In the state of Texas, as in every state in the country, in order to operate a motor vehicle, a person must have a valid driver’s license. The requirements for obtaining a driver’s license are well known and include:

  • Being a U.S. citizen or lawful resident
  • Being over the age of 18 (16 for a provisional license)
  • Having a Social Security number

Obviously, the goal of these requirements is the safety of drivers in the state of Texas. The more prepared drivers are, the smaller the chance of car accidents taking place on Texas state roads. To make sure drivers are abiding by state law, it is permissible for an officer of the peace to request to see your driver’s license if you are pulled over.

The law stipulates that you are required to show the officer your valid driver’s license upon that request. If you fail to do so you could face serious fines and even jail time. However, what happens to you depends on why you don’t show the officer your license.

Driving Without a License

If you do not have a valid driver’s license, the officer can write you a ticket for $200. The ticket is classified as a misdemeanor and while a first offense isn’t all that serious, a second and third could be. If you are caught driving without a valid license a second time in one year you could be slapped with another $200 fine. If it happens a third time you could get another $200 fine and up to three days in jail.

Driving without a license is much more serious, however, if you previously had a license but it was revoked or suspended. If that is the reason why you failed to show the officer your license, you will be facing a Class C misdemeanor which carries with it a much more substantial (and painful) $500 fine.

If your lack of license is combined with either driving without valid insurance or a previous driving with a suspended license infraction, the charges jump up to a Class B misdemeanor. At this level, you would be facing a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

Finally, if you are driving with a suspended license, don’t have insurance, and caused an accident in which someone was injured, you would be dealing with a Class A misdemeanor. In this case, that means you could be fined up to $4,000 and spend up to one year in jail.

Driving Without a License on Person

There is, of course, one other reason you can’t show a peace officer your license: because you don’t have it with you. Maybe in your rush out the door you forgot your license at work or home. If this is what happened in your situation, you might get off with a written or verbal warning.

Don’t be surprised, however, if the officer writes you a ticket for $200 for driving without a license. The good news about the ticket, though, if you have a valid driver’s license, is that you will also be given a court date and the opportunity to show that you do have a license and it was valid on the day the ticket was issued. If you show up on your appointed day in court with the license, instead of having to pay the $200 ticket, you will only have to pay a $10 administrative fee.

While the fee might not be that intimidating, having to take the time to appear in court might be enough to make you want to bring your license with you every time you get behind the wheel.