Written by attorney Brenton Daniel Vincenzes

Driving Without a License Virginia Code 46.2-300

Common Driver’s License Offenses: Fairfax Traffic Lawyer Covers Basics of 46.2-300

A recent data analysis of public arrest records in Fairfax County revealed 12% of arrests were for violations of Virginia Code Section 46.2-300. There are several other relatively common license-related criminal offenses:

There are some criminal offenses which, if convicted of, always lead to a suspended or revoked license. Learn about these various offenses here.

Virginia Code § 46.2-300, also known as, “Driving without a license," may apply to individuals alleged to have been driving under the following circumstances:

  • They have not applied for a license
  • They have not passed all or some of the required tests to obtain a driver’s license
  • They have no valid license at all

This law tells us that no person can drive a motor vehicle on any “highway" until that individual has attained a lawful license. There are some exemptions, but in general, they are rare (e.g., in some cases, an International License in Virginia may be valid for a period of time).

This law makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle “on any highway" unless the driver has a valid license. The term, “highway," refers to almost every road…not solely interstate highways. This law also indirectly alludes to the fact that for a license to be valid, the driver must have applied for the license, as well as passed the tests and vision exam as required by law.


Driving without a valid license in the Commonwealth of Virginia is a criminal offense: either a Class 1 or Class 2 misdemeanor.

The severity of fines and potential jail time depends in part, upon whether or not it is a first or subsequent offense.

Regardless of whether the conviction is a first or subsequent offense:

  • The court may suspend a driver’s privilege to drive for 90 days
  • The conviction will remain on an adult’s public criminal record for life

A first time conviction is considered a criminal Class 2 misdemeanor, and can result in:

  • Up to 6 months in jail; and,
  • Up to a $1,000 fine.

A subsequent violation is the most serious type of criminal misdemeanor in Virginia: a Class 1 misdemeanor. Possible penalties may be as severe as:

  • Up to 12 months in jail; and
  • Up to a $2,500 fine.

We encourage any person charged with a violation of this statute in Northern Virginia to speak with a Fairfax criminal defense attorney. Exceptions and Exemptions

Few people and/or vehicles are exempted from the valid license requirement.

  • Workers who are conducting road maintenance or construction under the “supervision and control of the Department of Transportation."

In limited instances, operators who are:

  • Nonresidents, but validly licensed to drive by the laws of their state or country
  • “New resident[s] licensed under laws of another state"

And in some instances, operators:

  • Of farm vehicles, tractors and backhoes
  • Of vehicles for agriculture purposes
  • Of vehicles used by commercial fisherman
  • With a validly registered license in other another state when the vehicle is used for harvesting

Additional resources provided by the author

Virginia Code References § 46.2-300. Driving without license prohibited; penalties. § 46.2-325. Examination of applicants; waiver of Department’s examination under certain circumstances; behind-the-wheel and knowledge examinations. § 46.2-303. Licenses not required for operating road roller or farm tractor. § 46.2-304. Limited operation of farm tractor by persons convicted of driving under influence of intoxicants or drugs. § 46.2-305. Exemption of persons in armed services. § 46.2-306. Exemption of armed services personnel and spouses and dependent children of armed services personnel. § 46.2-307. Nonresidents licensed under laws of home state or country; extension of reciprocal privileges. § 46.2-308. Temporary exemption for new resident licensed under laws of another state; privately owned vehicle driver’s licenses. § 46.2-662. Temporary exemption for new resident operating vehicle registered in another state or country. § 46.2-308. Temporary exemption for new resident licensed under laws of another state; privately owned vehicle driver’s licenses. § 46.2-652. Temporary registration or permit for oversize vehicles; fees.

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