You just did not get around to making your last payment or maybe you were going to shop around for a new insurance company with cheaper rates, but forgot and your car insurance lapsed. You are going to get new insurance as soon as you have time to call around for rates or use the online quoting systems you have heard so much about. In the meantime, when you operate your vehicle on the roadway you are putting yourself in a bad spot. If you are in an accident and are found to be an uninsured motorist, your assets may be at risk since you will be looked at personally to pay for any damages you cause. On the other hand, you may be lucky enough not to be in an accident but you may be stopped for a small infraction such as rolling through a stop sign and be found by police to be driving without insurance. What are the consequences you face for driving without insurance you ask yourself? How much trouble am I in for having no insurance?
The actual charge for driving without insurance varies widely from state to state as do the penalties that are imposed. When your insurance lapses there are certain penalties in place in most states, such as suspension of your car's registration and possibly your driver's license being suspended as well. If you are caught driving without insurance the penalties typically are harsher since not only are you found without insurance but being found on the roadway means that there was the possibility that you could have caused an accident which you would not be covered for and thus would be personally responsible for the damages you caused.
If you are caught, more than once driving without insurance the penalties usually go up - meaning a larger fine amount and even jail time is possible in some states. Not to mention in many states the law enforcement officer that cites you for driving without insurance can impound your vehicle since you are driving without the required insurance and thus your vehicle should not be on the roadway. If your car is impounded normally, the owner will have to go to the impoundment lot and show proof of insurance plus pay towing fees, storage fees, etc to get the car back.
The best way to find out what charge (misdemeanor, traffic infraction, criminal offense, etc) your state considers driving without insurance is to contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles and/or a local law enforcement office. The DMV and police should be able to advise you of the charge you would receive for driving without insurance and the penalties that you would face in court if convicted of this offense. Maybe you would never be caught driving without insurance but know someone that is and need this information from the DMV or police to scare them into obtaining the mandated car insurance for your state and protecting their assets. Here are some examples of what some states do about uninsured motorist that are caught operating a vehicle on the public roadways.
If you fail to maintain proof of insurance on your motor vehicle in South Carolina, you are guilty of a misdemeanor and may face suspension action by the SC Department of Motor Vehicles. Penalties can include the owner's driver license and vehicle registration being suspended and he or she may have to pay $5.00 for each day the vehicle was uninsured, up to $200.00, plus an additional $200.00 reinstatement fee.
In South Carolina, the driver or owner of each vehicle involved in an accident in which there is apparent property damage or injury or death is required to submit verification that the vehicle was properly covered by liability insurance at the time of the accident. Failure to do so may result in the suspension of your vehicle registration and driving privileges. Your credentials will remain suspended until you have confirmed that insurance coverage existed at the time of the accident. If the department determines that no liability insurance coverage existed at the time of the accident, you may be required to pay a $550.00 uninsured motorist fee. You may also be required to file SR-22 certificate of insurance.
If you are informed by the SC DMV to turn in your license and/or registration due to driving without insurance and fail to do so as require then you can be fined between $100 and $200 and or imprisoned for thirty days.
In Oklahoma those who fail to comply with the Compulsory Insurance Law of OK are guilty of a misdemeanor and are subject to a fine of up to $250.00, or imprisonment for not more than thirty (30) days, or both such fine and imprisonment, and in addition thereto, shall be subject to suspension of license and registration.
The Oklahoma DPS Rules for Financial Responsibility discusses suspension for no vehicle liability insurance and states that when the owner fails to timely furnish proof of vehicle liability insurance or of the Department shall immediately suspend the owner's driving privilege and driver license and the registration(s) and license plate(s) of any uninsured motor vehicle registered in the owner's name. The suspension shall remain in effect until payment of the required fees as provided by statute and proof of insurance is presented.
