What Happens If a Cop Pulls Me Over & I Have a Learner's Permit?by Stephanie Dube DwilsonUpdated July 12, 2020
If you're pulled over while driving on a learner's permit, the consequences of any citation or warning will depend on the state where the stop occurred and the reason you were stopped. Some stops are for relatively minor infractions that warrant only a warning. For more serious violations, the penalties can be more severe if you have a learner's permit: You can end up with a fine, a citation, restrictions on your permit or, in some cases, suspension of your permit.
Learner's Permit Restrictions
In most states, a driver with a learner's permit must have someone who's at least 21 years old in the front seat of the car with her. In this case, you can face a penalty for driving with a permit alone. Some states also restrict the number of passengers a learner's permit holder can have in her vehicle. These drivers may also have curfews restricting them from driving late at night. If you're driving at night without a qualifying adult in the front seat or past your curfew, you might receive a citation.
Increased Waiting Period
Most states require you to have a learner's permit for a specific length of time before you can apply for a driver's license. In some states, getting any kind of moving violation or citation for breaking a learner's permit restriction can result in the designated fine and also increase how long you must wait to apply for a driver's license. In Maryland, for example, you must have a learner's permit for nine months before you can apply for a driver's license; if you receive a moving violation, your nine-month countdown starts over, even if you were close to completing the time requirement.
Point Systems for Infractions
Some states use a point system to keep track of driving infractions. The type of citation you get determines how many points are entered into your driving record. In Florida, a driver with a learner's permit must not get any points for 12 months before applying for a regular driver's license. If you get a citation in Florida, you must take a four-hour driver improvement course to get the points removed from your record. If you receive six points on your record, additional restrictions will be added, such as only being able to drive for business purposes. These points can add up quickly: Driving 15 miles over the speed limit can add four points alone.
In Virginia, these points are called demerit points. As in Florida, you'll have to attend a driver safety class if you get one demerit point. But a second demerit point is enough to suspend your learner's permit for 90 days. A third point and your license is revoked for a year or until you turn 18.
In other words, if you're pulled over more than once while driving with a learner's permit, you might find your driving privileges further restricted or you might even lose your permit.
Put the Cell Phone Away
Some states have especially strict rules in place for drivers under 18 when it comes to cell phone use. For example, in Virginia, a driver with a learner's permit can't use a cell phone or any wireless device while driving, even if it's a hands-free device. Not only will you get demerit points for this, but you'll also be fined $125 for a first offense and $250 for a second offense.
Zero Tolerance Policies
Many states have zero tolerance policies for certain learner's permit violations. These typically involve driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. In Florida, for example, if you have a learner's permit and are caught with any alcohol in your system, your license will be suspended for six months. If you're pulled over with a learner's permit and you're intoxicated, you'll likely be arrested and may lose your permit.
- Maryland Department of Transportation: Learner's Permit
- Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Licensing Requirements for Teens, Graduated Driver License Laws and Driving Curfews
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles: Traffic Violations - Drivers Under Age 18
- American Automobile Association: Graduated Driver’s Licensing
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.