Is it Legal to Drive in California with an Out-of-State Driver's License?

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Can I Drive in California with an Out-of-State License?

Can I Drive in California with an Out-of-State License?

Jun 3, 2022

California is the most populous state in the nation, with nearly 40 million residents. With the Golden State’s many tourist attractions, it’s also a frequent destination for travelers.

But what does the law say about driving in California with an out-of-state license? In the sections below, we will look at how the Vehicle Code impacts those who drive California’s roads and highways with a license issued by another state.

For Visiting Drivers With Out-of-State Licenses

As a visitor from out-of-state, you may legally drive in the Golden State without a California license. However, you must have a current and valid license from the state in which you reside permanently, and that license must be applicable to the type of vehicle you are operating.

In other words, as a visitor, you may legally drive in California with a license from another state that is:

  • Valid and current
  • Applicable to the vehicle (car, truck, etc.) you are operating

That said, there are certain age restrictions to keep in mind when driving in California with an out-of-state license.

For Out-of-State Drivers Under the Age of 18

If you are under the age of 18, California law stipulates that you may drive for a maximum of 10 days from the time that you enter the state. However, that time limit does not apply to a driver under the age of 18 who:

  • Has a valid driver’s license issued by his or her state
  • Possesses a nonresident minor’s certificate issued by the California DMV
  • Possesses the aforementioned certificate from the California DMV and has filed proof of financial responsibility

For Drivers Who Move to California and Become Residents

If you recently moved to the Golden State and wish to operate a motor vehicle, state law mandates that you apply for a license from the DMV:

  • Within 10 days of becoming a California resident

However, if driving in California is part of your employment duties (e.g. as a delivery driver for Uber/Lyft/DoorDash, etc.), you are legally required to apply for a license immediately. This does not pertain, however, to driving to and from work – only to employment that specifically involves operating a motor vehicle as part of the primary duties.

Failing to apply for a California driver’s license from the state DMV can lead to a charge of “driving without a license” under the state’s Vehicle Code.

Who is Considered a California Resident for Driver’s License Purposes?

Technically, you are considered a resident of California when you move to the state and intend to stay for longer than 10 days.

However, this can be a somewhat grey area and open to interpretation when visiting California for extended periods of time. But the law is strictly applied in certain circumstances, such as:

  • You are paying tuition as a resident of the state
  • You registered to vote in the state
  • You filed for homeowner’s property tax exemption
  • You obtained any type of privilege otherwise not extended to nonresidents of the state (like state-run health insurance, etc.)

What if I Get Into a Car Accident Without a Valid Driver’s License?

Driving without a license can lead to prosecution (although this usually involves a non-criminal or misdemeanor charge).

Under California’s comparative fault law, however, when a car accident occurs, what’s most important is actually who was liable for the crash (and whether or not the at-fault driver has the required insurance minimums).

What are California’s Car Insurance Minimums?

California drivers are required to carry the following auto insurance coverage:

Minimum Bodily Injury Liability Limits:

  • $15,000 for the death or injury of any one person. If one person is injured in the accident, your coverage pays up to $15,000.
  • A total of $30,000 for the death or injury of more than one person in any one accident. If two or more people are injured, the coverage pays up to $30,000. The coverage will not pay more. The injured people share the money.
  • This coverage applies to injuries that you cause to someone else.

Minimum Property Damage Liability Limits:

  • $5,000 for damage to the property of other people.
  • This pays for damage you cause to someone else’s car, or to objects and structures that your car hits.

California drivers may wish to purchase uninsured motorist coverage in addition to the standard minimum policy requirements listed above. For information on California uninsured motorist coverage, please visit our recent blog.

What if I’m Injured in a Car Accident While Driving Without a License?

Although driving without a valid driver’s license is against the law (and never recommended), if you’re an unlicensed driver who is injured in a car accident as a result of another’s negligence, you may still be able to recover financial compensation through a civil lawsuit.

The most important aspect of a car accident case is proving fault, which means that even if you were unlicensed at the time of the crash, the other driver’s negligence which caused your injuries will likely entitle you to financial compensation for certain damages, such as:

  • Hospital or medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation costs
  • Emotional or psychological trauma
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Diminished quality of life

Schedule an appointment online for a free consultation today, or call us directly to speak to our top-rated, expert car accident attorneys.

Contact a Los Angeles, California, Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you’ve been injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence – regardless of whether you had a valid California license at the time of the incident – the team of experienced and proven personal injury lawyers at Dordulian Law Group (DLG) will work tirelessly to recover maximum financial compensation for your claim.

DLG’s California car accident attorneys have more than 25 years of experience fighting to protect the rights of personal injury victims. We’ve helped injured clients secure more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts, and we’ll never settle for anything less than maximum financial compensation for your car accident injury claim.

Contact a car accident lawyer today for a free and confidential consultation at 818-322-4056.


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