Can you legally drive, fly or buy alcohol with an expired driver’s license in California?

When the expiration date of your driver’s license sneaks up on you unexpectedly, it can be a hassle trying to figure out how it might impact your daily life.

Whether you’re driving down the road to pick up groceries, flying out of state or buying a drink on a night out, can you use an expired driver’s license?

Here’s what California law says you can and cannot do with an expired license:

How often do you have to renew your California driver’s license?

Chris Orrock, a spokesperson for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, said California driver’s licenses are typically valid for five years before they have to be renewed.

“Some Californians may also want to update their DLs before they expire, such as changing their name, address and gender identity,” Orrock wrote in an email to The Bee.

In California, drivers can renew their driver’s license online by filling out the online application.

For drivers 70 and older, Orrock said California law requires them to renew their driver’s license at a DMV office.

“Drivers 70 and older must take the knowledge test every five years to renew,” Orrock wrote. “The knowledge test (or an alternative eLearning course) can also be taken online prior to the office visit.”

While renewing a license can result in a $41 fee, Orrock said there are no additional late charges to renew one that has already expired.

Can you drive with an expired license in California?

Driving with an expired license is against the law, according to the California DMV website.

“The expiration date is noted on the card,” Orrock wrote. “It is illegal to drive with an expired DL and a driver can be cited by law enforcement.”

According to NOLO, an online legal encyclopedia, driving with an expired license is equal to driving without a valid license.

“The offense ... carries a fine of up to $250 as an infraction and up to six months in jail and a maximum of $1,000 in fines as a misdemeanor,” the NOLO website states.

Can you fly with an expired license in California?

You can temporarily use an expired driver’s license as acceptable identification to fly, according to the Transportation Security Administration website.

“TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID a year after expiration,” the TSA website states.

Before May 2025, you must update your card to a real ID.

Can you buy alcohol with an expired license in California?

Devin Blankenship, a spokesperson with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said California Business and Professions Code 119 states it is a misdemeanor to display an expired license. This section of the law mostly deals with fraudulent use, like fake IDs or identity theft.

“Really, it again comes down to the licensee protecting themselves,” Blankenship wrote in an email. “Some businesses have a zero policy when it comes to accepting expired licenses.”

If the person looks over a certain age, Blankenship said some may make an exception and accept the expired license.

“It is all up to the licensees to set policies regarding selling to people 21 and over,” Blankenship said.

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