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Penalties for Driving an Unregistered Vehicle in Tampa

Are you thinking about driving an unregistered vehicle in the Sunshine State? It might come as a surprise to discover that this violation is considered a criminal offense in Florida!

If law enforcement officials catch you driving a vehicle without the proper registration, you could face a second-degree misdemeanor charge. The good news? As long as you’re up to speed on all of the state’s road laws, you can take the proper steps to register your vehicle and avoid this issue.

Today, we’re taking a look at the rules you need to know. And, how a strong legal team can help your case if you’re currently facing these penalties.

Penalties for Driving an Unregistered Vehicle in Florida

If you’re found to be driving a vehicle with no valid registration, you could face a second-degree misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Under some circumstances, the police could even charge you with a Notice to Appear and arrest you for the violation.

This mandate is in place due to Florida Statute 320.02, which states that every person who owns or is in charge of a motor vehicle driven or operated on the roads must register the vehicle in the state of Florida.

This language can get a little tricky, but the definition of “motor vehicle” is anything that has wheels and a motor. This can include a variety of different vehicles, including:

  • Automobiles
  • Motorcycles
  • Trucks
  • Trailers
  • Semi-trucks and semi-trailers
  • Recreational vehicles that have a separate motor power or are mounted on a vehicle

While these charges are difficult enough, it’s also important to note that under the law, misdemeanor offenses cannot be sealed or expunged. This means that the charge will remain on your record for 10 years. Most of the time, police only realize that a driver is operating an unregistered vehicle when they pull them over for another reason, such as:

  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Reckless or distracted driving
  • Running a red light
  • Running a stop sign
  • Making an unsafe lane change

If they ask for your license and registration and you cannot provide the latter, they could give you not one but two traffic tickets.

Records Check

Even if a driver tries to explain the absence by saying the registration documents are at home. They will still get caught. Police officers perform a routine records check every time they pull someone over. This check allows them to see if there are any warrants out for the driver’s arrest or if the vehicle is stolen.

The check will also alert them if the car is unregistered. Before issuing a charge, they will usually consider a few other factors. Including your level of cooperation and any prior arrests or open warrants you have faced.

Expired vs. No Registration

The driving penalties for operating an unregistered vehicle are different from those you could face if your vehicle is registered but the documents have expired.

If the police catch you driving with an expired tag or registration, the most likely penalty is a ticket, especially if this is your first offense. In most cases, this offense will be considered a non-criminal, minor traffic violation. You may need to pay a fine, but it won’t usually be higher than $100.

However, if you’re caught driving with an expired registration for the second time or your registration expired more than six months ago, the penalty will escalate to a second-degree criminal misdemeanor charge. Florida Statute 320.07 states that if a vehicle’s tag has expired for more than six months, and this is your second or subsequent offense. You could face a criminal charge punishable by up to 60 days in jail.

If you’re facing this charge or you’ve been caught driving a vehicle that isn’t registered at all, the offense will typically lead to a court date. Once you’re in court, you’ll need to prepare your defense and decide if you will plead guilty or not guilty.

What About a New Car?

One of the questions we’re frequently asked is, “Could I face a penalty for driving a brand-new vehicle without a registration?” If you’re just leaving the dealership with a new set of keys, yes, you can drive your vehicle home.

However, don’t leave the car lot without making sure that the dealer has issued you a temporary license plate. This plate will be made out of paper, but it will help protect you until your metal license plate and vehicle title are in place.

If you purchased your vehicle from a dealership, they are responsible for helping you obtain your plate and title. If you bought it from a private party, that next step will be on you. The car’s plates will stay with the seller, and you’ll need to visit a local vehicle service center to register the car in your name.

These centers are operated by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. You can go here to search for a location near you.

Timeline Restrictions to Know

While a paper license plate can serve as a stand-in for an official license plate and registration. You can’t use it indefinitely. Under Florida law, you can only drive your new car with this temporary tag for up to 30 days. When that time is up, you must have a metal license plate. As well as, a vehicle title in place to avoid a criminal charge.

If the deadline is coming up and you still haven’t received the necessary items. It’s best to arrange different transportation in the interim. Dealerships are prohibited from issuing more than one temporary tag. Plus, they cannot extend the 30-day time period under any circumstance.

Need a Legal Defense for Your Unregistered Vehicle Charge?

If you’ve been caught driving an unregistered vehicle, you might be facing some pretty intimidating charges. Before you move forward, it’s best to hire a criminal defense lawyer to support your case.

Our team at RHINO Lawyers can help you defend your rights, avoid maximum penalties, and get back on the road in confidence. We can also represent you in court. To learn more about our approach and the services we can provide, contact us to schedule a free consultation!


RHINO Lawyers can help and guide you through a system molded by law enforcement, judges, and lawyers for decades. Having won cases for our clients in similar circumstances, our criminal defense team knows what it takes to fight on your behalf.

Let RHINO Lawyers answer your questions and review the facts of your case with a Free Consultation. So, get started by completing the “Free Instant Case Evaluation” or by calling us any time, day or night, at (844) RHINO-77.