Caught driving w/o a licence because you forgot it vs you don't own one

Today on NPR I heard that the LAPD would no longer impound the cars of those caught driving without a license, unless there was nobody to legally drive the car away and it could not be legally parked.

That reminded me of something I’ve always wondered about.

I’m sure if you aren’t licensed, you have to go to court and pay a significant fine, but what happens if you just forgot your wallet that day, or whatever? Can you tell the officer your license number, if you know it, which they can verify? I imagine you’d still have to go to court, to show your license, or at least mail in proof, but would you still have to pay a huge fine? Or would it be more like a fix-it ticket, where you don’t pay anything but just show that you have corrected a problem? Or are both types of driving without a license treated with the same severity?

Depends on the jurisdiction. I can’t speak for California, but in in some jurisdictions you don’t need to carry your driving licence with you when you drive. In Saskatchewan, for example, you need to be able to produce it within two or three days (I forget which) upon request of a police officer.

In Michigan it’s up the discretion of the officer.

What they’ll usually reasonably do is get your personal information and radio it in for confirmation.

If the officer wants to be a jerk he’ll arrest you.

I speak from bitter experience and an absented minded 3 mile trip into town.

I’m betting that’s ok…
I gave my dad mine as ID so he could submit my passport application. (I have a scanned/printed paper copy of it instead right now).

In my jurisdiction, they can generally tell if you actually have a license or not if you say you don’t just have it with you by running the info you give them (name, DOB, DL#, etc.). Forgetting your license is a Failure to Display Driver’s License, a class C offense which will usually get you a ticket. You can often get this dismissed by going to municipal court or the JP court you’re scheduled to appear in and showing them your driver’s license; if not, you pay a small fine.

Driving when you don’t have a license at all, however, is Driving With License Suspended/Invalid, a class A or B misdemeanor, and will get you a trip to the slammer. You’ll either have to bond out or do a little jail time. If you bond out and you get your license back (or just plain get one) you can sometimes get this knocked down to a class C Failure to Display DL or a dismissal.

In my jurisdiction, you can get a ticket but as pravnik says they can just scan and see you do have one. However, I have been caught twice sans license and both times I didn’t get a ticket. If you are cooperative friendly and apologetic they will usually just say “You better have it next time when I see you.”

This is how it is in New Jersey. Unlicensed driver is 39:3-10. Not having a license in your possesion is a violation of 39:3-29, failure to exhibit driver’s license, registration or insurance card. Two different statutes. If you have a DL or not is easy to verify via computer. In NJ neither will get your car towed but if you are unlicensed you can’t drive it away. You can drive away if you just don’t have a DL on you. If you are unlicensed, can’t get a driver out there and the car is in a bad or dangerous location, the car can be towed. I usually just tell them to pull it around the corner and park it and take my chances that they won’t hit a van full of nuns while doing it.
Due to our wonderful legislature the lesser charge will actually cost you more money. A few years ago they raised the minimum fine on a failure to exhibit ticket from around $50 to $145. The maximum fine for being unlicensed is something like $500 but that is with extreme circumstances. Usually you get a $50 fine (no points). Our judge doesn’t like that law so he usually suspends most of the fine so those who plead guilty to failure to exhibit usually get around a $50 fine in our court. I don’t know how many judges do that and you only get that deal if you come into court.
And no, the township does not get the money. It’s a state law and the state gets almost all of the money.

Here there is a big difference between driving while suspended (39:3-40) and unlicensed driver (39:3-10). Neither will get you arrested, only a ticket. The suspended ticket does carry a severe penalty if convicted. Many times it can be knocked down to the lesser charge of being an unlicensed driver if you come to court with the license restored. That is mostly because it is so easy in this state to get your license suspended for bullshit administrative reasons as opposed to what you do on the road.
DUI is the only traffic offense I can think of that you get arrested for in New Jersey. (There are others like possesion of CDS in a vehicle but there would also be criminal charges with that). Even DUIs are usually catch and release, no bail (simple DUIs, not including death or serious bodily injury. Again there would also be criminal charges for manslaughter or assault). The last time I remember asking for bail on a DUI without injuries was years ago. The guy was from Georgia (country not state) and had no reason to stick around. He actually showed up for trial.

