Cited for Driving Without Insurance? It’s Serious, But Don’t Panic. Here’s What You Can Do

If you have been cited for driving without insurance, your legal options will depend on how the laws work in your state. Driving uninsured is illegal in almost every state, but some states allow for intent - whether or not you knew you were uninsured.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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There is a sickening feeling in your stomach when you get a letter from your insurance company that says they didn’t receive your last payment… and, by the way, they just canceled your motor vehicle liability insurance policy, you now have no auto insurance policy. Preoccupied with the thought that you should have signed up for the “auto-deduct program” your insurance company advertised last month, you don’t pay attention as you roll through a stop sign.

Unfortunately, as your ongoing bad luck would have it, a police officer is sitting nearby waiting to pull you over… and when he asks for proof of insurance, you don’t have any. The officer in this situation will cite you for failing to maintain automobile liability insurance. Now you’re wondering “What happens to me if I drive without auto insurance and I am caught?” What do you do when you are cited for driving with no insurance?

Need legal help because you’ve been cited for driving without insurance? Enter your ZIP code above.

Driving Without Insurance: State Laws

The resolution of your case will depend greatly on your state’s traffic code and your local prosecutor’s enforcement policies.

  • Some states treat “driving without liability insurance” as a strict liability offense. This means they don’t care what your intent was (i.e. you actually thought you had coverage); they can convict solely based on the fact that you did drive without proof of insurance.
  • Other states have an intent requirement. This means that, in order to be convicted, the State must show that you committed the offense on purpose, versus accidentally. So, in the example above, you may have a defense to your ticket for driving without proof of insurance because you lacked the intent to violate the traffic code.
Sufficient Insurance: State Laws
AlabamaLiability insurance required
(AL Code section 32-7A-4)
AlaskaMotor vehicle liability insurance required; exemptions
(AK Statutes section 28.22.011)
ArizonaVehicle Insurance and Financial Responsibility
(ARS Title 28; scroll to Chapter 9)
ArkansasProof to be furnished for each vehicle
(AR Code section 27-19-711)
CaliforniaFinancial Responsibility Laws
(California Vehicle Code, Division 7)
ColoradoMotor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law
(CRS Title 42, Article 7)
ConnecticutProof of financial responsibility
(GSC section 14-112)
DelawareMotor vehicle liability policy
(DE Code Title 21, section 2902)
District of ColumbiaFinancial responsibility; proof required for each registered vehicle
(DC Code section 50-1301.52)
FloridaFinancial Responsibility
(FS Chapter 324)
GeorgiaMotor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act
(Georgia Code Title 40, Ch. 9)
HawaiiMotor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act
(HRS Chapter 287)
IdahoRequired motor vehicle insurance
(ID Statutes section 49-1229)
IllinoisMandatory Insurance
(625 ILCS 5/7-601 to 5/7-610)
IndianaFinancial Responsibility
(Indiana Code Title 9, Article 25)
IowaProof of security against liability
(IA Code section 321.20B)
KansasLiability insurance requirements
(KS Statutes section 66-1314)
KentuckyFinancial Responsibility Law
(KRS Chapter 187)
LouisianaSecurity required
(LRS section 32:861)
MaineFinancial responsibility and insurance
(MRS Title 29-A, Ch. 13)
MarylandRequired Security
(MD Transportation Code Title 17)
MassachusettsOperating motor vehicle without liability policy, bond or security deposit
(90 MGL section 34J)
MichiganProducing evidence of motor vehicle insurance
(MI Vehicle Code section 257.328)
MinnesotaCriminal penalty for failure to produce proof of insurance
(MN Statutes section 169.791)
MississippiMotor vehicle safety--Responsibility
(MS Code Title 63, Ch. 15)
MissouriMotor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law
(MRS Chapter 303)
MontanaMotor Vehicle Insurance Responsibility and Verification
(MCA Title 61, Ch. 6, Part 1)
NebraskaProof of financial responsibility required
(R.R.S. Nebr. section 60-387)
NevadaInsurance required
(NRS section 485.185)
New HampshireAmount of proof of financial responsibility
(NH Statutes section 264:20)
Methods of giving proof of financial responsibility
(NH Statutes section 264:21)
New JerseyMaintenance of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage
(NJ Statutes section 39:6B-1)
New MexicoVehicle must be insured or owner must have evidence of financial responsibility; penalties
(NMS section 66-5-205)
New YorkFinancial security; registration
(NY Vehicle & Traffic Code section 312)
North CarolinaMotor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act
(NCGS Ch. 20, Article 9A)
North DakotaProof of Financial Responsibility for the Future
[PDF] (ND Code Chapter 39-16.1)
Driving without liability insurance prohibited
[PDF] (ND Code Chapter 39-08; scroll to section 39-08-20)
OhioFinancial Responsibility
(ORC Chapter 4509)
OklahomaProof of financial responsibility
(OK Statutes section 47-7-201)
OregonFinancial Responsibility Law
(OR Vehicle Code Chapter 806)
PennsylvaniaFinancial Responsibility: Proof of Financial Responsibility
(PA Vehicle Code Chapter 17; scroll to Subchapter H)
Rhode IslandProof of Financial Responsibility for the Future
(RI Code Chapter 31-32)
South CarolinaMotor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act
(SC Code Title 56, Ch. 9)
South DakotaMaintenance of financial responsibility--Violation as misdemeanor
(SD Codified Laws section 32-35-113)
TennesseeFinancial Responsibility
(TN Code Title 55, Ch. 12)
TexasMotor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act
(TX Transportation Code Chapter 601)
UtahOperating motor vehicle without owner's or operator's security -- Penalty
(UT Code section 41-12a-302)
VermontMaintenance of financial responsibility
(23 VSA section 800)
VirginiaProof of insurance required
(VA Code section 46.2-706)
WashingtonLiability insurance or other financial responsibility required
(RCW section 46.30.020)
West VirginiaRequired security; exceptions
(WV Code section 17D-2A-3)
WisconsinVehicles--Financial Responsibility
(WI Code Chapter 344)
WyomingProof of financial responsibility
(WY Statutes Title 31, Ch. 9, Article 4)
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As you can see, most states require you to have liability insurance at least.

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What are affirmative defenses?

Some state traffic codes also provide for affirmative defenses. This is where instead of disputing that an offense occurred, you argue that a circumstance existed that justified the traffic violation. In Texas, for example, the state traffic code exempts vehicles that are possessed solely for purposes of repair from the insurance requirement.

This means that if your friend asked you to work on his car and you had no ownership interest in the car, you would have a defense if you are charged with failing to maintain motor vehicle insurance. Some states also provide exceptions for vintage cars that are not used for “regular transport.”

Reducing or Dismissing the Charges for Driving Without Proof of Insurance

Even if you do not qualify for defense, your state may still have provisions for having your no insurance ticket dismissed.

  • Some states reward drivers that proactively respond to a citation by quickly obtaining vehicle liability coverage. Even if your state does not contain a specific provision, your local prosecuting office may have adopted this type of policy. Essentially, if you can show that you quickly corrected the problem, you may be eligible for a dismissal, a reduction in your fine, or a deferred sentence. Any of these can reduce the eventual negative impact on your finances and your insurance company rates. However, you can still be cited for driving without proof of insurance even if you get coverage right after the ticket is written.
  • Similarly, if you do have proof of insurance, but merely forgot to carry your proof of financial responsibility, many states and prosecutor offices will dismiss or reduce sentences upon verification that you did have valid insurance coverage in effect at the time of your no insurance citation.

Considering whether these apply to your situation should be your first step if you are cited, as you may be able to get your no insurance ticket dropped. If neither apply, it may be time to look for a lawyer for driving without insurance.

What are the penalties for driving without proof of insurance?

Assuming that you are guilty and you have no defenses,  a number of things can occur.

  • A majority of citations for failing to maintain motor vehicle liability insurance are resolved with a fine.
  • Some do include periods on probation.
  • If your driving record is particularly bad, your sentence could involve serving jail time.

Your traffic citation history and your state’s traffic codes will thus dictate the terms of the penalties and control whether or not you are able to arrange a plea bargain or not. In this situation, seeking an attorney that is familiar with local practices will usually improve your chances for a better deal because your lawyer is going to know who and what to ask for to get you the best deal possible.

Not panicking is your best strategy. For whatever reason, your motor vehicle liability insurance fell off your radar. Your citation for failing to maintain proof of insurance cannot “fall off.” Failing to appear as directed in your citation and take care of the matter will only provoke more problems, including a warrant being issued for your arrest and possibly additional charges for “failing to appear as promised.” There are solutions. Contact an attorney in your area today to learn what options in your jurisdiction are available for your situation.

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What if you get into an accident without insurance?

If you are in an accident and don’t have auto insurance coverage, what happens next depends on a number of factors. If you are at fault, you will have financial responsibility for all of the damages. This is in addition to legal repercussions such as license suspension.

If you are not at fault, state law will determine the outcome. Some states have a “no pay no play” rule that doesn’t allow you to collect damages from the other driver if you were not insured at the time of the accident. Some states, however, will allow you to collect.

In either situation, you can still expect a citation.

Get the help you need to navigate the legal issues around a citation for driving without insurance now. Enter your ZIP code to find legal help near you.

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