What Happens if You Get Pulled Over Without a License in North Carolina?

Charlotte DWI Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Can I represent myself on a traffic ticket?”


Driving without a license is a serious offense in North Carolina. That is why it is vital to contact a criminal defense lawyer if you get pulled over without a license to avoid getting into trouble.

street-signs-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Traffic-defense-lawyer-300x225A skilled criminal defense attorney will fight for your rights to protect you against fines and possible jail time. Contact our attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to discuss the best defenses to charges of driving without a license in North Carolina.


What is Driving Without a License in North Carolina?

There are eight circumstances under which you can be guilty of driving without a license in North Carolina. Each type of offense is associated with different penalties.

  • You did not have a driver’s license on you when pulled over, even though you have a valid license;
  • You never had a valid driver’s license;
  • Your license has expired (driving with an expired license);
  • Driving with a suspended license;
  • Driving with revoked or canceled license;
  • Failure to comply with restrictions on a driver’s license;
  • Driving with an out-of-state license when you have resided in North Carolina for over 60 days; or
  • Driving with an out-of-state commercial license when you have resided in North Carolina for at least 30 days.


Penalties for Driving Without a License in North Carolina

If you get pulled over while operating a motor vehicle without a license, the penalties will depend on the circumstances of the offense.

A traffic ticket for driving without a license

Under N.C.G.S. § 20-7, you can get a ticket for driving with no operating license (NOL) when:

  • You have a valid driver’s license but not carrying it when you get pulled over;
  • Your driver’s license has expired; or
  • You are driving with a valid out-of-state license but have lived in North Carolina for a long time.

According to N.C.G.S. § 20-35, driving with no operating license is a traffic infraction rather than a criminal offense. However, drivers who receive an NOL ticket still face fines and points added to their driver’s and insurance records.

Class 3 misdemeanor

You can be charged with Class 3 misdemeanor for the following:

  • Driving without ever having obtained a license;
  • Violating a driver’s license restrictions; or
  • Allowing an unlicensed motorist to drive your vehicle.

If you get pulled over when driving without a license under any of these circumstances, you are facing a Class 3 misdemeanor charge and penalties ranging from $200 in fines and a maximum jail sentence of 20 days.

Class 2 misdemeanor

All other types of driving without a license in North Carolina are classified as a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and no more than 60 days in jail.

You may be found guilty of Class 2 misdemeanor when you get caught:

  • Driving with a suspended license;
  • Driving with your license revoked or canceled; or
  • Knowingly showing an unlawfully altered or otherwise fictitious license when pulled over.

Penalties for driving without a driver’s license in North Carolina can be rather severe, which is why you should contact a skilled traffic citations attorney to protect your rights and freedom. Schedule a consultation with our attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, if you were pulled over without a license. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.






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