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14th Amendment Right to Travel Without License

14th Amendment Right to Travel Without License

The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution is a crucial piece of legislation. Ratified in 1868, it was initially introduced to guarantee equal rights and protection under the law for former slaves after the Civil War. Over time, it has served as the backbone for civil rights claims, touching on numerous issues beyond its original intention. Among these is the claim that the 14th Amendment supports the right to travel freely without a license. However, legal interpretations surrounding this claim have led to complex and often misunderstood discourses. This article will provide a comprehensive analysis of the claim regarding the 14th Amendment and the right to travel without a license.

The 14th Amendment: A Brief Overview

The 14th Amendment has five sections. The most pertinent for this discussion is Section 1, which states: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

This is commonly referred to as the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause. It’s these sections that some argue provide a constitutional right to travel without a license.

Interpretation of the 14th Amendment: The Right to Travel

The United States Supreme Court has long recognized a fundamental “right to travel” within the U.S. However, this right is not directly mentioned in the Constitution but is inferred from various provisions, including the 14th Amendment.

Cases such as Saenz v. Roe (1999) have reinforced this right, where the Supreme Court held that the right to travel includes the right of citizens to move freely between states, the right to be treated equally in their new state of residency, and the right for any U.S. born citizen to be treated as a citizen in any state in the U.S.

However, the court has not ruled that this right to travel extends to the unrestricted use of public roads without a proper license or qualification.

The 14th Amendment and Driving Without a License

Many who argue that they have a right to travel without a driver’s license reference the “right to use the roadway” as a fundamental right of liberty protected by the Due Process Clause. They claim that requiring a license infringes on this right.

However, courts have consistently held that driving a motor vehicle is not a fundamental right but rather a privilege that can be regulated by the state. In cases such as Hertado v. California (1884), the court held that “the state has a legitimate interest in ensuring the safety and competence of drivers on its highways, and may do so by requiring drivers to pass an examination and obtain a license.”

This position was further strengthened by the case of Miller v. Reed (1999), where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the “right to travel, although a fundamental right, does not include the ability to drive without a valid driver’s license.”


In conclusion, while the 14th Amendment does protect a citizen’s right to travel, this should not be conflated with a right to drive without a license. The courts have repeatedly affirmed the states’ ability to regulate the operation of motor vehicles on their roads, including the requirement for a driver’s license. Therefore, while the discussion surrounding the 14th Amendment and the right to travel without a license is fascinating, current legal precedent does not support the notion of unrestricted driving without a license.

As with all legal interpretations, this could evolve with time and further court rulings. But as of now, the 14th Amendment’s protection of the right to travel does not extend to include unlicensed driving. As always, anyone wishing to exercise their perceived rights should consult with a knowledgeable attorney to understand the potential legal ramifications fully.

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