Driving with an expired driver’s license is a common mistake in Arizona. As a driver, you may not think an expired license is big deal, or you may not realize your driver’s license is past its expiration date. Driver’s licenses in Arizona don’t expire until the driver is 65 years old. If you get into a car accident or pulled over while driving with an expired driver’s license, however, it can have negative consequences.
Can You Recover Compensation If Your License Is Expired?
Driving with an expired license is not going to make you liable, or financially responsible, for an auto accident in itself. Under Arizona’s fault-based insurance law, liability for a car accident lies with the party or parties that were negligent and caused the wreck. In an auto accident case, negligence is a legal term that refers to the failure to act safely and reasonably while driving. Negligence will place liability with a driver for a car accident, not failing to have a valid driver’s license.
It is a common misconception that driving with an expired license will automatically make the driver liable for a car accident. This is not the case. The only thing that would make you liable for a traffic accident as an unlicensed driver is if you acted carelessly or recklessly behind the wheel and this caused the collision – such as if you were driving while distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Not having a valid driver’s license is an entirely separate issue from your car accident. If you are not at fault for the collision, the other driver will use his or her car insurance to pay for your losses. The at-fault party will still be liable for your damages even if you were driving with an expired license. You can proceed with a car accident case as you normally would, pursuing financial compensation to help you pay for your medical bills, vehicle repairs and other losses.
Penalties for Driving With an Expired Driver’s License
Although driving with an expired driver’s license may not make you liable for a car accident or interfere with your ability to recover compensation, it can lead to other penalties. According to Arizona Revised Statute 28-3151, operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license is a traffic violation. If you get pulled over or into a car accident with an expired license, you could face the following penalties:
- A class 2 misdemeanor
- Traffic ticket
- A fine of up to $750, plus surcharges
- Two years of probation
- Up to four months in jail
The penalties depend on your situation. Protect yourself by learning your driver’s license expiration date and making an appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew your license before the deadline. You may also be able to renew online to save a trip to the DMV. If you lose your license, order a replacement right away. If you commit a moving violation or crime that results in driver’s license suspension or revocation, do not operate your motor vehicle until the suspension period has ended.
Is Driving Without a License the Same as Driving With a Suspended One?
Driving without a license refers to driving with an expired license, driving if you never received your license or driving without your license with you. Driving with a suspended or revoked license is different. A suspended or revoked driver’s license means the government is punishing you for a crime involving a motor vehicle by temporarily or permanently stripping you of the right to drive.
Driving without a license is a minor infraction, while driving with a suspended or revoked license is a more serious offense. This mistake can lead to jail time or hefty fines, as well as an extension of the license suspension or revocation period. With an expired license charge, you may be able to reduce a misdemeanor to an infraction with criminal defense if you can prove that it was an honest mistake. However, you cannot use this argument against charges for driving on a suspended or revoked license. Only drive your motor vehicle after you confirm you have a valid driver’s license.