Can police check your auto insurance?

Police can check your auto insurance before and during a traffic stop. Police can tell if you have no car insurance by using a real-time system to verify the proof you give them. With these real-time systems, cops can tell if you have insurance by running plates. Providing fake insurance documents could result in fines up to $2,000 and six months in jail and being caught driving uninsured can mean fees, fines, suspension of driver’s licenses, and more.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

Full Bio →

Written by

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Dec 2, 2020

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident auto insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one auto insurance provider and cannot guarantee quotes from any single provider. Our partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different companies please enter your ZIP code on this page to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

Here's what you need to know...

  • Insurance is electronically verified through the DMV in most states
  • When a lapse of insurance is reported by the carrier, the DMV can suspend license plates
  • Officers can see if you have valid insurance before or during a traffic stop

Insurance is something that all drivers should have before they even get behind the wheel. Not only is it required by law, but it’s the first thing that law enforcement asks for proof of when you’re stopped for a moving violation.

You can really start your encounter with a police officer off on a bad foot if you don’t have insurance.

So can police check your auto insurance? Can police tell if your insurance is valid? They sure can. And if you’re driving uninsured, not only will they write you up a ticket for your traffic violation, they’ll add the code for driving uninsured.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be allowed to drive home so that you can rush to buy coverage. Read this article to learn more about when and how the police can check the status of your auto insurance, basic auto insurance laws you’ll need to follow to avoid the consequences of driving uninsured, and more.

To make sure you’re prepared with the right insurance coverage the next time you’re stopped by an officer of the law, take a minute to use your ZIP code and get a free quote on car insurance to start comparing rates today.

Proof of Auto Insurance

Can police tell if you have no car insurance? Can police tell if your insurance is expired? The short answer is yes to both. There are a few different ways police can check this.

Police are one of the qualified third parties that can check insurance data and other driver information at the DMV or DOT. Of course, you don’t want everyone checking your data, especially if you live in one of the worst states for DMV and DOT data breaches, but police are always qualified to run checks on your insurance and driver information.

Read through the next few sections to learn more about whether you need proof of insurance, basic insurance requirements, and ways police can check to make sure you have the necessary coverage.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Do I need proof of insurance?

Can police check my car insurance even if I present proof? When you buy car insurance, you’re given proof of insurance that lasts either for a 6-month term or the entire 12-month term.

Your proof of insurance, which may also be referred to as an insurance ID card, shows that you have liability coverage in the state and gives instructions on the steps to take when you have a claim.

Since you already have the proof, it’s possible to have an ID card in your car for insurance that’s already terminated.

You might think this can keep you safe if you’re stopped by law enforcement, but new systems allow police to see if a driver’s coverage is valid in real-time and meets at least state requirements.

How do police officers check to see if your insurance is valid?

Years ago, when asked for a license, registration, and proof of insurance, a driver could hand over fake or invalid insurance documents and drive off uninsured without any type of ticket. However, times have changed.

Can cops tell if you have insurance by running plates? The answer is yes.

Since state officials are buckling down on the persistent uninsured driver dilemma, a majority of states have rolled out an electronic insurance verification system.

The purpose of electronic insurance systems is to reduce the incidence of uninsured drivers on the roadways. The systems are used both at the administrative level and at the law enforcement level.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Can cops tell if you have insurance by running plates?

Cops can tell if you have insurance by running your plates. At a traffic stop, officers don’t have to pick up the phone and call the number on the ID card to verify the status of a policy. Instead, they can walk to their patrol car, access a web portal, and review the real-time status of insurance data on a specific vehicle by its license plate number.

These real-time systems save officers time and will hold drivers accountable to follow the law.

While many states have enforced some type of electronic reporting requirement, there are still states that haven’t fully implemented a computerized way to verify insurance data. Instead, they use a Random Selection Program that requires random people to prove insurance on a specific date.

In these states, the number of uninsured drivers may be much higher than what’s reported because it’s much easier to fake coverage. Take a look at this table populated with Insurance Information Institute (III) data to see the uninsured motorist data for every state in the country so you can see the percentage of uninsured drivers in your state.

Percentage of Uninsured Drivers by State
StatePercentage of Uninsured Drivers by StateState Rank for Percentage of Uninsured Drivers
Florida 26.70%1
Mississippi23.70%2
New Mexico20.80%3
Michigan20.30%4
Tennessee20%5
Alabama18.40%6
Washington17.40%7
Indiana16.70%8
Arkansas16.60%9
D.C.15.60%10
Alaska15.40%11
California15.20%12
Rhode Island15.20%13
New Jersey14.90%14
Wisconsin14.30%15
Texas14.10%16
Missouri14%17
Illinois13.70%18
Colorado13.30%19
Louisiana13%20
Oregon12.70%21
Ohio12.40%22
Maryland12.40%23
Arizona12%24
Georgia12%25
Kentucky11.50%26
Minnesota11.50%27
Delaware11.40%28
Nevada10.60%29
Hawaii10.60%30
Oklahoma10.50%31
West Virginia10.10%32
Montana9.90%33
Virginia9.90%34
New Hampshire9.90%35
Connecticut9.40%36
South Carolina9.40%37
Iowa8.70%38
Utah8.20%39
Idaho8.20%40
Wyoming7.80%41
South Dakota7.70%42
Pennsylvania7.60%43
Kansas7.20%44
North Dakota6.80%45
Nebraska6.80%46
Vermont6.80%47
North Carolina6.50%48
Massachusetts6.20%49
New York6.10%50
Maine4.50%51
Get Your Rates Quote Now

Compare RatesStart Now →

While the average varies per state, the overall average is about 13 percent across the country.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Do police use ALPR systems when checking on proof of insurance?

