ARS § 28-3151 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of driving without a license. You commit this offense if you drive or operate a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license. A violation could result in a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to four months in jail time.
The language of ARS 28-3151 reads as follows:
A. Unless exempt pursuant to this chapter, a person shall not drive a motor vehicle or vehicle combination on a highway without a valid driver license and proper endorsement as prescribed by this chapter.
B. A person who is licensed under this chapter is entitled to exercise the privilege granted by this chapter on highways and is not required to obtain another license to exercise the privilege by a county, municipal or local board or a body with authority to adopt local police regulations.
- driving a truck with no license.
- operating a motor vehicle while never having received a license.
- sitting in the driver’s seat of a running car without a valid license.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help drivers challenge accusations under this statute. Some of these include showing that accused people:
- had a license that was not in their possession at the time of the offense.
- were not driving or in control of a car.
- were visitors from another state with a valid out-of-state license.
A violation of ARS 28-3151 will result in a $120 fine (plus surcharges) if, at the time of the offense, the driver had a valid driver’s license albeit not in his/her possession at the time of the traffic violation.
If an Arizona driver breaks this law while never having obtained a license, the person will be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. A Class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by:
- custody in jail for up to four months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $750.
In this article, our criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “driving without a license”?
Under Arizona law, a person is guilty of driving without a license if he/she operates a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license.i
A few definitions here are helpful:
- “drive” means to operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle,ii
- “person” means a natural person as well as a corporation, company, partnership, firm, association, and society,iii and
- “highway” means the entire width between the boundary lines of every way if a part of the way is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.iv
Note that in Arizona, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) is the state agency responsible for issuing a driver’s license. A person can obtain a license by applying and taking an MVD-sponsored driving test.
2. Can a driver challenge an ARS 28-3151 charge with a legal defense?
People can challenge a traffic ticket or any criminal charges under this statute with a legal defense/disclaimer. Three common defenses include defendants showing that they:
- had a valid license at the time of the offense.
- were not driving or in control of a motor vehicle.
- had a license issued from another state.
2.1 Valid driver’s license
Sometimes people are charged with this offense when they had a valid driver’s license, although it was not in their possession at the time a police officer stopped them. In this case, they may escape a guilty charge, or reduce the ultimate penalty, by making proof of the license.
2.2 Not driving or in control
A person is only guilty under ARS 28-3151 if he/she was actually driving a car, or in physical control of it, without a valid license. A defense is for a defendant to assert that he/she was not driving a car or in control of one.
2.3 License from another state
Drivers can always try to contest a charge under this law by showing they were from another state. In these cases, though, the drivers must also offer proof of a valid driver’s license from their home state.
3. What are the penalties?
Arizona law treats driving without a license as a serious offense.
Drivers that violate this law by not having a license in their possession at the time of the offense must pay a fine of approximately $120.
In addition to the fine, a notice of the offense gets placed on the person’s driving record. One possible result is that the driver’s insurance company will increase his/her auto insurance rates.
If a person violates this law while never obtaining a license from the MVD, he/she will be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a Class 2 misdemeanor (for a first offense or a first-time offense) is:
- up to four months in jail, and/or
- a maximum fine of $750.
A subsequent offense could lead to:
- a jail sentence of up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $2,500.
4. Are there related crimes?
There are three crimes related to driving without a license. These are:
- driving on a suspended license – ARS 28-3473,
- DUI – ARS 28-1381A1, and
- reckless driving – ARS 28-693.
4.1 Driving on a suspended license – ARS 28-3473
ARS 28-3473 is the Arizona statute that makes it a crime for a person to operate a motor vehicle with a:
- license suspension,
- revoked license, or
- canceled or refused license.
Unlike with ARS 28-3151 offenders, people guilty of violating this statute must pay a reinstatement fee once their suspension or revocation period expires. Once the fee is paid, the person can regain his/her driving privileges.
4.2 DUI – ARS 28-1381A1
Under ARS 28-1381A1, people commit the crime of DUI if they drive or are in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of:
- a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or
- any combination of liquor, drugs, or vapor.
In addition to standard DUI penalties, a driver guilty of this offense may have to:
- install an ignition interlock device in their car, and/or
- pay to get his/her vehicle out of an impoundment lot.
4.3 Reckless driving – ARS 28-693
ARS28-693 is the Arizona statute that makes it a crime for a person to drive a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property. The crime is known as reckless driving.
If a person commits reckless driving without a driver’s license, then he/she could be charged with both:
- reckless driving, per ARS 28-693, and
- driving without a license, per ARS 28-3151.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 28-3151.
- ARS 28-101.
- ARS 1-215.
- ARS 28-101.