From here:

Code 12951:

Lookee here:

Code 14607.6 subsection C:

These are California State motor vehicle regulations, enforceable on the Highways by CHP. I assume the City of Los Angeles will have it’s own city laws governing the operation of motor vehicles on city streets. (Note that it may be slow going trying to get around LA county without using the highways.)

OP: Did the NPR story state whether the city council changed the laws, or is this some declaration of intent released by the Mayor?

I asked a friend (who happens to be a judge) this question just last week. He said that they are completely different offenses and that if you just forgot yours, it would probably be dismissed. If you don’t have one at all, you’re screwed. In Oklahoma anyway.

I thought the license was an abstraction comprising the state’s permission for you to drive, and the little card was just a little card documenting the license. It sounds like loose speech to refer to the card as the license per se, at least to me - and especially so in the code quoted above.

Actually, what you are quoting are not regulations, but sections of the California Vehicle Code. They are valid for all parts of the state, including any city therein. So Los Angeles does not need its own rules on the subject.

Ok. I’ll take your word for that. When I read the section that stated “when driving a motor vehicle on a highway”, I assumed that meant that the code was only apllicable to the highway, since they state “highway”, and not “roadway” or “public road”.

Hmmm. My links above dont seem to work anymore. Lets try this:

Check the box marked “Vehicle Code”, and enter the statute number in the search box below. Have fun!

The California Vehicle Code uses the term highway to mean basically any public road:

Around here, limited-access high-speed roads are generally referred to as freeways.

ETA: Actually, the term “highway” isn’t in widespread use. Nobody refers to a quiet residential street as a highway, even though it is one according to the CVC. There are a few roads named SomeSuch Highway, but in general they are not freeways. Arrow Highway in San Dimas and other nearby cities is the first to spring to mind (it’s a regular arterial city street), but there are certainly plenty of others.

I’ve had this happen to me, both recently and years ago.

Years ago, it was treated like a fix-it ticket. You had a short time (like 48 hours) to show up at a police station and show them your license.

Now, with modern technology, they ask you for the info (name, birthdate, etc) and can look it up on the computer system in their car. They can even display a copy of your picture as on your license, and compare that to you in person, to verify that it really is you.

In both cases, you will then get the lecture about being required to have your license with you at all times when driving. And, of course, you’ll probably get the ticket for whatever it was that caused them to pull you over in the first place.

But this is entirely at the officers discretion. The above is what will happen if you are sober & pleasant to the officer. Act like a jerk, and all bets are off – you will likely be arrested, hauled off to jail, your car towed, etc.

I was ticketed once when I couldn’t find my card (it had fallen under my seat), but in spite of my explanation, the officer wrote up the ticket for not having a license at all. He had looked up my card in his vehicle in the meantime.

The judge looked carefully at my license, to see that it predated the ticket. I had to waste an hour in court, but I got off with a dismissal and no court costs.

I’m in the same state as pravnik, and I wanted to add this note: in two days, on September 1st, Driving While License Invalid becomes a class C misdemeanor for first-time offenders, so long as the license suspension wasn’t for Driving While Intoxicated. That means it’s just a fine, paid in JP court. When they covered that in our Legislative Update class, there was much applauding and cheering; I swear, it seems like half the cases I look at are DWLIs, and it’s a waste of time and resources to prosecute them in county court when we could just have 'em pay a fine. Apparently, the legislature finally figured that out.

Amazingly, in Michigan (at least the southern part), the term “highway” is often used to describe simple country roads. Thus, Riga Highway is nothing more grand than a narrow north-south country road running from the Ohio border north, through the town of Riga.

In California, where I grew up, “highway” is more likely to be used to describe roads that are not limited access, but which are major and which are not located entirely within a city. Since almost all such roads are now given numerical designations of some sort, the term used is usually something like “highway 138.” But old versions linger, such as the “Angeles Crest Highway”, which is CA St. Rt. 2 from La Canada to (roughly) Phelan.

Are you saying that driving with a suspended license is considered a more egregious offense than not having a license at all?

And why the heck doesn’t the state bother to tell you if you do have your license suspended for “bullshit administrative reasons?”

How could they take points even if they wanted to? Points come off a license, and if you don’t have a license it’s a bit hard to take points off, isn’t it?