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Q

What are the penalties for driving without insurance? I know someone that got pulled over for the 3rd time in 10 yrs and he didn't have insurance. What will happen?


A

Driving without insurance is a bad idea and penalties in many states tend to grow more severe if you’re caught driving uninsured multiple times because you’ve now shown a pattern of disregarding the state’s motor vehicle financial responsibility laws.

We can’t tell you what exactly will happen to your friend for driving uninsured for a third time since the penalties for driving without insurance vary greatly from state to state (check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles to find out exactly your state laws and punishments), but we can give you general information. 

Many states impose fines (from light to heavy) for those who drive without auto insurance or continue to drive even if they know they have a lapse in their car insurance coverage. Jail time is also a possibility in several states.

In some states, you will also be penalized by having your license suspended, your vehicle's registration suspended, and even your car impounded on the spot if you’re found be driving without insurance. A few states will even seize your vehicle if you’ve been caught multiple times without car insurance.

Here are a couple of examples of penalties for driving without insurance:

In Ohio, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles states that if you’re caught driving without financial responsibility (insurance) the court will hand down fines, and then the administrative penalties can include:

  • Suspension of driver's license for a minimum of 90 days and up to 2 years,
  • Suspension of your license plates and vehicle registration
  • Reinstatement fees ranging from $150 to $650
  • Requirement to file a SR-22. 
  • Third and subsequent convictions of driving without insurance can result in vehicle forfeiture and a five-year suspension of vehicle registrations. 

Delaware has some of the highest fines for driving without insurance.  Their Division of Motor Vehicles state that if you are convicted of driving without auto insurance, you’ll be fined at least $1,500 for a first offense and $3,000 for each subsequent offense occurring within three-years of a former offense.  Your license will also be suspended for six months.

If your state’s punishment includes a suspended license or registration, then typically you’ll have to pay hundreds of dollars in reinstatement fees once your suspension is over.  And if you’re caught driving during the suspension, then you’ll visit the courthouse again and receive even more fines and possible jail time in most states.

The consequences can be far more serious if you’re involved in an accident while driving without auto insurance or other financial responsibility coverage.  The penalties can be much more severe if you cause property damage or bodily injury to others and are found uninsured.

For example, if you are involved in a crash without insurance in Ohio you may have a security suspension of your license for two years or more and a judgment suspension for an indefinite period until damages are paid.

And, Illinois law was toughened up in recent years for those who injure someone while driving without insurance -- it’s considered a Class A misdemeanor that comes with a fine amount of $2,500 and the court can hand out jail time.

If you don’t injure anyone, but are caught operating an uninsured vehicle in Illinois you will get a fine of $500 to $1,000, plus a three-month driver’s license suspension.  Your registration is also suspended until proof of insurance is shown and a reinstatement fee is paid.  

One of the main reasons that car insurance is required is so that motorists have the means to pay for damages they cause to others.  So, if you’re driving without insurance and in an accident, you’ll have to compensate the people you harmed by paying out-of-pocket for any injuries or damages to property that you caused.  

In many states, if you do not repay the person, or their insurer if that is who is pursuing you for payment, then your license can be suspended indefinitely. If a person is severely injured in the accident, you may be looked at for hundreds of thousands worth of medical bills, and that puts your assets and future earnings at risk.

If you’ve been cited for driving without insurance, then you’ll likely be required to comply with the financial responsibility laws by filing a certificate of future financial responsibility (such as the SR-22, FR-44, or SR16) to get your license back.  This means getting a car insurance policy – even if you don’t own a car.

A lapse in car insurance can cause your rates to be higher when you first obtain a policy, but by paying on time and keeping continuous coverage in as little as six-months you should be able to find more affordable car insurance coverage.

State laws are such that if you have a registered car you need to maintain financial responsibility on it.  Be smart and keep your car insured -- don’t risk suspensions, fines and jail time plus put your own assets at risk.  If you’re uninsured, shop now for a car insurance quote.  


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