No Operator’s License In Virginia
The charge of No Operator’s License under Virginia Code §46.2-300 has seen increased enforcement, especially against those who cannot obtain driver’s licenses due to immigration issues.
A first offense driver’s without a valid license charge is a class 2 misdemeanor. As of July 1, 2007, a second or subsequent offense may be punished as a class 1 misdemeanor. As of July 1, 2008, a court may suspend a person’s driving privileges upon conviction of no operator’s license for up to 90 days. Va. Code §46.2-300.
Prosecutors sometimes amend driving on suspended license charges under §46.2-301 to driving without a license under Virginia Code §46.2-300 where the prosecution cannot prove a defendant had notice of suspension. Virginia Code §46.2-300 states in pertinent part:
No person . . . shall drive any motor vehicle on any highway in the Commonwealth until such person has applied for a driver’s license . . . and obtained a driver’s license, nor unless the license is valid.
As written, the statute, unlike the statute for driving on a suspended license (Va. Code 46.2-301), does not have a notice requirement—i.e. under the statute, a person may be convicted if the accused was under the mistaken belief he/she had a valid license. However, the Court of Appeals decided in Carew v. Commonwealth, 62 Va.App. 574, 578-589, 750 S.E.2d 226 (Va. App., 2013) that “[w]hen the predicate for invalidity under Code § 46.2–300 is a suspended license, the Commonwealth must prove the defendant received notice of the suspension.” That is, Carew indicates that no valid operator’s license is not a strict liability offense where the reason for the invalid license is a suspension.
However, Carew would not appear to reach a situation where a defendant failed to renew a driver’s license. Further, if a defendant knew his/her license were suspended, it would not be impermissible to charge the person with no operator’s license. In this regard, in Shreve v. Commonwealth, the Court of Appeals upheld a conviction for driving without a valid license under Virginia Code §46.2-300 where the appellant’s license had been suspended. 605 S.E.2d 780, 44 Va. App. 541 (Va. App., 2004).
NO OPERATOR’S LICENSE (NOL) – FOREIGN LICENSE IN POSSESSION
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