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In Ohio, driving without a license is illegal. Not only can you get a citation, you can be charged with driving without a valid operator’s license, or “no ops” charges. This is a criminal offense and if you are convicted, it can have serious consequences that will follow you for long after the charges have been dealt with. Driving without a license is defined in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC 4510.12) as anyone who “operates a motor vehicle on a public road, highway or private road intended for public use without a valid driver’s license” or permit.
This law helps keep us safe on the road. Requiring a driver’s license and training before a person can operate a car alone on the road ensures that everyone has the knowledge and skills necessary to drive safely. It doesn’t matter if you know how to drive, you still must have a valid license to operate a motor vehicle.
Because driving without a license is a safety issue, this offense is taken seriously in Ohio. Luckily, if it is your first offense, no one is hurt, and you never have been licensed, you will only be charged with an unclassified misdemeanor. If you are convicted, you will be sentenced to up to 500 community service hours and fined up to $1,000. Subsequent offenses will be dealt with more harshly. You will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
If your license is expired, but you can prove that you at one time had a valid license that was not specifically revoked for any reason, the charges are less serious. You will be charged with a minor misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to $150 in fines.
Of course, sometimes we simply forget our license by accident. If you are pulled over by a police officer and do not have your license, you can still be charged with driving without a license, but the charges will usually be dismissed when evidence of your valid license at the time of the incident is presented to the court correctly. The infraction can be dismissed, but you will usually still owe an administrative fine.
Keep in mind, however, that these small charges can add up to serious trouble. If you are convicted for driving without a valid driver’s license three or more times in three years, you will be charged with an additional first-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, you face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
If you are tempted to shrug off no-ops charges, don’t. Even a misdemeanor offense will show up on your criminal record and can affect your job prospects and other parts of your life. Driving without a license may not sound as bad as other charges, but the courts and your insurance company can consider it an indication of recklessness, which can haunt you later. A Columbus criminal defense attorney can help you get the best outcome possible for your case by developing the right legal strategy to help you, no matter the circumstances of the case.
If you’ve been charged with driving without a valid license, call the Columbus criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck, and Associates today at for a free consultation on your case. We have years of experience handling these types of cases successfully for our clients. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we may be able to help.