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What Are the Penalties for Driving with an Invalid License in Texas?

Most of us know the drill when a police officer stops on suspicion of a traffic violation. Among other steps, the officer will request your driver’s license and vehicle registration. Of course, if you do not have a license–or you are driving with an invalid license–then that in of itself constitutes a traffic violation normally punishable as a Class C misdemeanor under Texas law.

Defendant Tries to Fight Traffic Ticket Himself, Loses Appeal

If you are charged with driving with an invalid license, your best option is to contact a qualified Houston criminal defense attorney who can advise you on contesting the charges in court. Unfortunately, there are those defendants who think they can successfully represent themselves and effectively “talk” their way out of a conviction through the use of clever argument.

In reality, such an approach is likely to fail. Consider this recent decision, Biertwith v. State, from a Texas appeals court. In this case, a police officer observed a vehicle with expired registration on the road. The officer initiated a traffic stop and asked the driver–the defendant–for his driver’s license. Instead, the defendant gave the officer a state-issued identification card. The defendant admitted he did not have a driver’s license.

The officer subsequently ran a database search and learned the defendant had a suspended driver’s license and an outstanding arrest warrant. The officer then arrested the defendant for “driving while his license was invalid” (DWLI). The defendant represented himself in a trial before a county court judge. The trial court found the defendant guilty and fined him $200.

On appeal, the defendant maintained there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. The defendant’s argued that after his driver’s license was suspended in 2009, he never bothered to seek its renewal. Therefore, he could not be guilty of DWLI since the state never “denied” him a license.

The Court of Appeals rejected this argument for a couple of reasons. First, the defendant never properly made this point before the trial court. The defendant exercised his constitutional right not to testify, so he actually made this argument during his closing arguments. Second, both the trial judge and the appeals court agreed the law does not require a “denial after a specific request for renewal.” It also covers a “unilateral denial” by the Department of Public Safety, as was the case here.

In a similar vein, the appeals court rejected the defendant’s contention that the trial judge “did not have jurisdiction over the ‘invalid license’ when no license existed.” The appeals court noted the defendant failed to cite any “applicable law” to support this point.

Speak with a Houston Traffic Violations Lawyer Today

Even if you are simply fighting a traffic ticket, it never hurts to get legal advice from an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need assistance from a Texas traffic violations attorney. We serve clients throughout the Houston, Galveston, and League City areas. Call (281) 280-0100