Have you ever rushed out of your house without your driver’s license? You hop into your car and hit the road, and suddenly, lights are flashing in your rear window. You’re being pulled over and the police want to see your driver’s license.

So what happens when you realize your license is sitting back at home? Another question is, what are the potential consequences of driving without a valid license? We’ll take a look at unlicensed driving versus not carrying ID. The legal ramifications are drastically different for each offense.

Possible Consequences of Driving without Carrying Your License

All 50 states require drivers to have a valid license. While the legal age requirements for getting a driver’s license can vary, all states, including New York, require motorists to have one. Think of a driver’s license as a form of permission. You have legal permission to operate a motor vehicle on both private and public roads.

So, what are the possible consequences of not carrying your driver’s license while you’re behind the wheel? Don’t panic; you’re not facing jail time as long as there isn’t an existing warrant for your arrest.

You should expect to receive a traffic citation, along with a stern warning. Your traffic ticket will include a court date and this is when you can resolve the situation. Some New York jurisdictions may let you skip a visit to the local courthouse. You may be able to send a copy of your valid driver’s license online.

When it comes to having a valid driver’s license, the issuing date must be before you receive the ticket. In other words, you can’t show up with a driver’s license issued after the ticket date.

After presenting your driver’s license, your ticket may either be reduced or canceled. If the ticket isn’t canceled, you’re probably only looking at paying a reduced fine.

Potential Penalties for Driving without a Valid License

If it’s your first time being caught driving without a valid license, it’s considered a misdemeanor in New York. Your penalties can range from a fine to up to 15 days in jail. However, most first-time offenders only face fines which can vary from $40 to $300. A quick note here that most drivers who receive a $40 fine have only allowed their licenses to expire.

Sometimes, fines and around two weeks in jail aren’t enough to discourage non-licensed drivers from hitting the road. If you’re a repeat offender, the penalties can become more severe. Fines can jump to $5,000. You’re also risking vehicle impoundment, probation, and possible jail time.

Driving in New York with an Out-of-State License

So, what are the possible penalties for driving in New York with a valid license from another state? If you’re only visiting New York, you can legally drive with a license issued by another state.

The law is a little different when it comes to new residents. If you’ve recently relocated to New York, you have 30 days to apply for and receive a license issued by the state. If you miss the 30-day statute of limitations, the potential penalties are the same as if you’ve left your driver’s license at home.

What about college students? Do college students need to apply for a New York driver’s license? The answer is typically no. College students from out-of-state aren’t required to apply for a New York driver’s license. The reasoning is that students are only in the state for school and still reside in their original home state. This applies even if the students use a New York state address.

What is the Green Light Law

New York residents may be familiar with the Green Light Law. The law, officially known as the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, basically allows all New York state residents ages 16 and up to apply for a non-commercial driver’s license. The emphasis is on non-commercial. This means you can’t use the Green Light Law to apply for a license driving 18-wheel trucks as an example.

The law allows anyone 16 and older to apply for a driver’s license regardless of their citizenship status, which means you don’t need to have a valid social security number to receive either a learner’s permit or driver’s license.

However, for this law to apply in your case you must sign an affidavit stating you have never been issued a social security number. You’ll also need to supply three documents proving your legal name, date of birth, and New York residency status.

Driving without a License and Impact on Injury Claims

Driving without a valid license can impact your personal injury case if you’re involved in an accident. Your claim may even be impacted if you simply left your license at home.

The at-fault party’s insurance company can claim you’re negligent. The point the insurance company will try to make is you shouldn’t have been on the road without carrying your driver’s license. If you weren’t driving without your license, the accident may not have occurred. Even though this type of argument is usually ignored in New York civil courts, it can still drag out your injury case.

The impact of driving without a license is a little different if you don’t have a valid one. Now, you’re facing the potential penalties of being a non-licensed driver. Since you’re not licensed to operate a motor vehicle, you may be liable for all injuries and damages, even if the other driver is directly responsible for the accident.

So, even if you’re not found liable, getting an insurance company to settle your claim is almost impossible at times.

Don’t Risk Driving without Your License

Yes, it’s easy to rush out and forget your license, but it’s something you want to do. Even though you will probably get out of any fines, you’re still taking a risk. If an accident occurs, receiving compensation for your damages is tricky, even with an experienced attorney by your side.

When it comes to being an unlicensed driver, the best advice is don’t do it. Not only are you facing potential jail times but you may not be eligible to receive compensation for any damages.