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What to Do if You Lost Your Driver’s License? How to Replace It?

JUN 15, 2017

What to Do if You Lost Your Driver’s License? How to Replace It? - driver-start.com
Steps You Should Do Prior to DMV Drivers License Replacement. Let’s start from the thing you must not do – you mustn’t drive without your license. You may think that if you are not going to violate traffic rules, there is no reason for a police officer to stop you, and even if you stumble across a police patrol, you can explain them about your lost driver’s license and they will just let you go. In fact, it is illegal to drive on public roads without a driver’s license in all American states, and there is always a chance to be stopped by the police. Are you sure you will be lucky enough to get away with it? And is it really smart to run into new troubles in addition to your lost driver’s license? Thus, even if you are going to drive to the police or to a DMV office, it is better to ask somebody to give you a lift or to call a taxi. Sure, there may be some circumstances where you have no choice: for example, you lost your wallet with a driver’s license somewhere in the forest and you were all alone, so there was nobody to help you. I think, in a situation like this one you have no choice but to drive without your license. However, it is better to call the police and inform them about your lost driver license, if you have your mobile phone working.

Steps You Should Do Prior to DMV Drivers License Replacement 

Let’s start from the thing you must not do – you mustn’t drive without your license. You may think that if you are not going to violate traffic rules, there is no reason for a police officer to stop you, and even if you stumble across a police patrol, you can explain them about your lost driver’s license and they will just let you go. In fact, it is illegal to drive on public roads without a driver’s license in all American states, and there is always a chance to be stopped by the police. Are you sure you will be lucky enough to get away with it? And is it really smart to run into new troubles in addition to your lost driver’s license?

Thus, even if you are going to drive to the police or to a DMV office, it is better to ask somebody to give you a lift or to call a taxi. Sure, there may be some circumstances where you have no choice: for example, you lost your wallet with a driver’s license somewhere in the forest and you were all alone, so there was nobody to help you. I think, in a situation like this one you have no choice but to drive without your license. However, it is better to call the police and inform them about your lost driver license, if you have your mobile phone working.

To Report or Not To Report

Here comes a debatable question – do you need to make a report about the lost license to the police? Some people believe they don’t since it is not required by local DMV rules or any other state regulations. Moreover, many people think it is just stupid to come to the police with such a silly problem as a missing driver’s license. Yes, it is very unlikely that the police will go all out on searching for your license, but still, there are several good reasons to get your loss registered properly.

First of all, you cannot be quite sure whether you lost your license or it was stolen. A stolen driver's license can be used for fraud or other illegal activities since the license serves not only as a document verifying your driving skills but also as an identification document. Even if your driver’s license was really lost, you can’t know who will find it and how it will be used. Thus, when you inform the police about your missing license, you get a kind of protection from possible charges of committing wrongful acts and other troubles resulting from identity theft.

Besides, in some states (for example, in California and Florida) replacement of a driver’s license is allowed without paying a fee, if you provide a corresponding paper from a police agency. Florida requires a copy of a police report, while in California it is necessary to submit a form from the police confirming that a license was lost due to a crime. You can visit a local DMV website to learn about free replacement requirements.

Anyway, you should know that it is not necessary to make a report to the police or other authorities, except your state DMV, since after replacement of your driver’s license, the old document becomes invalid. Thus, the best way to avoid many kinds of problems is to apply for license replacement as soon as possible.

Online Driver’s License Replacement

The procedure of replacing a driver’s license depends on options available in your state. As a rule, the DMV website of each state has a specific section with the information concerning the replacement of lost, stolen or damaged licenses. You are lucky if your state offers an online replacement, like in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania. In this case, you can send a request and even obtain a replaced license right from your home or office. I underwent the procedure in New York and it was quite fast and easy:

  • I chose the online option on the DMV site.
  • Read useful information about downloading a temporary license and changing address.
  • Completed a form specifying my basic personal details, SSN and ZIP code.
  • Paid a $17.50 fee online with my credit card.
  • Downloaded a temporary license from a confirmation page.
  • Printed it and then waited for about a week until a new document came via mail.

The temporary license is valid for 3 months, but in fact, new licenses come faster. As I learned, in other states, the validity of a temporary license varies greatly, from a couple of weeks to several months, while new licenses are usually issued within 10-15 days. The only bad thing about the temporary license is that it can’t be used for identification. And, of course, the printed format is quite flimsy to use it for a long period of time.      

Though my experience of replacing the driver’s license was rather pleasant, I suspect that in many cases the replacement may be not so easy. First, your local DMV has to have your photo and signature on the file for replacing your license online. Then, there are some restrictions on online driver’s license replacement in case an applicant ordered this service before. In some states, you can replace online both lost licenses and learner’s permits, but in other states, you can’t. The online option is also usually unavailable for people having unpaid traffic fines, suspensions and other types of traffic violations. In some cases, you may be required to enter your driver’s license number, which can be a challenge, since it is rather unlikely that you can reproduce all these numbers from memory. Besides, you need to be sure about your mailing address: by default, DMVs send new licenses to the address specified in old licenses. Thus, if you change your address or name, you need to undergo another type of procedure – updating of your driver’s license. In cases your license is going to expire soon, you need to renew your driver license instead of replacing it. Some of these procedures are also available online, but again, it depends on a state.

How to Replace Your Driver’s License in a DMV Office?

If due to some reason you can’t replace your license online, you need to visit a DMV office in person. As a rule, DMVs require the following list of documents for driver’s license replacement (only originals are acceptable):

  • basic identification documents proving an applicant’s name and date of birth, as well as containing his/her signature;
  • SSN confirmation;
  • proofs of residence.

You can find out which documents are acceptable in each state by visiting Driver-Start.com since their lists of required papers are provided depending on a state. It is also likely that you will need to complete a corresponding application form and to pay a fee. As far as I know, the amount of the fee makes up to $30, but in Arkansas, for example, it comes to $10. The requirements vary from state to state, so you need to check the local DMV website. I was surprised to find out that in Washington a person applying for the replacement of driver’s license needs to take an eye exam. In some states like Pennsylvania and New York, they offer a mail-in option in addition to online and in-office replacement.

In fact, even after visiting a DMV office, you may not obtain your new driver’s license instead of the lost or stolen one, since they often issue only a temporary license, like the one you can print from your computer by yourself. Then, they will send you a regular license by mail, so I’d prefer the online replacement if it is available in your state.

How to Replace Lost Driver’s License When Out-Of-State?

While staying out of state or even abroad, you can usually make a request for replacing your lost or stolen DL by mail. It is required to specify your name, date of birth, driver’s license number and SSN, as well as to enclose a check or money order for a fee. When mailing from abroad, be sure to provide the correct address, or it is better to use a pre-addressed envelope. Note that there can be some local restrictions or additional requirements in your state. For example, having a Florida license, you can replace it with a 90-day temporary permit without paying a fee, while WA DMV replaces a lost driver’s license only if you are going to stay out of the state for more than 30 days.