Driving without a (copy of my) driver's license
March 26, 2012 4:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking a road trip from New Mexico to Washington state tonight and tomorrow. Although I am officially licensed to drive by the state of Colorado, I don't have a physical copy of my driver's license. What are the dangers of driving without a copy of my license, and how can I minimize them?

I moved to New Mexico from Colorado about nine months ago. Just before I moved, I had my Colorado driver's license reinstated. Unfortunately Colorado does not forward driver's licenses, so I never received it in the mail. Being a lazy guy who doesn't think about this stuff as much as I should, I just let it go, knowing that technically I was licensed, and knowing that I don't drive very much since I work at home.

However, now I'm going on a road trip to Washington state, so I wanted to try to get my New Mexico license. It's easy on the New Mexico end - they just need my Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) from Colorado and some documents which I have in front of me. However, it's very difficult to get Colorado to fax an MVR. I struggled all day on the phone with them, but to no avail.

It's my understanding that driving without a copy of your license can get you a ticket; is this correct? If it's just a ticket, I think I can chance it. Is there anything more that could happen?

For what it's worth, we'll be driving in New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, and Washington.
posted by koeselitz to Travel & Transportation around Missouri (9 answers total)
(Ms. Veg)
If they pull you over, you'll get a ticket for driving without a valid license. When you show up to court with your valid license, that ticket gets dismissed.

Don't get pulled over, and you should be fine.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:08 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

(still Ms. Veg)
Now that I think about it, an insurance company might be able to get a copy of your MVR from Colorado for you. We pull them every day to check your driving record history.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:13 PM on March 26, 2012

I would strongly suggest having some other kind of official photo ID. While you probably would just get off with a ticket, it is probable that a police officer would want to verify your identity. Without an ID, this could become troublesome. As in, you have to go to the station until something gets figured out.
posted by gjc at 4:15 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Note that 'show up to court' is show up to the possibly podunk town where you got the ticket. If you're living in NM it could be quite the hassle to get to Ogden UT to fix your ticket.
posted by sbutler at 4:17 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Swing by colorado and get it. But don't forget your proof of address.
posted by kenaldo at 4:48 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Consider memorizing your valid Colorado driver's license number if you do have it available. That way you could at least provide it to a police officer if you do get pulled over, and they could run it through the system to confirm. In my case, an old job required me to write down my license number all the time, but the officer didn't even ask why I had it memorized. And it sure would suck if you accidentally left your wallet at the truck stop back in that other city or had it stolen the night before, but at least then if you got pulled over you'd have a story that didn't involve explaining why you're willfully driving without a valid license in your possession.
posted by Balonious Assault at 4:50 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are not a middle-class-looking white person, I highly, highly recommend you don't do this without a physical copy of your license.
posted by tristeza at 5:09 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Heads up: Depending on where you're starting in NM, you might have to go through an immigration check point. (I did driving through midday in 2010)
posted by maryr at 7:15 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some states have laws that invalidate out-of-state DIs if you are a resident of the state for x number of days. This means your Colorado license may be invalid anyhow. You're playing with some fire that could get seriously 'inconvenient', to say the least.
posted by Goofyy at 4:52 AM on March 27, 2012

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