DWLI: Driving While License Invalid

Texas Criminal Law

In Texas, all drivers are required to have and carry with them a valid driver’s license when operating a vehicle on a public road.

The Texas offense of Driving While License Invalid, or DWLI, penalizes violations of this law. This is a very common Class C Misdemeanor, but certain factors could elevate the crime to a Class B or A misdemeanor that would be handled in county courts.

Learn more about the Driving While License Invalid law below.

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What is the current Texas law about Driving While License Invalid?

The current Texas law is as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if the person operates a motor vehicle on a highway:

(1) after the person’s driver’s license has been canceled under this chapter if the person does not have a license that was subsequently issued under this chapter;

(2) during a period that the person’s driver’s license or privilege is suspended or revoked under any law of this state;

(3) while the person’s driver’s license is expired if the license expired during a period of suspension; or

(4) after renewal of the person’s driver’s license has been denied under any law of this state, if the person does not have a driver’s license subsequently issued under this chapter.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person is the subject of an order issued under any law of this state that prohibits the person from obtaining a driver’s license and the person operates a motor vehicle on a highway.

You can be charged under either subsection (a) or subsection (b). A subsection (b) offense does not require any of the elements that are described in subsection (a).

Why is my Texas Driver’s License invalid?

The Texas Transportation Code enumerates many reasons what a person’s license can be suspended or revoked. The Department of Public Safety can suspend a license if they find that a person:[2]

  • Was Driving on a public road after an application for license was denied
  • Is a habitually reckless or negligent operator of a vehicle
  • Is a “Habitual Violator” or traffic laws
  • Permitted the unlawful or fraudulent use of a license
  • Has suspensions from other states
  • Has been convicted of two or more offenses of a violation of a restriction of the license (Ie. Glasses)
  • Is responsible for any accident resulting in serious injury or property damage
  • Is a provisional license holder and has been committed two or more moving violations with a one year period
  • Is convicted for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer

“Habitual violator” means a person has four or more convictions for separate moving violations within a twelve month period or seven or more in a two year period.4

The Department of Public Safety can also revoke a license if it determines that a person:[5]

  • Is not capable of safely operating a vehicle
  • Has not complied with the terms of a citation of another state
  • Has not provided medical records or undergone an examination as required by a medical advisory board
  • Has failed to pass an examination
  • Has failure to appear citations
  • Has committed on offense in another state that would be grounds for revocation

A revoked license is much worse than a suspended license; it has been completely cancelled and can’t be reinstated without going through a court process.

In addition to these department determined suspensions, your license can automatically be suspended if you are convicted for:[6]

  • Intoxication offense (DWI)
  • Contempt of court
  • Using a fraudulent or fictitious license or personal identification certificate
  • Certain sex offenses
  • Theft of fuel
  • Racing on a public road
  • Purchasing alcohol for minors
  • Certain drug offenses
  • Or have outstanding surcharges

What is the punishment for DWLI?

A DWLI conviction is a Class C Misdemeanor, unless an exception applies that enhances it to a Class A or Class B misdemeanor.[7] All Class C misdemeanors are punishable by fine of up to $500. If the offense is a second DWLI or you were driving without insurance, a DWLI charge can be upgraded to a Class B Misdemeanor.[8] The charge can also be upgraded to a Class B if your license has previously been suspended as a result of a DWI arrest.[9] Additionally, if an accident was involved and the person did not have the required liability insurance it can be upgraded to a Class A Misdemeanor.[10] Both Class A and B Misdemeanors convictions allow a court to impose jail time.

In addition to the criminal penalties, DPS will add a $250 surcharge to your license which will need to be paid annually for 3 years and increase your suspension by the amount of the original suspension.

What if I get a valid license after my citation?

It is always good to take steps to get your license renewed or reinstated. However, if you are ticketed or arrested for a DWLI, getting a valid license afterward will not result in your case being dismissed. You will still have to answer to the court for the violation on your court date. The prosecutor may take into account your quick action and remedy of the violation, but the prosecutors will not dismiss the case based of off a subsequent valid license.

How can I get my Driver’s license back?

You would have to clear all the holds on your driving record before DPS will release the suspension or allow you to apply for a new license. Some suspensions also have mandatory dates that you must wait out until you can drive legally again. In a situation where you need to drive but cannot obtain a valid license, it would be highly advisable to apply for an Occupational Driver’s License to allow you to drive for work, school, and other essential needs.

Legal References:

^1. Texas Transportation Code §521.457

^2. Texas Transportation Code §521.292(a)

^3. Texas Transportation Code §521.292(b)

^4. Texas Transportation Code §521.293

^5. Texas Transportation Code §521.294

^6. Texas Transportation Code §521.341

^7. Texas Transportation Code §521.457(e)

^8. Texas Transportation Code §521.457(f)

^9. Texas Transportation Code §521.457(f-1)

^10. Texas Transportation Code §521.457(f-2)

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