In Indiana, the operator of a vehicle that is without insurance in Indiana is subject to a 90 day license suspension or 1 year suspension if this is a repeat violation of their Financial Responsibility law within 3 years. Driving without insurance in Indiana is a Class A infraction, unless you have had prior convictions for this violation then it is considered a Class C misdemeanor. Beyond getting your license suspended, the driver of an uninsured vehicle could also be assessed points. The point study committee based on an evaluation of the situation shall determine the number of points assessed.
In Indiana, an infraction is the least serious offense to commit. It usually involves a minor violation of law, such as a traffic offense. Infractions are not considered crimes; they call for civil (non-criminal) sanctions. Indiana does not have to prove your guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt," as it does in criminal cases, and you cannot be imprisoned for an infraction violation. An infraction is not a criminal offense so the penalty imposed is a civil judgment. A fine can be imposed, but no jail time. An "A" infraction is the highest type of infraction and can come with a fine of up to $10,000.
In Texas, driving without insurance is a misdemeanor, and thus a criminal offense, however is considered less serious in nature compare to felony offenses such as vehicular homicide or felony DWI. There are severe legal penalties for violating the state's financial responsibility laws. A first conviction will result in a fine between $175 and $350. Subsequent convictions could result in fines of $350 to $1,000, suspension of your driver's license, registration, and impoundment of your automobile.
In some states such as Pennsylvania and Maryland, you do not have to be cited for driving without insurance to be penalized. Just having a lapse in insurance can be enough for your car's registration and/or license to be suspended. In Pennsylvania their auto insurance law states that a lapse in insurance coverage will result in the suspension of your vehicle registration privilege for 3 months. Unless the lapse of insurance was for less than 31 days and the owner or registrant proves to PennDOT or the Bureau of Motor vehicles that the vehicle was not operated during this short lapse.
In Maryland, when you cancel insurance on a registered vehicle the insurance company informs the Motor Vehicle Administration and they send you a notice of a lapse in insurance. Besides fines or penalties imposed by the court for being uninsured, the MVA has penalty fees of $150 for the first 30 days and $7 each day thereafter. To restore the registration there is a $25 fee.
Also as a penalty for having a lapse of auto insurance in Maryland you must turn in your license plates and you lose your vehicle registration privileges. You will be prohibited from registering any future vehicles until all insurance violations are cleared. Be prohibited from renewing a suspended registration until all insurance violations are cleared. To restore your plates and registration you must pay a restoration fee of up to $25 for a vehicle's registration.
So the charges vary from state to state for driving without insurance. In some states driving without insurance is an infraction while in others it is a misdemeanor and with state laws getting stricter there is the possibility of this violation of the law becoming a felony offense, especially if you are cited for other serious offenses, such as drunk driving alone with the driving without insurance offense. While penalties put in place by the state for being without insurance are serious it can even be worse if you are at-fault an accident without insurance. You are now left to pay for all the damages you caused. If a car was extensively damaged or a person seriously injured you could be paying the person or their insurance company back for years to come.
If you are involved in an accident while being uninsured, your state might have even more severe penalties than those previously mentioned. These severe penalties can include such things as license suspension and being required to carry a SR-22 policy for a certain period. Moreover, if you cannot pay back a person you harmed or their insurance company who subrogated with you for the monies they paid out on claims, then in many states your license will be suspended until you either pay back the monies or come to an agreement on a payment plan. If you do not pay back the money and get a judgment against you for, then your license may be suspended indefinitely.
With high fine amounts, license suspension, vehicle registration suspension and the possibility of having to pay out thousands of dollars for an accident you cause it is important that you find time to keep your auto insurance current. If your insurer is canceling or non-renewing your car insurance policy than get a new policy in place before the expiration of current policy. If you want to shop around for insurance to make sure are getting the best rates available to you, don't wait until your policy is already ended.
To change insurance companies you will want to make sure the new policy is in place before the old one expires so that there is not a lapse in insurance. Even a day of lapsed insurance could cause you penalties by your state and serious headaches for you if you are in an accident while you have no insurance to cover you. Getting insurance now is as easy as turning on your computer and inputting information for quotes while you sit on your couch, so don't get caught driving without insurance and end up facing serious consequences.