What to Do if You Lose Your License

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Getting your driver’s license is a momentous occasion. But then, over the years, you take its place in your wallet for granted. You pull it out only when you need to, and any other time, you assume it is where it belongs. Unfortunately, one day you might have reached into your wallet or purse and found it was not in its proper place. No matter how hard you look, you cannot find it.

How to Handle a Lost License

If you have lost your physical driver’s license while at home, there are a few steps to take to make the world right again.

Consider filing a report with the police. If your driver’s license was actually stolen instead of lost, it is good to have filed a report. This also helps you if someone uses your license to commit identity theft.

Go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles, although it may be called something else in your state. Most of the time you will need to go in person, however a few states also have online replacement options for eligible individuals.

You'll need to prove that you are who you say you are, which means you need another form of identification. This may include your Social Security card, passport or birth certificate. You may also need to prove residency by bringing something with your address, such as a utility bill or bank statement. If you are not a U.S. resident, you may need to prove you have a valid visa, as well. You can typically find the documentation you need to bring listed online.

The DMV will charge you a fee. It could be as low as $20 or more than $50. The fee schedule is usually published online.

Once you go through the process at the DMV, your new license should be mailed to you shortly.

Read More: What is a Class E License?

Losing a License While Traveling

If you lost your driver’s license while traveling, matters are a bit more complicated.

You can obtain a driver’s license only in the country and state where you live. If you are currently out of state or in a foreign country and plan to return in a few days or weeks, just wait to get a new license.

However, if you are going to be away for weeks or months, then contact your home-state DMV online or over the phone to determine how you can seek a replacement while away and then have it mailed to you at your current location.

If you have your passport with you, use this as an ID. However, your passport does not give you the privilege to drive. You cannot drive without a physical copy of your license.

It is Illegal to Drive Without a License

If you lose your driver’s license, you should not drive. Getting behind the wheel when you are without a license is illegal.

If you are pulled over without a license, you will receive a ticket. In most states, driving without a license is a misdemeanor offense. You could face fines, jail time and a driver’s license suspension. Fortunately, if you have never been ticketed for this before, a court will likely punish you only with a fine.

Some states are lenient if you have your driving privileges but lost your physical license. You need to speak with a lawyer about this, but it is possible that, if you can obtain a new driver’s license and prove you never drove without the privilege to do so, the charges may be dismissed. Keep in mind, this is the best case scenario and never guaranteed.

If you are in an accident without a license, you will be ticketed even if you did not cause the crash. If you are at-fault for the accident, then driving without a license will make matters worse. You may face multiple traffic violations, and the victims of the crash may use your lack of a license as evidence of negligence.

It can be hard to stomach, particularly if you are having trouble replacing your license, but you should never drive without a valid license.


  • If you lose your license, do not drive. Get to the DMV with proof of your residency and identity as soon as you can to purchase a replacement.