Can the police impound my car for no insurance?

There are circumstances when not having insurance can get your car towed and impounded. If your vehicle is towed, you may not be able to get the vehicle released to you if there's a mandatory order for impound. Your car could be towed and then repossessed if you're financing and you don't have full coverage. Don't chance getting towed by driving without insurance. Get coverage today!

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Jessica Sautter is a Content Writer for CarInsuranceCompanies.com with a Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Michigan University in Elementary Education with a Major in Reading and a Minor in...

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Chris Harrigan has an economy degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise...

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Reviewed byChris Harrigan
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UPDATED: Jun 1, 2020

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Key takeaways...
  • If you’re ever caught driving without insurance, a law enforcement officer can issue you a ticket or worse
  • In most states, officers can’t pull over a vehicle just because it’s uninsured. There must be another reason for a traffic stop
  • Since driving without insurance is a crime, the officer may arrest you or have your vehicle towed
  • If your vehicle is towed, you may not be able to get the vehicle released to you if there’s a mandatory order for impound
  • If your car is impounded, you’ll have to pay for the tow, storage, and impound fees to get the car released

You can only break a law for so long until you’re caught. Years ago, when police officers used antiquated systems in their squad cars, drivers could easily get away with driving without insurance with some invalid documents in their car.

Now, an auto insurance ID card isn’t enough to trick an officer into thinking that you have coverage.

If you’ve ever driven without insurance in the past, you need to know what some of the newer consequences are for violating the law. Since being insured is part of the vehicle code in most states, driving an uninsured vehicle is a misdemeanor in most courts of law.

Not only can you be cited for an infraction, you can also lose your car for a limited period of time.

Avoid the consequences of breaking the law! Find the car insurance that’s right for you by using our free comparison tool above.

Here’s what you need to know about police impounds:

How can police officers see if you have any insurance?

It’s just protocol for a law enforcement officer who’s pulling you over for a routine traffic stop to ask you to hand over the following:

  • Your license
  • Your registration
  • Your proof of auto insurance

While some states don’t have electronic database systems in place, most of them do. So if you hand over an invalid evidence of insurance, you could land yourself in more trouble.

Most states have some type of electronic database tool in place that all officers have access to while they are on-duty in their police car.

To use these systems, all the officer has to do is type in the license plate number to see if insurance is reported on the car. Since companies are required to report real-time, the information will be up to date.

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Can a police officer pull you over for no insurance?

Officers may have the upper hand now when it comes to determining if a driver has insurance, but in no way does that mean that it’s okay for the officer to pull someone over just because they see a car with expired insurance in the computer system.

Driving without insurance is a secondary violation. This means that the officer must have a valid reason to stop the vehicle before the driver is cited for having no insurance. It could be a moving violation or suspicion of criminal activity.

If law enforcement pulled someone over just because of the insurance violation, the charge would be thrown out.

What happens when you’re pulled over and you don’t have insurance?

When you don’t have valid insurance it doesn’t bode well for you with the police. Some officers who are feeling friendly might let you go and send you off with a stern warning, but since the states are cracking down on uninsured drivers, this isn’t common anymore.

It’s more common to be issued a ticket where you’re ordered to show proof of active insurance in court when you arrive for your mandatory appearance. In addition to having to appear in court, you’ll be ordered to pay a stiff fine.

Fines range depending on the state that you live in and how many times you’ve been caught without insurance.

Sometimes states require officers to tow vehicles when the driver has no insurance. This makes sense because the officer would be sending you off to violate the law once again. If your car is towed, you’ll have to find a way home and pick your vehicle up.

Your car won’t be released to you until you can pay the fees and show that you have insurance.

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Under what circumstances will your vehicle be impounded after a traffic stop?

The uninsured motorist rate is nearly 13 percent nationwide. In some states, more than 20 percent of the drivers don’t have insurance. It’s the states with the higher rates of uninsured vehicles that are enforcing new protocols to thwart people from violating this important law.

One of the new protocols that has been passed in some states like Alaska is to assess a mandatory impound when a car is being driven without insurance.

Second-time offenders will have their vehicle impounded for at least 30 days in Alaska. Sometimes, the mandatory impound is assessed after the first offense for more than just 30 days.

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What do you have to pay for when your car is impounded?

A vehicle impound can cost you a fortune. Some people have to pay so much to get their car out that they will let it sit there because it’s not worth the total amount due.

Some of the costs you’ll have to pay to get your vehicle released include:

  • Hook-up charge
  • Towing charge per mile
  • Storage fee at the lot
  • Impound fee assessed by the police
  • Fine for being cited for driving without insurance
  • Cost to enroll to complete community service (if it’s required)

Your Car May Be Impounded For Suspended Plates

If impounding the car isn’t mandatory in your state, it still could happen. In many states, the DMV will actually suspend your license plates for failing to respond to a letter asking for proof of your insurance.

If this happens, a simple traffic stop could turn into a long encounter with the police.

In most cases, your car will be towed away to the police state or an impound lot when you don’t have valid tags. You can’t immediately go and pick up the car because you’ll have to straighten everything out with your car first.

This means that you need to get insurance and then reinstate your plates.

If you need to insurance to comply with the law, you need to act now. Get online quotes via the world wide web and you can instantly compare quotes from several carriers at the same time.

