If you get caught driving without a licence, you will either received a Fixed Penalty Notice in the post or you will be summonsed to court. If convicted, you could get between three and six penalty points, a fine and a driving ban.

Have you been caught driving without a licence?

Contact our motoring defence solicitors if you have been caught driving without a licence in England or Wales. We offer confidential legal advice and robust legal representation. We can take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Driving licences in England and Wales – what are the rules?

You must have a full driving licence to operate a vehicle unsupervised in England and Wales. If you are a learner driver, you must be supervised by a full licence holder who is aged 21 or over and has been a licence holder for at least three years. You must also display ‘L’ plates on the vehicle while you are driving.

There are different categories of driving licence. A standard driving test in the UK allows you to drive vehicles that have up to eight passenger seats and is up to 3,500kg in weight (or up to 8,250kg if you passed your test before 1 January 1997). You can also drive tractors and mowing machines, amongst other things.

If you want to drive other types of vehicles – such as a category A1 motorcycle or a heavy goods vehicle – then you must pass additional driving tests. In the meantime, you must only drive vehicles that you are authorised to drive. These are listed on the back of your driver’s licence, and show the ‘valid from’ and ‘valid to’ dates.

You must also declare any disabilities or illnesses to the DVLA if they make you unfit to drive.

What if I have an international driving licence?

If you passed your driving test abroad, you can drive any small vehicle that is listed on your full, valid driving licence. However, you must swap to a UK driving licence after 12 months of becoming resident in the UK. This means getting a provisional licence and then taking both a theory and practical driving test. Your international driving licence becomes invalid once you are on a provisional licence, so you will have to be supervised until you pass your test.

HGV operators can drive vehicles in Great Britain if they have driven the vehicle into the country themselves.

Is it a criminal offence to drive without a licence in the UK?

It is a criminal offence to drive without a licence – or without the correct licence – in the UK.

There are different licence offences, including:

  • Driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence
  • Driving after falsely declaring your fitness to drive
  • Driving after failing to notify the DVLA of a disability
  • Driving after your licence has been cancelled or refused on medical grounds
  • Driving after your licence has expired

If you operate a vehicle that you are not authorised to drive, or you drive without the correct supervision as a learner, then you are guilty of ‘driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence’.

Can I be prosecuted if I forgot my L plates?

You can be charged if you forget to put ‘L’ plates on your vehicle and you are a provisional licence holder. This applies, even if you were being properly supervised at the time.

Is it illegal to drive a vehicle if my licence has expired?

Your licence must be renewed every three years once you are over 70 years of age. You must also apply for another licence if you have been banned from driving. It is an offence to drive a vehicle if your licence has expired or been revoked, and you have failed to renew it.

What is the penalty for driving without a licence?

The potential penalties for driving without a licence include:

  • Between three and six penalty points
  • A fine of up to £1,000

If you are still a learner driver, then the penalty points can be imposed once you pass your driving test. The court can also order a driving ban to take effect once you have passed your test.

There are other consequences of driving without a licence. For one thing, your insurance premiums will increase. This is because you have been convicted of a motoring offence, which in the eyes of insurers makes you more of a risk. This could be especially costly if you are a new driver.

Can you go to jail for driving without a licence UK?

You will not get a custodial sentence just for the offence of driving without a licence. However, you could be imprisoned if the offence is accompanied by other charges, such as driving without a licence and causing death while dangerous driving.

What happens if you drive without a licence and insurance?

There are ‘aggravating factors’ that will increase the severity of the sentence imposed by the court. For instance, if you are caught driving without a licence AND insurance, you could get six penalty points and a fine. You could be disqualified from driving and get an unlimited fine if your case goes to court.

Or if you are caught driving without a licence AND drink driving, you could get a driving ban and even a prison sentence.

Never having held a driving licence, and using a fake driving licence, are other aggravating factors that may persuade the court to impose a harsher sentence.

Related: What Happens If You Get Caught Driving Without Insurance?

How do the police know if you’re driving without a licence?

The police will realise that you are driving without the correct licence if either of the following occurs:

Firstly, you may be stopped by the police and asked to produce your documents, including your driving licence. If you cannot produce your licence there and then, you have seven days to take them to a police station. If you fail to do so, the police will assume that you do not have a valid driving licence and charge you. Or, the police may review your driving licence and discover that you are driving without the correct licence, or that you are driving unsupervised while on a provisional licence.

Secondly, the police use automatic number plate recognition cameras. These read a vehicle’s registration plate and pull up information about the car and the registered owner, such as the MOT, insurance and licence category. If this shows any anomalies, the police will follow you and pull you over at the roadside.

You may also be reported to the police if someone sees you driving a vehicle that you are not licenced to drive. When this happens, the police will investigate the matter further.

What happens when you get caught driving without a licence?

If the police accuse you of driving without the correct licence, you will either receive a Fixed Penalty Notice in the post, or you will be summonsed to court.

If you receive a Fixed Penalty Notice, then you can either accept the penalty, or you can defend the allegations. If you choose to defend yourself, then a date will be set for a court hearing.

We recommend that you speak to our motoring defence solicitors before deciding what to do.

Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also email us on enquiries@ashmanssolicitors.com or complete our Online Enquiry Form and we’ll be in touch soon.

Is driving without a licence the same as driving while disqualified?

Driving without a licence is not the same thing as driving while disqualified. Driving while disqualified is a separate offence and carries heavier penalties. This can include a £5,000 fine, up to six months’ imprisonment, a community order and a further driving ban.

Find out more: What Will Happen If I Drive While Disqualified?

Is there a defence to driving without a licence?

It is difficult to provide a complete defence to driving without a licence. Either you were driving without a licence or you were not. If the police have got it wrong, then this clearly needs to be brought to the court’s attention. This does happen, especially where the DVLA have made an error somewhere along the line.

Otherwise, it may be possible to plead special reasons. This means that you are technically guilty of driving without a licence, but there are mitigating circumstances that explain your actions. It could be that you were fleeing from danger or there was a genuine medical emergency.

Can I reduce the penalty?

If you do not have a defence, and you cannot argue special reasons, then it may be tactically beneficial to enter an early guilty plea. This can lead to a reduced penalty.

Caught driving without a licence – what should I do?

If you have been caught driving without a licence in England or Wales, please contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. Our motoring defence solicitors offer confidential, non-judgemental legal advice to motorists. We might suggest that you raise a defence, plead special reasons or enter an early guilty plea. The right approach depends entirely on the facts of your case.

Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also email us on enquiries@ashmanssolicitors.com or complete our Online Enquiry Form and we’ll be in touch soon.