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A friend plans to go to USA in June. There he wants to rent a car to travel through the country. Unfortunately, he got a speeding ticket during the last weeks now his driving license is suspended for half a year.

Is he now still allowed to rent and drive a rental car in the USA? He argues that the license ban is only valid in his home country and not in foreign countries, but is this really true?

He has still his driving license that he could show the police in USA, and I think they have no chance to check if it is banned here?

  • Hm, lucky them. In Germany, you have to physically hand in your licence for the time it’s suspended iirc. (On the upside, you get to choose the starting date within limits.) And if you get an international driving licence, that can be used in the US instead of your regular one, again iirc. – Jan Jan 11 '17 at 19:45
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Are you after the physical answer, or the legal one?

Presuming he still physically has his license, and it has an expiry date beyond when he will be renting the car, then he will most likely be able to physically rent a car. If he is pulled over by the police, then he will most likely be able to lie and claim that his license is valid, and he will probably get away with it.

However doing that will be illegal on many levels.

Firstly, when renting a car, part of the rental agreement is that you have a valid drivers license and are legally allowed to drive in the country you'll be driving in. As his license has been suspended he will NOT have a valid license, and will NOT be legally allowed to drive in the US. Thus by renting the car he will be committing fraud.

Next, by actually driving, he will be driving without a license. Most countries (including the US) allow you to drive based on having a valid license in your home country. He does not, thus he will be driving illegally.

When driving without a license, any insurance coverage he has (including the rental car companies (self-)insurance, travel insurance, etc) will be invalidated. He will be fully responsible financially for any accidents he causes, and very probably even if he isn't at fault. If he is involved in an accident you can all but guarantee that they will check on the validity of his home-country license, and not just take it for granted that it's valid.

If he is pulled over by a police officer it's unlikely they will be able to tell that his overseas license is suspended, but if they can then he will definitely be charged, which will not only come with a hefty fine, but will leave him in a very unfortunate position as far as returning his rental car is concerned as they will not let him drive it to return it to the rental company.

So can he rent a car? Yes.

Will he get away with it? Probably.

Will he be breaking countless laws and potentially risking prison time? YES! (Driving without a license in California can lead to up to 6 months prison, I'm presuming other states are similar)

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    This is basically true all over the world. If he physically still has the license, he'll be able to rent (albeit not legally). Without the physical license, he has zero chance. – Doc Apr 30 '12 at 16:21
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    @RoflcoptrException Typically what people mean by that is that if you are caught abroad doing something that could result in a ban, there isn't necessarily a way to suspend your license in your home country. The catch is that your right to drive abroad is derived from having a valid license in your home country in the first place so even if the ban only applies to this country, on what basis would you drive elsewhere? – Relaxed Feb 5 '14 at 10:18
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    Let's not forget another important point. If you are involved in an accident, the validity of your license will be checked. All the above answer means the book will be thrown at you, AND you will be sued by the other party. If you are unlucky enough to seriously hurt someone you will be sued into the stone age. – DJClayworth Jul 4 '15 at 21:06
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    In case people are wondering how a license could be suspended without being retained by the police: many states suspend licenses after a certain number of penalty points, and the points do not accrue until you are convicted of the violation (including if you do not contest it and pay the fine). There are certain exceptions to this, especially for drunk driving, where the license is confiscated but you are given a temporary receipt that enables you to drive pending adjudication, but for a large number of small violations, you will be notified of suspension by mail. – Andrew Lazarus Aug 19 '16 at 0:36
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    @AndrewLazarus You could also lose your license document (falls behind the sofa and you cannot find it), get a replacement document, find the lost one, get your license suspended, hand in one physical license, and keep the one that you claimed as lost. – gnasher729 Dec 23 '17 at 23:24

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