What Is The Penalty For Driving With An Invalid Driver’s License In Texas?
It should come as no surprise that it is against the law in Texas to drive a motor vehicle on a public street with a suspended or invalid driver’s license. If you are caught driving with an invalid license, you can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for a first offense. This is the lowest type of criminal charge allowed under Texas law and it carries no jail time, just a fine.
Of course, you are still free to contest and defend yourself against even a Class C misdemeanor charge. And there are valid defenses against this type of allegation. For instance, if you can prove that you never received “actual notice” of the suspension of your driver’s license, the judge will dismiss the charge and you will not have to pay the fine.
Houston Appeals Court Rejects “Sovereign Citizen” Defense
What you should not do, however, is walk into court and argue the judge has no right to fine you because you are a “sovereign citizen.” You may have read about these types of defenses before. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, sovereign citizens are people who “believe that they – not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials – should decide which laws to obey and which to ignore.”
Texas courts have made it clear that a “sovereign citizen” defense is a non-starter. Take this recent decision from the Texas First District Court of Appeals, Waggoner v. State. In this case, a sheriff’s deputy cited the defendant for driving with an expired license. The defendant opted to contest the citation at a jury trial. The jury found the defendant guilty and fined him $500.
After losing an initial appeal in county court, the defendant then appealed to the First District. He argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over him as a “sovereign citizen.” The First District rejected this argument, noting that “our sister courts and federal courts have uniformly rejected this as a valid defense to prosecution.”
The First District also dismissed the defendant’s claim that the law forbidding a person from driving with an invalid license was itself unconstitutional. The defendant’s position was that such a restriction infringed “upon a person’s constitutional right to travel.” In effect, the defendant’s position was that he did not require a valid license to drive a car in Texas.
Again, the First District noted that courts have long rejected this argument. Indeed, the “ability to drive a motor vehicle upon public highways is a privilege, not a right.” And no person has a “property right” to a driver’s license.
Contact Pearland Criminal Defense Attorney Keith B. French Today
It is important to emphasize that there are a number of valid and recognized defenses to a traffic ticket and other Class C misdemeanors. And you should not hesitate to assert a valid defense, even if it is to simply avoid paying a fine. An experienced Pearland misdemeanor lawyer can provide you with guidance and representation in this area. Contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today to schedule a case evaluation.