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Driving Without a License in North Carolina

Driving without a license in Shelby or any other location throughout North Carolina is illegal. It may happen for any number of reasons ranging from intentional and unintentional. Regardless the reason, you will want to have an experienced attorney at your side. An experienced attorney knows the law, the way the court system works and is able to apply applicable defenses in a strategic manner.

Understanding No Operator's License

No Operator's License (NOL) simply means that a driver does not have a driver's license to operate a vehicle.

There are three ways that make you subject to a ticket: (1) you do not have an operator's license on your person or otherwise in your possession when driving; (2) your driver's license is expired or has been revoked or suspended; or (3) you never had a driver's license that would allow you to drive in the State of North Carolina.

Examples of scenarios that could qualify you for violating this law include:

  • Moving to the state but failing to obtain an NC driver's license within 60 days
  • Accumulating too many points and having driving privileges interrupted
  • Failing to pay child support and have driving privileges taken away
  • Driving a commercial vehicle without having the proper commercial license for it
  • Failing to fill out the proper DMV paperwork after moving to NC from a foreign county
  • Forgetting a driver's license at home (though these types of scenarios usually result in dismissal of the charges upon proof of a valid, current driver's license).

Whether the reason is due to an expired license, a forgotten license, or a suspended license, accusations of No Operator's License are serious. But you can fight the charge.

Misdemeanor v. Infraction: No Operator's License

Driving without a license in North Carolina encompasses a range of potential consequences. These consequences are designed to cover the breadth of answers that police officers receive upon asking for license and registration. Violation of N.C.G.S. § 20-7 results in a Class 2 misdemeanor but with the following exceptions.

In North Carolina, the following acts are considered Class 3 misdemeanors:

  • Fails to obtain a driver's license before driving a motor vehicle
  • Fails to comply with license restrictions
  • Permits a motor vehicle to be operated by an unlicensed person.

A person who does any of the following, even accidentally, is responsible for an infraction:

  • Fails to carry a valid license while driving a motor vehicle
  • Operates a motor vehicle with an expired license
  • Fails to notify the Division of an address change for a driver's license within 60 days after the change occurs.

Criminal Penalties of a No Operator's License Conviction

The penalties that you could face are dependent on the classification of the crime. If you were issued only an infraction, then the penalty could be a mere fine. If, on the other hand, the charge is allocated as either a Class 3 or Class 2 misdemeanor, then the potential penalties increase.

A Class 3 misdemeanor also carries with it only a fine of up to $200 unless you have three prior convictions -- which could also mean you face community punishment of up 15 days or have four prior convictions -- which could mean you face community punishment and/or intermediate punishment of up to 15 days.

A Class 2 misdemeanor carries with it a fine of up to $1,000, plus community punishment of up to 30 days if no priors, community punishment and/or intermediate punishment of up to 45 days if one to four prior convictions, or community, intermediate and/or active punishment of up to 60 days if five or more priors.

Community punishment can include supervised or unsupervised probation, like

  • house arrest with electronic monitoring
  • community service
  • educational or vocational skills development program
  • substance abuse assessment, monitoring, or treatment.

Intermediate punishment includes supervised probation and may include one or more of the following:

  • special probation
  • drug treatment court
  • house arrest with electronic monitoring
  • community service
  • period or periods of confinement in a local confinement facility
  • substance abuse assessment, monitoring, or treatment
  • education or vocational skills development program
  • satellite-based monitoring.

Active punishment includes incarceration at a local confinement facility or jail.

Defenses to a No Operator's License Charge

In North Carolina, the statute sets out certain defenses to the charge of No Operator's License. There are two specific circumstances where you will not be found responsible for failing to carry a regular driver's license with you:

  • If -- at the time you are tried for the offense -- you produce in court a valid driver's license that was also valid at the time you were charged with the offense.
  • If you were driving a motor vehicle with an expired driver's license, but -- at the time you are tried for the offense -- you demonstrate that (1) you had an expired license at the time of the offense; (2) you reviewed the expired license within 30 days of its expiration and at the time of trial have a valid license; and (3) if -- at the time of the offense -- you could not have been charged if you had renewed the license.

If either of these two circumstances applies in your unique situation, then you have a statutory defense. Apart from these defenses, your lawyer will consider the facts and totality of the circumstances to determine the best defense strategy for you.

Who to contact if you are accused of No Operator's License?

If you are charged with a No Operator's License, depending on how that charge is applied, the stakes could be high for an act you think is relatively harmless. It is always in your best interests to contact experienced criminal defense lawyers to learn about your options and the risks of those options so that you can weigh the pros and cons of any decision you make. Potentially, this kind of charge can be serious if it leads to a conviction and subsequent incarceration and a criminal record.

Attorneys at Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC are experienced in traffic and criminal law. They have the resources and legal minds to help you move toward a favorable outcome in your case. Contact us online or call us at 704-470-2440 to schedule a consultation.

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