Can you go to jail for not having car insurance?

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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

StateFirst OffenseSecond Offense
AlabamaFine: Up to $500; registration suspension with $200 reinstatement feeFine: Up to $1,000 and/or six-month license suspension; $400 reinstatement fee with four-month registration suspension
AlaskaLicense suspension for 90 daysLicense suspension for one year
ArizonaFine: $500 (or more); license/registration/license plate suspension for three monthsFine: $750 (or more within 36 months); license/registration/license plate suspension for six months
ArkansasFine: $50 to $250; suspended registration/no plates until proof of coverage plus $20 reinstatement fee; court may order impoundmentFine: $250 to $500 fine — minimum fine mandatory; suspended registration/no plates until proof of coverage plus $20 reinstatement fee. Court may order impoundment
CaliforniaFine: $100-$200 plus penalty assessments. Court may order impoundmentFine: $200-$500 within three years plus penalty assessments. Court may order impoundment
ColoradoFine: $500 minimum fine; 4 points against your license; license suspension until you can show proof to the DMV that you are insured. Courts may add up to 40 hours community service$1,000 minimum fine and license suspension for 4 months; 4 points against your license. Courts may add up to 40 hours community service
ConnecticutFine: $100-$1000; suspended registration/license for one month (show proof of insurance) with $175 reinstatement feeFine: $100-$1000; suspended registration/license for six months (show proof of insurance) with $175 reinstatement fee
DelawareFine: $1500 minimum fine; license/privilege suspension for six monthsFine: $3000 minimum fine within three years; license/privilege suspension for six months
FloridaSuspension of license and registration until reinstatement fee is paid and non-cancelable coverage is secured; $150 fee for first reinstatementSuspension of license and registration until reinstatement fee is paid and non-cancelable coverage is secured; $250 fee for second reinstatement
GeorgiaSuspended registration with $25 lapse fee and $60 reinstatement fee. Pay any other registration fees and vehicle ad valorem taxes dueWithin a 5 years: Suspended registration with $25 lapse fee and $60 reinstatement fee. Pay any other registration fees and vehicle ad valorem taxes due
HawaiiFine: $500 fine or community service granted by judge. Either license suspension for three months or a required nonrefundable insurance policy in force for six monthsFine: $1500 minimum fine within five years; either license suspension for one year or a required non-refundable insurance policy in force for six months
IdahoFine: $75; license suspension until financial proof. No reinstatement fee.Fine: $1000 maximum fine within five years and/or no more than six months in jail; license suspension until financial proof. No reinstatement fee.
IllinoisLicense plate suspension until $100 reinstatement fee and insurance proofLicense plate suspension for four months; $100 reinstatement fee and insurance proof
IndianaLicense/registration suspension for 90 days to one yearWithin three years: license/registration suspension for one year
IowaFine: $500 if in accident; Otherwise, fine: $250; community service in lieu of fine. Possible citation/warning if pulled over plus removal of plates and registration possible when pulled over without insurance and reissued upon payment of fine or completed community service, proof of insurance, and $15 fee; possible impoundment when pulled overN/A
KansasFine: $300 to $1000 and/or confinement in jail up to six months; license/registration suspension; reinstatement fee: $100Fine: $800 to $2500 within three years; license/registration suspension; reinstatement fee: $300 if revoked within previous year, otherwise $100
KentuckyFine: $500 to $1000 fine and/or sentenced up to 90 days in jail; license plates and registration revoked for one year or until proof of insurance is shownWithin five years: 180 days in jail and/or $1000 to $2500; license plates and registration revoked for one year or until proof of insurance is shown
LouisianaFine: $500 to $1000; If in car accident, fine plus registration revoked and driving privileges suspended for 180 daysN/A
MaineFine: $100 to $500; suspension of license and registration until proof of insuranceN/A
MarylandLose license plates and vehicle registration privileges; pay uninsured motorist penalty fees for each lapse of insurance — $150 for the first 30 days, $7 for each day thereafter; Pay a restoration fee of up to $25 for a vehicle's registrationN/A
MassachusettsFine: $500 to $5000 fine and/or imprisonment for one year or lessWithin six years: License/driving privileges suspended for one year
MichiganFine: $200 to $500 fine and/or imprisonment for one year or less; license suspension for 30 days or until proof of insurance; $25 service fee to Secretary of StateN/A
MinnesotaFine: $200 to $1000 (or community service) and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days; License and registration revoked for no more than 12 monthsN/A
MississippiFine: $1000; driving privileges suspended for one year or until proof of insuranceN/A
MissouriFour points against driving record; driver may be supervised; suspended until proof of insurance with $20 reinstatement feeFour points against driving record; driver may be supervised; suspended for 90 days with $200 reinstatement fee
MontanaFine: $250 to $500 fine and/or imprisonment for no more than 10 daysFine: $350 and/or imprisonment for no more than 10 days — within 5 years; license and registration revoked until proof of insurance and payment of reinstatement fees within 90 days
NebraskaLicense and registration suspension; reinstatement fee of $50 for each; proof of insurance to remain on file for three years
NevadaFine: $250 to $1,000 depending on length of lapse; registration suspension — until payment of reinstatement fee and, depending on circumstances, an SR-22 (proof of financial responsiblity) if lapsed more than 90 days; reinstatement fee: $250Fine: $500 to $1000 depending on length of lapse; registration suspension — until payment of reinstatement fee and, depending on circumstances, SR-22 (proof of financial responsibility) if lapsed more than 90 days; Reinstatement fee: $500
New HampshireNot a mandatory insurance state. Proof of insurance may be required as the result of a conviction, crash involvement, or administrative action. If you are required to file proof of insurance and vehicles are registered in your name, you will be required to file an Owner’s SR-22 Certificate of Insurance.N/A