Make sure to choose the right coverage options and thoroughly review each quote to bind the best coverage through the best carrier. Get started right now!

Can my car be towed for no insurance?

Paying to have your car towed is one of the last expenses that you want to foot the bill for. Even worse is when you have a completely operable vehicle and you’re billed for a tow service that you didn’t want.

Unfortunately, when you’re knowingly driving a car that’s not insured, there’s a good chance that your car could be towed by state officials.

Don’t put yourself in this position. Compare quotes today to make sure you get the best rate for the coverage you need.

Automobiles were once a luxury and now they are more of a necessity. If you’re left stranded on the side of the road without a car, there’s no telling what could happen.

Not only do you have to worry about getting home, you have to worry about getting your car released so that you can get to work. Here’s what you should know about the risks of driving an uninsured vehicle:

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You Can’t Legally Drive Without Insurance in Most States

You legally have to have insurance to drive your vehicle on the street or the highway. There are very few private roads that you’re allowed to drive on with no insurance and even fewer states in the U.S. without some kind of mandatory insurance requirement.

If you’re going to own a vehicle, it’s your duty as a property owner to find out what the laws are in your state before you register it in your name.

Mandatory insurance requirements vary by state and the insurance system the state operates under. At this current time, there are two types of insurance systems: tort systems and no-fault auto insurance systems.

Tort systems require the at-fault driver to compensate drivers, passengers, and pedestrians for damages after a loss.

While it’s more common for a state to operate under tort law, there’s still a chance that the legislation passed in your state will make no-fault coverage mandatory.

When there’s some type of modified no-fault system in place, it doesn’t mean that no one is at fault for an accident, it just means fault doesn’t determine which insurer pays. Here’s a list of common requirements:

  • Bodily Injury Liability (tort and no-fault states) pays for third-party medical bills and loss of wages
  • Property Damage Liability (tort and no-fault states) pays for third-party property repairs and property replacement when it’s destroyed in an auto accident
  • Personal Injury Protection PIP (no-fault states) pays for medical bills, loss of wages, disability income, and rehabilitation expenses when you’re in an accident no matter who is at fault
  • Medical Payments Coverage (tort states) pays for your immediate medical bills after you are injured in any type of auto-related accident

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Driving Without the Mandatory Coverage Is a Crime

When coverage is mandatory there’s no getting around the requirement. You can’t just drive uninsured and expect not to be caught at some point. There are systems and databases in place that have made it easier to catch uninsured drivers so be aware of the penalties for driving without auto insurance.

When you’re cited for minor moving violations, they are classified as infractions. Driving without insurance is often classified as more than just an infraction, it’s also considered a misdemeanor in many states.

Sometimes, you have to get into an accident to be convicted of a misdemeanor and other times you have to be on your second offense. There are still states that classify no insurance tickets as Class C or Class B crimes.

How do state officials see that I’m not insured?

You can drive as safe as you want and that won’t change the fact that most states can verify the status of your insurance right at the current moment.

Since real-time systems are being implemented in a majority of states, you can’t carry old ID cards or drive safe just to avoid getting a no insurance ticket.

If you get pulled over by law enforcement, don’t assume it’s because the officer knows you don’t have any insurance coverage. While many officers have access to this information, no law enforcement can pull you over just because your coverage is canceled.

This is a secondary violation and you must be caught doing something else before you can be stopped.

When you are stopped, if the officer asks for your proof of insurance, you need to be honest. There’s a good chance the officer can see your inactive coverage and giving false documents would just make the issue worse.

No matter what is said, the probability that your car will be towed from the scene to a tow yard is high.

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Can you ask the officer not to tow your car?

You can always try and see if the officer will let you voluntarily tow your car to your home. If you live in a state where tows aren’t a requirement, then the officer might be apt to help you out, but don’t expect it to go your way if you have multiple offenses.

You can’t legally drive or park a car that’s not insured in a public place. This is why parking an uninsured car on a public street in hopes of it not being towed isn’t a solution. If your car is parked and parking enforcement discovers it, it will be towed.

Losing your car will change your whole way of life. You’ll have to find a new way to work or even a new job. You’ll also have to pay to get insurance before you pay to get your car back.

Get insurance now before your car is towed by getting instant quotes online and then you can avoid having to deal with this major headache.

Use our free quote tool today to get started

References:
  1. http://www.revenue.alabama.gov/motorvehicle/pdf/mlimanual.pdf
  2. https://www.thebalance.com/can-my-car-get-impounded-for-not-having-insurance-527426
  3. https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/brochures/fast_facts/ffvr18
  4. http://www.jp.hctx.net/traffic/insurance.htm
  5. http://fox17online.com/2015/04/03/police-can-now-see-if-you-have-insurance-before-they-even-pull-you-over/
  6. https://www.thebalance.com/penalties-for-driving-without-car-insurance-in-california-527033
  7. https://www.elpasotexas.gov/police-department/financial-responsibility-requirements
  8. http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/uninsured-motorists
  9. https://www.muni.org/Departments/police/ComAffairs/Pages/lawslosecar.aspx
  10. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/389147
  11. http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/140310_penaltiesfordrivingwithoutautoinsurance_cfa.pdf

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