Know Your Rights: Driving Without a Valid Driver’s License

If you do not have a valid California Driver’s license and your are stopped by the police while driving we recommend the following steps:


Try to stop the vehicle in a safe place

  • The car will be towed if it is not stopped in a safe place, out of danger from other cars.  For example, if you are stopped next to your home or on the street, you should try to park in a safe space off the road.  If there is nowhere to park off the road do not continue to drive and stop as soon as possible.    

In San Francisco you will have 20 minutes to call a licensed driver

  • At the time your car is stopped by a police officer, you will have 20 minutes for a licensed and insured driver to reclaim your vehicle at the location you have been stopped.
  • If it will take longer than 20 minutes for a friend or family member to reclaim the car, you should request politely more time from the police officer.  The police officer has discretion to reasonably extend the time.  If the police officer decides not to give you more time, your vehicle will be towed.  

In Oakland there isn’t a limit on the time to have a licensed driver pick up your car

  • The police officer will not have to wait for someone to pick your car up
  • They will give you a ticket for driving without a license
  • They will ask you to sign a waiver making yourself responsable for any damaged to your car while parked on the street while someone with a license picks it up

Your car will not be impounded for 30 days if this is your first time stopped for driving without a license in the last six months.

  • If a driver fails to claim the car in 20 minutes, ask for the address where the car will be towed to.  You should immediately look for a licensed and insured driver to avoid fees that can accumulate.  
  • If you have been stopped for driving without a license before and 6 months have not passed, the car will be impounded for 30 days.

It is important to be prepared

  • Have a list of phone numbers of people who can reclaim your vehicle.
  • Inform family members or friends when you plan to drive the vehicle.
  • Keep a cellular phone in the car.
  • Inform people you know about the new changes in the policy.

If you feel the police did not respect your rights or you were stopped unfairly

  • Take down the police officer’s name and badge number.
  • After the police officer leaves, write down everything that happened while you were stopped.
  • File a complaint with the Office of Citizens’ Complaints in San Francisco (415) 241-7711, or the Citizen’s Police Review Board in Oakland (510) 238-3159