Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic 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 to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager

UPDATED: Nov 3, 2020

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Key takeaways...

  • It is against the law in most states in the U.S. to drive without insurance
  • Failure to carry insurance is considered a class “A” misdemeanor
  • Make sure you have car insurance to avoid the penalties that you may receive if you have no proof.

It is important to have car insurance for many reasons, not least among them being that most states in the U.S. require it.

If you are ever pulled over and fail to provide “proof of insurance,” you are likely to face serious — and sometimes severe — penalties based on the state in which you live.

Compare car insurance rates right here and make sure you have the coverage you need for the best rate possible.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

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View sources for penalties here.

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Key Takeaways

In Arkansas, you can be fined between $50 and $250 for the first offense and have your license or car registration suspended so that you cannot drive your vehicle until you show proof that you have insurance. You could even have your car impounded.

The fine in Hawaii for driving without proof of insurance is a $500 fine or community service that is granted by the judge. You could also have your license suspended for three months.

If the judge chooses to, they could require a nonrefundable car insurance fee and require you to be on the policy for six months before getting your license back.

As you can see, there are very strict fines for failure to produce insurance proof. None of these penalties that we gave as examples involve a jail sentence.

However, there are exceptions. In Wyoming, you may receive a fine of up to $750 and up to six months in jail for failure to produce proof of insurance.

It’s a Class “A” Misdemeanor

We think of the failure to produce adequate documentation of insurance as a minor thing but it is a class “A” misdemeanor depending on the state of jurisdiction.

It is considered a traffic violation and officers have a right to issue you a ticket and demand that you pay fines that are allowed by your state of residence.

On a second offense, you may end up paying much higher penalties and fines.

Paperwork Is Important

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It’s important to remember also that having your paperwork in your car with you is important. It’s not enough just to tell the officer that you have insurance. In fact, if they wanted to, they could check this with their system that is connected to the internet.

Many states (including Tennessee), now have APR Technology, which allows them to run your plates through an automatic in-car computer system to see if you are covered.

Most police officers at least have access to an inner network that can check quickly and accurately whether your insurance is intact.

Even worse than not having your proof of insurance is trying to convince an officer that a fake or expired insurance card is valid. Courts may see this as a type of insurance fraud in some cases.

Others may view it as an obstruction of justice since you are attempting to thwart the truth to hide the fact that you are without insurance.

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What to Do if You Are Pulled Over

If you are pulled over for any reason, and you do not have updated insurance, it is best just to be honest.

You will have to pay a fine if the officer cites you for not having your proof.

The most important thing that you can do to avoid the legal problems and penalties is to keep your car insurance up to date at all times.

We get busy today with jobs and families and other responsibilities. Sometimes it is just an oversight on your part that you forget to pay your insurance bill and your policy gets canceled. Maybe you forgot or changed your bank card and failed to report it to your insurance company.

Allowing your insurance policy to lapse will only lead to the following:

  • high penalties
  • possible loss of license
  • jail time

Courts tend not to view drivers who have no insurance as dangerous offenders, so jail time is rare. When it does happen, it is usually a result of failing to follow up or correct the problem rather than the absence of paperwork for your proof of insurance.

However, you should understand that it is considered a serious thing when it comes to driving offenses, and it can raise your insurance rate substantially, especially if it happens more than once.

Why Insurance Companies Raise Your Rates


There are many different reasons insurance companies may raise your rates. One of them is from letting your insurance lapse because you become a higher level of risk if you allow your insurance policy to run out.

The insurance company prefers that their drivers stay on their policy without gaps so that they are a lower risk to the company.

People who have accidents when they are without insurance cause insurance rates to go up for everyone. If you do let your insurance lapse, you will have to pay for the remainder of the policy premium that you owe in addition to the first month’s premium with your new policy.

Once your insurance is canceled for non-payment, you may also have to go on a high-risk insurance plan, and you will be issued a new policy number.

Shop and Compare

If you are without insurance and do not want to risk the legal problems associated with failure to show proof of coverage, the best thing you can do is to get coverage as quickly as possible. But you don’t want to make the mistake of just choosing any insurance.

Instead, take the time to shop around and compare different companies and policies until you find the best one for you. Then get a free quote and compare the value of one policy to another and read the fine print. Enter your zip code below to begin!

Once you have an insurance policy in place, it won’t be so terrifying to see those blue lights in your rearview mirror.