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.

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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 and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that exis...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Aug 29, 2020

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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.

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.

Start comparing auto insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above! Enter your zip code above to get started now!

Do I need proof of insurance?

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.

Read on and find out more about how officers can check insurance and how being uninsured can affect your driving record, insurance record, and even criminal record.

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

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

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 system 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.

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 which 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.

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 a 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

What is the penalty for providing a fake proof of insurance?

Not only is it a criminal offense to drive uninsured, it’s an additional crime to drive uninsured and to 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 faked ID cards. In addition to your moving violations, you may face penalties for falsifying documents or using counterfeit documents to government officials.

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

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.

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. Start comparing auto insurance rates now by entering your zip code in our FREE tool below!