Automated license plate reader (ALPR) systems are camera systems installed on street poles, street lights, and other relevant locations. ALPRs collect data on vehicles, focusing on the license plate numbers and tags them with geolocation and timestamp data.

Police in states like Texas and Virginia have successfully used this technology to reduce the number of uninsured drivers, so ALPRs can and often are used to check and track the status of insurance for drivers and vehicles on the road.

What happens at a traffic stop if you don’t have insurance?

If you’ve decided to take the risk and drive without insurance, be prepared to pay the consequences. Officers don’t take an offense like driving without insurance lightly since you’re putting the financial health of others at risk.

Even though it’s possible for officers to check your insurance data, you’ll still be asked to furnish proof of insurance. It’s a crime, even if you have coverage, to drive without proof of coverage in your car.

If you’re asked for your ID card and you don’t have it handy, you could face fines ranging from $100 to $175.

These fines are minor compared to the penalties you’ll face if you don’t have coverage at all.

Here are some of the consequences when you’re caught driving without insurance red-handed:

  • You can be cited for a misdemeanor and ordered a mandatory court appearance
  • You will be ordered to pay a fine for driving uninsured
  • You will be asked to provide current proof of insurance
  • You may be ordered by the court to submit an SR-22 for future verification
  • You will have a no insurance violation on your driving record
  • Your vehicle may be impounded and you will have to pay towing, storage, and impound fee

To make sure you’re covered, you’ll need to meet at least the minimum insurance requirements in your state.

Take a look at this table (also populated with III data) to see what the minimum insurance requirements are in your state.

State Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements
StateRequired CoverageMinimum Liability Limits
AlabamaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
AlaskaBI & PD Liab50/100/25
ArizonaBI & PD Liab15/30/10
ArkansasBI & PD Liab, PIP25/50/25
CaliforniaBI & PD Liab15/30/5
ColoradoBI & PD Liab25/50/15
ConnecticutBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/20
DelawareBI & PD Liab, PIP25/50/10
District of ColumbiaBI & PD Liab, UM25/50/10
FloridaPD Liab, PIP10/20/10
GeorgiaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
HawaiiBI & PD Liab, PIP20/40/10
IdahoBI & PD Liab25/50/15
IllinoisBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/20
IndianaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
IowaBI & PD Liab20/40/15
KansasBI & PD Liab, PIP25/50/25
KentuckyBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/25
LouisanaBI & PD Liab15/30/25
MaineBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM, Medpay50/100/25
MarylandBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM30/60/15
MassachusettsBI & PD Liab, PIP20/40/5
MichiganBI & PD Liab, PIP20/40/10
MinnesotaBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM30/60/10
MississippiBI & PD Liab25/50/25
MissouriBI & PD Liab, UM25/50/25
MontanaBI & PD Liab25/50/20
NebraskaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
NevadaBI & PD Liab25/50/20
New HampshireFR only25/50/25
New JerseyBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM15/30/5
New MexicoBI & PD Liab25/50/10
New YorkBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/10
North CarolinaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM30/60/25
North DakotaBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/25
OhioBI & PD Liab25/50/25
OklahomaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
OregonBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/20
PennsylvaniaBI & PD Liab, PIP15/30/5
Rhode IslandBI & PD Liab25/50/25
South CarolinaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
South DakotaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
TennesseeBI & PD Liab25/50/15
TexasBI & PD Liab, PIP30/60/25
UtahBI & PD Liab, PIP25/65/15
VermontBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/10
VirginiaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/20
WashingtonBI & PD Liab25/50/10
West VirginiaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
WisconsinBI & PD Liab, UM, Medpay25/50/10
WyomingBI & PD Liab25/50/20
Get Your Rates Quote Now

Compare RatesStart Now →

For the basics of liability coverage, take a minute to watch this video.

Read on and find out more about the penalties if you provide fake proof of insurance, additional ways police may determine you’re driving uninsured, etc.

What is the penalty for providing fake proof of insurance?

Is not having auto insurance a criminal offense? Not only is it a criminal offense, but it’s also an additional crime to drive uninsured and attempt to use fake or invalid proof of insurance. If you hand over a card that appears to be valid, you could get in even more trouble when the officer discovers the policy was canceled for non-payment months back.

In some states, officers are allowed to arrest people on the spot who are knowingly furnishing fake ID cards. In addition to your moving violations, you may face penalties for falsifying documents or using counterfeit documents to government officials.

Do you have to be pulled over to get caught being uninsured?

Can police check your car insurance even if you aren’t pulled over? Officers may now have more power to check insurance data, but it’s still possible that you could get caught with no insurance without even knowing it.

In states with electronic reporting requirements, carriers that are licensed to do business in the state are legally required to notify the DMV when policies terminate, renew, or begin.

This helps keep the state informed and can help them take action if needed. If no insurance is reported, the DMV will send out a notice. If you don’t respond, you could face:

  • Registration suspension
  • License suspension
  • Reinstatement fees
  • SR-22 requirements
  • Vehicle impoundment if caught driving on invalid plates

As you can see, state officials and peace officers are much more informed than you might think. In the past, it was easy to drive uninsured. Now, it’s cheaper to carry coverage than it is to break the law.

The Bottom Line: Can police check your auto insurance?

If you are driving without insurance and haven’t yet been fined, it’s time to buy coverage now. Use an online rate comparison and you’ll be better able to find the rates through several different providers.

Once you’ve compared the instant quotes, make a decision, and submit your application and initial payment for immediate insurance coverage.

Make sure you have the coverage you need, regardless of whether you get pulled over at a traffic stop or not, by using your ZIP code in our free tool so you can start comparing rates today.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption