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What happens if you get caught driving without insurance?

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Data suggests that over 13% of motorists in the US are driving without car insurance! Driving without valid car insurance is not only illegal, but it can also lead to a whole lot of financial issues, including debt and bankruptcy. That’s why the police try to catch motorists driving without insurance.

Before we go on, it is important to understand that not having auto insurance and not being able to show that you have it are two entirely distinct violations. Both of these may result in varying penalties depending on your state.

Traffic enforcement officials are no slackers when it comes to employing technology to make their job easy. More and more states are extracting information on uninsured drivers from a rather extensive and up-to-date state database. By using automatic license plate recognition systems (APLR), cops can now verify whether you have insurance even before they step out of their cars. The situation being so, it’s best to have answers to some commonly asked questions about driving without insurance.

How do police catch uninsured drivers?

what happens if you get caught driving without insurance

Driving without insurance is a secondary crime in all 50 states. The police cannot run your plates through the uninsured motorists’ database unless they pull you over initially for another reason. Common ways uninsured drivers get caught:

  • Random checkpoints

Police often set up random checkpoints along major roadways. They can pull you over at these checkpoints and ask to see your license, registration, and proof of insurance. This is basically the only way police can search for your insurance details without having a specific reason to pull you over. If you think you can get away by showing an expired car insurance card or giving an expired car insurance policy number, you’re wrong! The police will find out your insurance status, quote you, and then tow away your vehicle if you don’t have a valid car insurance policy.

  • Traffic violations

You can also invite trouble for yourself by violating traffic laws. The first thing to remember is that the police don’t even need a major violation to pull you over. Cops can pull you over for speeding, running a stop sign, or even a busted headlamp! The police will then collect your license, registration, and insurance card and check your information. All they need to do is call your insurance provider’s 800 to find out whether you are currently insured by the insurance provider listed on your insurance card.

  • Automatic License Plate Recognition Systems

The police use Automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) cameras to find uninsured drivers. Using ALPR, the police can verify whether your car has valid insurance simply by running your license plate, without even approaching your car. The APLR camera snaps a photo of your car license plate, and then the on-board computer will tell them if you’re on the state’s list of uninsured drivers. Of course, they still have to pull you over for something else, but they don’t need your insurance card to find out if you have valid car insurance.

Why is it illegal to drive without car insurance?

Federal law requires drivers to have car insurance to ensure that the interests of pedestrians and other motorists are protected if an accident occurs. The cost of a car crash can be quite devastating, and if you don’t have car insurance, you and the other parties involved can be ruined financially. If you are at fault in an accident and have insurance, your insurance provider will cover the claims of the person you hit. Now, if you don’t have valid car insurance, you’ll have to pay for the other person’s hospital bills, car repairs, and other losses from your pocket. What happens if you fail to do that? Simple, you run the risk of getting sued. This is on top of the payments for injuries you have sustained and the repairs on your car. To avoid all these issues, make sure you have valid car insurance.

Also read: How much is a ticket for getting caught driving without car insurance?

What really happens if you get caught driving without insurance?

Driving without valid insurance

If you’re caught driving without valid auto insurance, you could find yourself facing harsh penalties. The amount you’ll need to pay varies from state to state. Other possible outcomes of driving without car insurance include exorbitant tickets fees, license suspension, license reinstatement fees, having your vehicle impounded, and even jail time. Here’s how some states deal with uninsured drivers:


First-time offenders in California will end up paying close to $500 in fines, while second-time offenders may end up paying up to $2,500. In California, police officers have the right to impound your vehicle immediately if they feel it’s necessary. You’ll have to pay towing fees and other costs involved. You’ll also need to show proof of insurance before you get your car back.


If you get pulled over without car insurance in Florida, you can get your driver’s license and registration suspended. Reinstating them will cost you a significant amount.

New York

Driving without car insurance in NY can land you with fines of up to $1,500 or up to 15 days in prison. Reinstating your license and registration will cost you $750. New York also charges $8 – $12 a day for insurance lapses depending on the length of the lapse.


Getting caught driving without car insurance in Texas will have you paying penalties for years to come. First-time offenders will need to pay a fine of $350, plus court costs and additional fees. You’ll then need to pay a surcharge of $250 a year to the DMV for the next three years. Moreover, second offenses will cost you $1,000 in fines, plus the same surcharge.


If you’re caught driving without a valid license in Georgia, things get rather sticky. Firstly, you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor. Secondly, it will go on your permanent record. Also, you will have to appear in court and pay up fines of $100-$1000. If all that wasn’t enough, your driver’s license and registration will be suspended for 60 days.

Can cops tell if you have insurance by running plates?

Yes, they can. Almost all police cruisers have in-car computers now. These allow police to access license plate info, including insurance status, via the state database. APLR and in-car computers help cops figure out whether a particular car/driver has valid car insurance before approaching them.

Can a cop run your plates for no reason?

Yes, they can. If you are driving on a public street, a police officer can run your plates for a particular reason. The logic is that your license plates are in plain sight. It is not something that’s private confidential. In fact, the very purpose of a license plate is to help identify the vehicle’s registered owner for public safety administration. Therefore, drivers should not expect the police to not run their plates. However, they can pull you over only if they notice any problems.

what happens if you get caught driving without insurance

What do police see when they run your plates?

When a police officer runs your plates, they can see

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