Driving without a license in Romania – consequences and sanctions (Article 335 of the Criminal Code)
In Romania, traffic offenses, which aim to protect the safety of traffic on public roads, are among the most common in judicial practice.
Knowing how they are enforced is of interest to drivers and people wishing to acquire a driving license, and there are many risks you expose yourself to by not knowing what is punishable by criminal law.
These offenses include driving without a license, which Article 335 of the Criminal Code covers. It can be seen that there are several distinct types of conduct, each with different criminal consequences:
Art. 335: Driving a vehicle without a driving license
(1) Driving a motor vehicle or a tram on public roads by a person who does not have a driving license shall be punishable by imprisonment for a term of one to five years.
(2) The driving on public roads of a vehicle for which the law provides for the obligation to hold a driving license by a person whose driving license is not appropriate to the category or subcategory of which the vehicle in question is part or whose license has been withdrawn or canceled or whose right to drive has been suspended or who is not entitled to drive motor vehicles in Romania shall be punishable by imprisonment for a term of 6 months to 3 years or a fine.
(3) The same penalty shall be imposed on a person who entrusts a vehicle for which the law provides for the obligation to hold a driving license for driving on public roads to a person whom he knows to be in one of the situations referred to in paragraph 1. (1) or paragraph (2). (2) or under the influence of alcohol or psychoactive substances.
1. Driving a motor vehicle without a driving license in Romania
We note that there is no provision for the alternative penalty of a fine, thus underlining the seriousness of committing such an offense, which is punishable by imprisonment from 1 to 5 years.
This way of committing the offense, which is provided for in Art. 335 para. (1) of the Criminal Code presupposes that the person in question is not legally entitled to drive the vehicle.
Therefore, if you are in a situation where, although you have acquired the right to drive, you do not have the documents required to drive the vehicle (driving license, identity card, etc.) or their validity has expired, you should bear in mind that you have not committed the offense of driving without a license. Similarly, if you have passed your driving test but have not yet received your driving license, you are not committing the offense of driving without a license. Instead, these offenses are punishable by a fine, as provided for in Article 101 of the O.U.G. 195/2002 on traffic on public roads, and you may therefore be fined for these offenses.
Even the term “driving” used in criminal law has caused controversy, as there is no clear definition. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that driving a motor vehicle is the technical operation by which a person sets the vehicle in motion and directs it on public roads. Thus, driving a motor vehicle on public roads by a person does not necessarily imply that the engine is running, but means “directing the movement of a vehicle, of a car, from within it, even if the engine is not running.”
According to this interpretation, it makes no difference how the vehicle is set in motion (inertia; towing by another vehicle) as long as the person operating the brakes/steering system is not entitled to drive.
2. Driving by a person whose driving license is inappropriate for the category/subcategory of the vehicle, whose license has been withdrawn or canceled, whose exercise of the right to drive has been suspended, or who is not entitled to drive motor vehicles in Romania.
- Driving of a motor vehicle by a person whose driving license does not correspond to the category/subcategory of the vehicle.
You must always comply with the vehicle category/subcategory for which you have been granted the right to drive. For example, if you only have a driving license for categories AM (e.g., moped), B, and B1 and want to drive a vehicle used for goods transport (category C, CE), you should be aware that this is a criminal offense.
- Driving a motor vehicle by a person with a suspended or revoked/withdrawn driving license.
A driving license suspension is an additional penalty for violating traffic rules. When a 30 to 90-day license suspension is ordered, the traffic officer may issue a replacement driving license for 15 days. After the expiry of the validity of the proof, if a person drives a vehicle during the period of suspension, he commits the offense referred to in Article 335 para. (2) of the Penal Code.
The cancellation of a license is often a consequence of a conviction for a road traffic offense (incidents resulting in culpable homicide/injury, driving without a license, etc.).
It has recently been established that a person who drives a motor vehicle between the time of the conviction and the issuing of the cancellation decision by the traffic police commits the offense of driving without a license. There is no longer a requirement to communicate the annulment decision; the existence of the criminal judgment is sufficient to lose the right to drive a motor vehicle.
The license may be withdrawn when the competent bodies of the Traffic Police issue a decision to this effect following a referral from an authorized medical establishment that has ascertained that the person is unfit to drive a motor vehicle.
- Driving by a person not entitled to drive in Romania
If a person has the right to drive on the territory of a state, it does not automatically mean that he/she can drive on the territory of Romania. Suppose the driving license they hold is not issued by an EU country or a country with which Romania has a convention on the mutual recognition of driving licenses. In that case, they are not entitled to drive in Romania.
All of the above are situations covered by the offense of driving without a license. Still, there are situations in which criminal law provides a more lenient penalty, namely imprisonment from 6 months to 3 years or a criminal fine.
3. Entrusting a motor vehicle to a person who is not entitled to drive it or is under the influence of alcohol or psychoactive substances in Romania.
The act of entrustment presupposes the existence of unrestricted access to the vehicle, resulting from the consent of the person who had possession of it (not necessarily the owner of the vehicle).
Romanian criminal law intends to severely punish people who encourage non-compliance with traffic safety rules on public roads. The same penalty (6 months to 3 years or a fine) is provided for anyone who entrusts a vehicle to a person who has a suspended/canceled/restricted license or is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In the case of entrusting the vehicle to a person under the influence of alcohol, the person entrusting the vehicle is considered to commit the offense only if the person under the influence of alcohol has an alcoholic strength of more than 0.80 g/l pure alcohol in his/her blood.
Only intentional entrustment is punishable, and only the person who commits this act, knowing that he/she is not entitled to drive or is in a physical condition, is punished.
- Am I only criminally liable if an accident resulted in damage or there are victims?
Liability exists. It is not conditional on the existence of material consequences (accidents, material damage, victims, etc.).
There is still this myth in the collective mind about road traffic offenses. Still, in reality, the criminal law punishes acts that have created a danger to road safety, and driving a vehicle without a driving license makes a threat to road safety, because a person without a driving license is not considered capable of driving a vehicle safely.
Contact Blaj Law if you need a law firm in Romania.