Driving in California without a Driver’s License

In California, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle if you don’t have a driver’s license in the vehicle with you. Forgetting your license at home may seem like a minor offense. But, it can lead to significant consequences. Read on to learn what happens if you drive without a license and how you can get a new California driver’s license.

Can I Drive if I Lost My License in California?

According to California Vehicle Code Section §12500, “A person may not drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver's license issued under this code, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code.”

If you drive without a driver’s license in California, you may face up to a $250 fine. Keep in mind, that's only if you were driving and didn't have your license on you.

If you don't have a license at all, then things are more serious. This could be a misdemeanor, meaning you might face up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

To avoid these penalties and impact on your record, it’s in your best interest to replace your driver’s license immediately if your driver’s license has damaged, stolen, or lost. And if you don't have your license? Work on getting it with the help of DriversEd.com.

How Do I Replace My Lost California License?

If your driver’s license is missing or damaged, you'll need to request a new one. Otherwise, you'll face the penalties we outlined above. Here is how to request a new California driver’s license.

  • Complete a new California driver’s license application. If you're a minor, you'll need your parent or guardian's signature on this form.

  • Visit a local DMV office. You will need to pay the $30 licensing fee. You will also need to take a photograph and scan your thumbprint to confirm your identity. Before visiting the DMV, you can make an appointment or check the waitlist time in advance to avoid long lines.

  • If you’re not converting to a REAL ID, you don’t need to bring any proof of identification documents. If you are converting your driver’s license to a REAL ID, you will need to bring:


    • Identity proof

    • your Social Security number

    • Two proofs of California residency

Beginning early 2023, a new federal law will require a REAL ID to fly in the U.S. So, this may be an excellent opportunity to convert to a REAL ID to avoid repeating the process in the near future.

Either way, you won't receive your new license that same day. Instead, you'll get a temporary license that's good for 60 days. Make sure to carry this with you when you drive! It will keep you from getting in trouble with the law.

You will receive your new driver’s license via mail within four to six weeks.

Replacing Your California Driver’s License

If you’re looking to renew your California driver’s license and need to brush up on the rules of the road, consider taking online driver’s education lessons to increase your driving confidence. You can complete DriversEd.com’s DMV-approved on any device to catch up on traffic rules and defensive driving techniques.

Get Started with your Online Drivers Ed Course Today

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