Robert R. Hart, Jr., Attorney at Law
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In Ohio, driving without a valid license is a serious offense

Your driver's license is more than just identification. It signifies that you understand the rules of the road, agree to submit to chemical tests when requested by a law enforcement officer and meet the other qualifications to receive an Ohio driver's license.

If you forget to take your valid license when leaving the house, you will probably receive a citation. However, all you have to do is provide proof that you had a valid license when an officer stopped you, which will more than likely result in a dismissal.

The law may understand forgetfulness on occasion, but it doesn't abide driving without a valid license.

What if you had a valid license, but let it expire?

If police stop you and your driver's license is expired, you face a minor misdemeanor. However, if you plead guilty or a court enters a conviction against you of driving with an expired license more than two times, you face a first-degree misdemeanor. That may not seem like much, but the penalties include fines up to $1,000 and jail time up to six months.

What if you had a valid license, but it's suspended or revoked?

You may be among those who equate a suspended or revoked license with drunk driving. However, other circumstances, such as non-payment of child support, could also lead to this eventuality. If you drive under these conditions, even a first offense comes with harsh penalties. The court could order you to pay fines up to $1000 and perform community service of up to 500 hours. You could lose your vehicle if within a three-year period a court convicts you of driving on a suspended or revoked license three or more times.

What if you never had a valid license, but drove anyway?

This is a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and community service of up to 500 hours for a first offense. In addition, if you don't complete your community service, a court may find you guilty of indirect criminal contempt, which comes with its own penalties. Subsequent offenses could mean jail time of up to six months, along with fines up to $1,000.

As you can see, driving without a license for whatever reason could result in more than just a "slap on the wrist." Instead of pleading guilty or risking a conviction, you might want to seek out assistance in understanding your rights and pursuing the best resolution possible to the charges.

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