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 in...

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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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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • Jail time is possible for first and/or second offenses in certain states
  • Fines and other penalties may be levied against drivers who violate insurance laws
  • Comparison shopping may lead to buying a policy that is affordable enough to eliminate the chance of a lapse in coverage

Getting into trouble with the law is not something anyone wishes to do. Those who skirt rules and regulations in their state may end up facing serious legal hassles.

Car owners and drivers must accept the fact that ignoring rules associated with operating a vehicle in any state can and does bring both civil and criminal troubles.

Some still choose to play games with the law. To save money on car insurance, a driver may choose to simply stop paying and allow an insurance policy to lapse. In doing so, he or she is no longer covered for liability and other risks.

One day, a police officer may pull over an uninsured driver and ask to see both the driver’s license and the vehicle’s registration. Lacking insurance, the driver may wonder if jail time is something to be worried about.

In certain regions and situations, the answer is yes. Don’t drive without insurance! Compare quotes today to find the best rate for the car insurance you need.

Different States and Different Rules

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Drivers must realize that each state has its own rules and policies regarding driving without insurance. New Hampshire has no insurance requirements whatsoever, but those at fault for an accident may still be legally required to pay for damages.

Obviously, someone would not even receive a ticket much less face jail time for not carrying insurance in this state.

Residents of other states, however, would likely be sanctioned. The severity of the sanctions vary.

Drivers should perform research into the potential fines and penalties associated with not having insurance in their state of residence.

Regardless of what the rules are in a particular state, purchasing insurance is a wise move. With effective comparison shopping, procuring a reasonable policy that covers many areas of protection are sure to be found.

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First Offenses and Jail Time

Several states do have clear laws on the books that allow the courts to jail someone who has committed a first offense of driving without insurance:

  • Wyoming
  • Oklahoma
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • South Carolina
  • Kentucky

The amount of time in jail varies from state to state. Oklahoma would impose up to 30 days in jail while Kentucky would mandate up to 90 days behind bars.

Wyoming and Kansas can send someone to jail for up to six months. In Minnesota, levying a fine or community service and/or imprisonment of up to 90 days is how the statute reads.

Keep in mind, these are the sentencing guidelines available to a judge. The judge could suspend the sentence or send a driver to jail for far less than the maximum amount of time.

Second Offenses and Jail Time

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Those who do not learn the error of their ways the first time are going to face stiffer penalties upon the second conviction. This increase in severity is done to keep drivers from continually violating the requirements to maintain state minimum insurance guidelines.

The penalties can be severe. Idaho imposes a fine and/or a maximum amount of six months in jail. In Kentucky, the minimum amount of jail time would be 180 days.

West Virginia may be the hardest with a minimum of 15 days if sentenced and a maximum of up to one year.

Fines and Other Penalties

The vast majority of states prefer to implement a fine system in order to stress of serious of a lack insurance so drivers comply with the law. The fines can be heavy for both first and second offenses in particular states.

Here are some examples of penalties in different states:

  • North Carolina  a basic $50 fine is imposed and a mandatory suspension of the license is put in place until another $50 fee is paid to reinstate. This fee is one of the lesser penalties that can be imposed.
  • Illinois – a license suspension and a $100 fee to reinstate, but there is no actual fine for driving without insurance.
  • New Jersey  a second offense comes with an incredible $5,000 fine.

Fines of varying degrees are imposed along with suspensions and, possibly, other sanctions such as a significant license or registration suspension.

And please be aware that being convicted of a crime and being sentenced to serve in jail is not the same as being arrested.

A police officer may arrest someone who does not have valid insurance. The matter can then be sorted out in front of a judge.

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Facing Lawsuits

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Besides criminal and traffic court problems, a person without insurance may face civil personal injury lawsuits. Without liability protection in place, financial devastation could result.

Liability insurance is not something anyone should take for granted. Those who are worried about protecting their assets and financial health are advised to think about boosting insurance.

Even someone with $100,000 in liability insurance may be drastically underinsured. $300,000 or $500,000 in minimum liability insurance might be a better choice.

State minimums should be avoided by those who have a decent net worth. Rhode Island’s ‘requirement of $25,000/$50,000/$25,000 is not likely going to be adequate. A wise plan would be to calculate net worth and then acquire an insurance amount that would protect it.

In Virginia, the law states that paying a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee absolves a driver of the need to purchase auto insurance provided. Although the law may allow doing this, such a strategy is a very dangerous one.

Being responsible for a single accident could lead to a lifetime of bankruptcy.

Comparison shopping makes it a lot easier to locate affordable insurance. Having insurance in place cuts down on the chances of suffering from criminal and civil penalties as well as from personal injury lawsuits.

Get the right coverage in place and don’t overspend for it. Enter your zip code below to compare quotes today.