are entered into your driving record and are visible to insurers. They consider this when assessing risk levels for policyholders, and as a result of these offenses on your record, you may face a substantial increase in auto insurance premiums.
When facing charges for driving without a license, there are several defenses you might consider:
One of the simplest defenses is that you do indeed have a valid driver’s license, but perhaps it was not in your possession at the time of being stopped. You must then present this valid license to the court as proof.
In this defense, you claim that you were not operating the vehicle or intending to drive.
Proving that you weren’t in control of a vehicle when suspected of driving without a license requires you to demonstrate to the court that you were not behind the wheel at the specific time in question. Here’s how you can do this:
Having someone attest to your claim can be incredibly helpful. This could be another passenger who was with you in the car or an external witness like a pedestrian or another driver who can confirm your claims.
If there is any surveillance video available from traffic cameras, nearby businesses, dash cams, or others., they might provide evidence confirming your statement.
An officer’s report might contain details supporting your defense if it suggests uncertainty regarding who was driving at any given time before their arrival.
Confronting charges of driving without a license requires strategic defense planning and should be done with the help of an attorney. For help, contact us to schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney.
For more information, contact the criminal defense attorney Craig Orent. Give us a call at (480) 656-7301 or visit our law office at 11811 N Tatum Blvd UNIT 3031, Phoenix, AZ 85028. We offer a free case evaluation, so get the help you deserve today.