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Driving an Unregistered Vehicle in Florida: Penalties & Defenses

Home » Blog » Driving an Unregistered Vehicle in Florida: Penalties & Defenses

by | Nov 9, 2022 | Florida Laws

Driving an Unregistered Vehicle in Florida

Did you know that driving an unregistered vehicle in Florida is a criminal offense? In fact, it’s a second-degree misdemeanor.

Fortunately, you can avoid getting penalized with a misdemeanor charge when you understand and follow Florida Law.

So read on to learn more about the penalties for driving an unregistered vehicle in Florida.

Can You Drive an Unregistered Car You Just Bought in Florida?

Yes, you can drive a car you just bought in the state of Florida before you register it.

If you purchase a new or used car from a dealer, they will issue you a temporary paper license plate. The dealer is responsible for getting your metal license plate (tag) and vehicle title.

If you buy a used or new vehicle from a private seller, the plates will stay with the seller. As the buyer, you then must visit a motor vehicle service center from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) and register the vehicle in your name.

How Long Can I Drive a Car Without Registration in Florida?

You can drive your newly bought new or used car for up to 30 days without the metal license plate and vehicle title.

However, you must have the proper valid registration after 30 days, or you could face criminal charges.

Additionally, Florida law prohibits dealers from issuing a second temporary tag, so it’s not possible to extend the 30-day allotment.

What Is the Penalty for Driving With Expired Registration in Florida?

The penalty for driving with an expired registration is much less severe than driving an unregistered vehicle. That is unless your vehicle registration has already been expired for more than six months.

Under Florida Statute 320.07, if your car registration expired within the last six months, you will face a non-criminal minor traffic violation and need to pay a fine. The fine usually doesn’t exceed $100 but is circumstantial, so it may be higher.

If your car registration expired more than six months ago, you’ll face the same penalties as driving an unregistered motor vehicle.

To ensure your vehicle is correctly registered with the state of Florida, follow the guidelines in Florida Statute 320.02.

How Can I Get Charged for “Unregistered Motor Vehicle”?

Typically, you will receive a charge for an unregistered motor vehicle when a law enforcement officer pulls you over for an alleged moving violation. This includes

  • Distracted or reckless driving
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Speeding
  • Unsafe lane change

When the police officer runs your information during the stop, they will see that your vehicle is unregistered. Unfortunately, this means you’ll get two tickets, one for the moving violation and another for driving an unregistered motor vehicle.

However, a law enforcement officer isn’t required to stop you for a traffic ticket before running your vehicle tag. Instead, they only need a valid reason to pull you over and run your license plate to discover if you’re driving an unregistered vehicle.

What Is a “Motor Vehicle” Under the Florida Statute?

According to Florida Statute 320.01, “motor vehicle” includes:

  • Automobiles
  • Motorcycles
  • Recreational vehicles used for recreation, travel, and camping, that have their own motor power or are mounted on another vehicle
  • Semi-trucks
  • Semi-trailers and semi-trailer combinations
  • Trailers
  • Truck tractors
  • Trucks

This statute also includes all other vehicles operating on Florida roads used to transport persons or property and propelled by power other than muscular power (the human body).

However, the definition excludes the following:

  • Bicycles
  • Electric bicycles
  • Micro-mobility devices
  • Mobile carriers and special mobile equipment under Florida Statute 316.003
  • Mopeds
  • Motorized scooters
  • Personal delivery devices
  • Road rollers
  • Swamp buggies
  • Traction engines
  • Vehicles that run on a track

Penalties for Unregistered Motor Vehicle Charges

The most common penalty you’ll face for failure to register the vehicle in Florida is a citation (ticket). But you can be penalized with any or all of the following:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • Up to 60 days in jail
  • Up to six months probation or community control

Unfortunately, the police officer can also issue you a Notice to Appear and even arrest you for the violation.

During the stop, the law enforcement officer will consider other factors when deciding what action to take against you. They include:

  • Level of cooperation
  • Open warrants
  • Prior arrests

Further, you can also receive this misdemeanor charge under Florida Statute 320.261 if you knowingly attach a registration license plate that was not lawfully assigned to you.

Defense for Unregistered Motor Vehicle Charges

If you’re a Florida driver facing an unregistered motor vehicle charge, you’ll want to hire a criminal defense lawyer for assistance. Their legal advice can help you avoid the maximum penalties.

Additionally, it’s important to note that criminal traffic violations, punishable as misdemeanor offenses, cannot be sealed or expunged under Florida law. So receiving this misdemeanor charge will remain on your record for ten years.

Even for a first-time offense, court attendance is mandatory. It’s always best to have an attorney represent you before a judge.

Yet, you may wonder how your lawyer can defend and help you with your case. Here are some defenses your chosen law firm may try to use.

Vehicle Not Actually Operated

Motor vehicles that are not actually operated are exempt from the registration requirement. Florida Statute 320.01 also defines what it means to operate a vehicle under Florida law.

Not Actually a Motor Vehicle

In some instances, your lawyer can argue that you weren’t operating a motor vehicle under Florida Statute 320.01.

Exempt vehicles don’t meet the registration requirement.

No Proof of Registration

If you don’t have proof of valid registration, but your vehicle is registered correctly, you should be in the clear. Not having valid registration on your person at all times is not the same as having an unregistered vehicle.

However, you can avoid this problem by keeping your vehicle registration in your vehicle. Also, review the expiration date to know when you need to renew it.

Florida Traffic Lawyers

Driving an unregistered vehicle in Florida can land you in hot water with the law. But if you follow the advice here, you should be able to avoid any dire penalties.

If you’re a Florida resident who needs a criminal defense lawyer to fight an unregistered motor vehicle charge, contact us at Florida Ticket Firm. We offer a free consultation so you can meet our team to see how we can best assist you, with no strings attached.