International Driver's Permit Has Boundaries

Monday, 02 Mar 2009 10:16 AM

By Bruce Mandelblit

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Perhaps you have seen the multitude of ads for the international driver’s license. The ads might promise you can drive if you have too many points on your state-issued drivers’ license. And the ads may indicated that you can drive if your state-issued license has been suspended or revoked, even for drunken driving.

Well, guess what?

Although an international driver’s permit is a real document when the proper authorities issue it, it is not a legal alternative to your state-issued license, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Plus, if a law enforcement officer stops you and you present an international permit as proof of identity and your authorization to drive a motor vehicle, you may be arrested.

What is an international driver’s permit? Since the United States is a party to a United Nations treaty that gives residents of one country the right to drive in other countries using the driver’s license issued by the government where they live, the international permit is simply a document to make this arrangement easier. The international version merely translates your state-issued driver’s license into 10 languages so you can show it to officials in foreign countries to help them interpret your driver’s license.

Here’s a key fact: For U.S. residents, international permits are useless within the United States. The permits are not intended to replace state-issued driver’s licenses and should be used only as a supplement to a valid license when traveling to a foreign county. Also, the international permits are not proof of identity.

The U.S. State Department has authorized only two organizations to issue international permits to U.S. residents: the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance. They are permitted to sell the permits only to people who are at least 18 and only to those who have a valid driver’s license issued by a U.S. state or territory. The charge for an authorized international permit is $10 each.

Here is how the scam operates: Ads for fake permits commonly pop up on Web sites and as spam e-mail. In addition, some permits are sold on the street and through shady storefront businesses. The going price for fake permits is about $65 to $350.

These scammers falsely claim that their documents will:

  • Authorize consumers to drive legally in the U.S. even if they don’t have a state-issued license, or if their state-issued license has been suspended or revoked.

  • Can be used to avoid points or fines affecting state-issued drivers’ licenses.

  • Can be used as a photo identification in the United States.

    All these claims are false, according to the FTC. In fact, if you are a U.S. resident and you are caught using an international permit in place of your state-issued driver’s license, the consequences can be severe. You could be charged with driving without a license or driving with a suspended or revoked license.

    To learn more about the driver’s license requirements in your state, contact your legal professional and your local department of motor vehicles. If you plan to drive overseas, contact the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance for information about acquiring a legitimate international permit.

    For details, log on to www.ftc.gov.

    Bruce (Mandelblit.com) is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. His e-mail address is: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.

    This column is provided for general information only. Check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to your jurisdiction.

    Copyright 2008 by Bruce Mandelblit

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