New JerseyFine: $300 to $1000; license suspension for one year; pay surcharges for three years in the amount of $250 per yearFine: up to $5000; two-year license suspension; 14-day, mandatory jail term, and an additional mandatory 30 days of community service
New MexicoFine: up to $300 and/or imprisoned for 90 days; license suspensionN/A
New YorkFine: up to $1500 if involved in accident plus $750 civil penalty; license and registration suspension – revoked for one year; suspension of license if without insurance for 90 days; suspension lasts as long as registration suspension; Suspension of registration: equal to time without insurance or pays $8/day up to thirty days for which financial security was not in effect, $10/day from the thirty-first to the sixtieth day $12/day from the sixtieth to the ninetieth day and proof of security is provided. Or for the same time as the vehicle was operated without insurance.N/A
North CarolinaFine: $50; registration suspension until proof of financial responsibility but 30-day suspension if in car accident or knowingly driving without insurance; $50 restoration fee plus license plate feeFine: $100 within three years; registration suspension until proof of financial responsibility but 30-day suspension if in car accident or knowingly driving without insurance; $50 restoration fee plus license plate fee
North DakotaFine: up to $1500 and/or 30 days in prison; 14 points against license plus suspension; Proof of insurance must be provided for one year; license with a notation requiring that person keep proof of liability insurance on file with the department. The fee for this license is $50, and the fee to remove this notation is $50.Fine: up to $1500 and/or 30 days in prison; 14 points against license plus suspension; license plates impounded until proof of insurance (provided for one year) plus $20 reinstatement fee; license with a notation requiring that person keep proof of liability insurance on file with the department. The fee for this license is $50 and the fee to remove this notation is $50.
OhioLicense/plates/registration suspension until requirements are met and $100 reinstatement fee is paid; maintain special high-risk coverage on file with the BMV for three to five years; If involved in accident without insurance: all above penalties and a security suspension for two plus years and an indefinite judgment suspension (until all damages are satisfied)License/plates/registration suspension for one year; $300 reinstatement fee; maintain special high-risk coverage on file with the BMV for three or five years; if involved in accident without insurance: all above penalties and a security suspension for two plus years and an indefinite judgment suspension (until all damages are satisfied)
OklahomaFine: $250; jail time up to 30 days; license suspension with $275 reinstatement fee. Police can seize license plates and assign temporary plates and liability insurance — in effect for 10 days and can also impound the vehicle. The cost of the temporary coverage is added to the administrative fee and any fines paid for plates to be returned. If car impounded, owner must also pay towing and storage fees.N/A
OregonFine: $130-$1000 ($260 is the presumptive fine); If involved in accident — at least a one year license suspension; proof of financial responsibility required for three yearsN/A
PennsylvaniaRegistration suspended for three months (unless lapse was for less than 31 days and vehicle not operated during that time); $88 restoration fee plus proof of insurance required to get it back; $500 civil penalty fee is optional in lieu of registration suspension plus $88 restoration fee — can only use this option once within a 12-month periodN/A
Rhode IslandFine: $100 to $500; license and registration suspension up to three months; reinstatement fee: $30 to $50Fine: $500; license and registration suspension up to six months; reinstatement fee: $30 to $50
South CarolinaFine: $100-$200 or 30-day imprisonment; failure to surrender registration and plates when insurance lapses; license/registration suspended until proof of insurance plus $200 reinstatement feeFine: $200 and/or 30-day imprisonment — within 10 years; license/registration suspended until proof of insurance plus $200 reinstatement fee
South DakotaFine: $100 and/or 30 days imprisonment; license suspension for 30 days to one year; filing proof of insurance (SR-22) with the state for three years from date of conviction. Failure to file proof will result in suspension of vehicle registration, license plates, and driver license.N/A
TennesseePay $25 coverage failure fee within 30 days of notice; if not paid, then an additional $100 coverage failure fee with suspension or revocation of registration plus reinstatement fee of no more than $25N/A
TexasFine: $175 to $350 fine; plus, pay up to a $250 surcharge every year for three years (may be reduced with certain requirements)Fine: $350 to $1000; pay up to a $250 surcharge every year for three years (may be reduced with certain requirements); suspend the driver's license and vehicle registrations of the person unless the person files and maintains evidence of financial responsibility with the department until the second anniversary of the date of the subsequent conviction; Impoundment: for 180 days and cannot apply for release of car without evidence of financial responsibility and impoundment fee of $15/day.
UtahFine: $400; license suspension until proof of insurance (maintained for three years) and $100 reinstatement feeFine: $1000 — with three years; license suspension until proof of insurance (maintained for three years) and $100 reinstatement fee
VermontFine: up to $500; license suspended until proof of insuranceN/A
VirginiaFine: may pay $500 Uninsured Motorists Vehicle fee to drive without insurance at your own risk. If this fee is not paid in lieu of insurance, all driving and vehicle registration privileges will be suspended until a $500 statutory fee is paid, proof of insurance is filed for three years, and a reinstatement fee (if applicable) is paidN/A
WashingtonFine: Up to $250 or moreN/A
West VirginiaFine: $200 to $5000; license suspended for 30 days with reinstatement fees, unless there's proof of insurance and $200 penalty feeFine: $200-$5000 fine and/or 15 days to one year in jail — within five years; license suspended for 90 days and registration revoked until proof of insurance
WisconsinFine: up to $500N/A
WyomingFine: up to $750 fine and up to six months in jailN/A

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.

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.

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