Driving without a driving license or a false driving license in Spain

It is a situation straight out of a movie or the news: Someone is stopped by the police without having a driver’s license. But what if this situation occurs in reality in Spain? What penalties can you expect and what to do?

1. Different Kinds of Offences

Generally, there are different kinds of offences that can be committed regarding driving licenses.

Undoubtedly, some of them might fall under the categorization of administrative acts while others might fall under the categorization of criminal acts. Besides, people drive without ever having obtained a driving license. Furthermore, others drive with a license that was withdrawn by the public authorities. Moreover, there are people whose driving license that is expired. Additionally, some people can be found whose driving license from another country or a driving license obtained for another category of motor vehicles.


2. Administrative Proceedings

a. When are Administrative Proceedings Introduced?

Currently, administrative proceedings are initiated in case of smaller road offences. Indeed, examples for smaller road offences are: Driving with an expired driving license, another category of motor vehicle than allowed by the driving or a driving license not approved in Spain. Here, an example for driving with a driving license for another category of motor vehicles can be mentioned. Thereby, an individual drives a motor vehicle heavier or having more cubic capacity than allowed on the individual’s driving license.

b. The Legal Basis for Administrative Offences

Administrative proceedings regarding road offences are not governed by the Código Penal but by the Law on Traffic, Circulation of Motor Vehicles and Road Safety. For example, Art. 77 Law on Traffic, Circulation of Motor Vehicles and Road Safety deals with situations where individuals drive with an expired driving license. More specifically, this is an example of a smaller road offence which is categorized as an administrative offence instead of a criminal offence.

c. Punishment of Administrative Offences

After all, as administrative proceedings are dealing with comparably smaller road offences, the punishment is lower compared to criminal proceedings. Nevertheless, smaller road offences are punished with penalties up to two-hundred euros or points in the driving license register. Apart from this, more severe administrative punishments can be imposed. However, it is possible that an individual is deprived of his driving license for a certain period of time. Hence, this punishment is based on the issuance of an administrative act for the fact that the individual committed a misdemeanor.

3. The Spanish Point System

For road offences, Spain introduced a point system. Truly, while an individual obtains a license the individual is granted eight points. After having a driver’s license for three years an individual who did not commit any road offences will be given twelve points. However, sometimes  someone loses all points. As a result, a legally binding decision will be issued by the public authorities withdrawing the driver’s license for a certain period of time or at all. In this case an individual thus has to do a road safety training being composed of twenty-four hours of training. Nevertheless, if someone needs to earn more points, the individual has the possibility to do a road awareness training and earn six points by that. However, after two years of time elapsed or in case you committed a serious road offence after three years all points recover.

4. Criminal Proceedings

a. Legal Basis

Art. 384 Código Penal deals with the offence of driving without a license which specifically names two situations: Firstly, it covers an individual driving a motor vehicle who never obtained a driving license. Secondly, it covers individuals whose driving license completely lost its validity. This can happen in two situations. The first situation is that an individual lost all register points. The second situation occurs when a public authority issues a legally binding decision to withdraw the validity of a driving license. As a result, Art. 384 Código Penal talks about the existence of a driving license and not about the validity of it. Finally, it is irrelevant whether the license was obtained inside or outside Spanish territory or if it expired.

b. Criminal Procedure

For the criminal offence of driving without a driver’s license the judicial procedure carried out is very fast. In a first step, when the individual is caught by the police while driving without a license, the police immediately issue a fine. Moreover, the police or Guardia Civil immediately summons the individual and introduces all information into a report. Finally, this report is forwarded to the competent court.

i. The Proceedings in Court

It should be noted that, in court, the individual can either accept, appeal or deny the offence. Nevertheless, in case the individual denies or appeals, the judge investigates and judicial proceedings are following. However, in case the individual accepts the offence, the judge issues a legal sentence whereby the individual’s punishment is reduced by 1/3. Additionally, a judge issuing a legally binding decision must take into consideration certain things. As a result, the validity of past administrative decisions withdrawing the license of an individual is considered. This is done because it is an essential condition for the criminalization of the offence of driving without a license. However, in case administrative decisions are declared null and void, crimes cannot be substantiated and individuals not be sentenced under Art. 384 Código Penal.

c. Punishment

i. Severity of the Punishment

Clearly, the way and seriousness in which an individual is punished for the offence of driving without a driver’s license depends on various circumstances. Firstly, the driving style is considered including for example whether the individual drove extremely reckless. Secondly, it is checked whether the individual was driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Thirdly, it is taken into consideration whether the individual repeated this kind of offence and whether the individual has previous criminal records.

ii. Kinds of Punishment That Can be Imposed

Importantly, punishments that can be imposed are laid down in Art. 384 Código Penal. Indeed, those include imprisonment between three months up to six months, a fine between twelve and twenty-four months or community service up to ninety days. In case a judicial conviction for driving without a license is issued, the competent judge can decide to revoke the driving license as a whole. Consequently, this means that after the temporary punishment is carried out, the individual is not allowed to have that driving license anymore.

5. Relation Between Administrative Proceedings and Criminal Proceedings

Individuals driving with wrong or expired driving licenses commit less severe offences than individuals driving without a driving license at all. This follows from the fact that they approximately know how to drive. Importantly, Administrative proceedings and criminal proceedings regarding the same road offence cannot proceed during the same time. When criminal proceedings are at stake in court, the administrative proceedings are stopped immediately. However, in case the criminal proceedings end in a conviction, the administrative proceedings are completely stopped. Nevertheless, in case there is no criminal conviction of the individual, administrative proceedings are starting again as they are separate from the criminal conviction. Thus, the process is the way it is because it should be prevented if an individual is charged for the same road offence two times.

DISCLAIMER: This article could not be updated. We recommend you to hire one of our lawyers to verify the information.

Piñera del Olmo

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 08036 Barcelona

 Phone: +34 93 514 39 97

 Fax: +34 93 127 07 66


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