Can You Go to Jail for Driving Without Insurance?

Depending on what state you’re in and what the circumstances are, driving without insurance could land you up to one year of jail time.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Pat Roache
The consequences for getting caught
driving without car insurance
will usually involve fines and temporary suspensions of your driver’s license and vehicle registration. However, in some states, driving without insurance could result in a punishment of up to two years of jail time.
If you weren’t already aware, driving a motor vehicle without the required
car insurance
is a bad idea. At best, you’ll have to pay a fine if you’re caught, but at worst, you could go to jail for as long as two years for driving without insurance. Here are the states that punish uninsured motorists with jail time, plus a little more information on what you can expect from this violation.
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Can you go to jail if you drive without car insurance?

Yes, it is possible to be punished with jail time for driving without auto insurance. However, this only happens in specific states and under specific circumstances. Across the board, the jail time for driving without car insurance is never more than two years. In some cases, the jail time is as short as fifteen days.
Here are all of the states in which uninsured driving might land you in jail, and how much time you might end up doing:
  • Alabama: three to six months
  • Arkansas: up to one year
  • Colorado: up to one year
  • Connecticut: up to three months
  • Georgia: up to one year
  • Idaho: up to six months
  • Kansas: up to six months
  • Maryland: up to two years
  • Massachusetts: up to one year
  • Michigan: up to one year
  • Minnesota: up to one year
  • Missouri: up to fifteen days
  • North Dakota: up to thirty days
  • Oklahoma: up to thirty days
  • South Dakota: up to thirty days
  • West Virginia: up to one year
  • Wyoming: up to six months
It’s important to understand that you usually won’t get charged with jail time for driving without insurance unless it is a repeat offense or if someone was injured or killed. In most cases, driving without insurance is treated as a misdemeanor.

Penalties for driving without car insurance coverage

If you get pulled over by law enforcement, you’re most likely going to be asked to provide
proof of insurance
in the form of an insurance card or equivalent document. However, as long as you can provide your insurance information—even if it’s just on your phone—you’ll usually be fine.
If you get pulled over and you don’t have insurance, you’re probably going to get a ticket with a fine at the very least. However, in some cases, getting caught driving without insurance can result in instant driver’s license suspension. Police might also seize your license plate in this scenario.

What if you get into an accident while uninsured?

The consequences get worse if you get into an
at-fault accident without car insurance
. Not only will you likely face larger fines, but you’re also more likely to get your license suspended. This is especially true if there’s also a
DUI
involved.
Plus, if you cause an accident while uninsured, you’ll still be on the hook for paying for whatever damages you caused and you can expect your insurance rates to go up the next time you apply for a policy. That’s because traffic-related misdemeanors will result in you being considered a high-risk driver.
Here are some of the most common things that will happen if you get into an accident without insurance.

Suspended License

Most states will
suspend your driver’s license
if you get into an accident without insurance. In some cases, the suspension will only last as long as you don’t have insurance, while in other cases it could last multiple years.
You’ll often be required to
file an SR-22
from your insurance company for as long as five years and pay a reinstatement fee to reinstate your license, once the suspension time is over.
SR-22 insurance
is often more expensive, and some companies will straight-up deny insurance to drivers with an SR-22.
In especially severe circumstances, your license and registration might be revoked entirely, making it much more challenging to regain your driving privileges in the future.

Vehicle impoundment

In most states, getting in an accident while driving without a car insurance policy will result in the impoundment of your car. Luckily, this usually only lasts until you submit proof of insurance to the DMV and file an SR-22 form.

Jail time

As far as imprisonment is concerned, it’s rare that a first-time offender will face jail time unless the accident was especially severe—like if someone was injured or killed. However, repeat offenders will face worse fines and possible jail time.
Bear in mind that the rules around imprisonment as a punishment for uninsured driving vary significantly from state to state, so you should familiarize yourself with the laws that are specific to the state that you live in.

Fines

Getting in an accident while uninsured can seriously set you back financially. Not only will you possibly be liable for damages and medical bills, but you’ll also face fines as high as $5,000 for a subsequent offense—or even a first offense in states like West Virginia. 
In the District of Columbia, a first offense could net a fine of up to $2,500. Considering just how expensive an accident could be if you don’t have insurance, the cost of an annual premium could be considered a small price to pay in comparison.

What are the minimum car insurance requirements?

Almost every state requires its drivers to purchase certain amounts of
liability insurance
and to carry proof of insurance that they meet these minimums. The only exceptions to this rule are
New Hampshire
and
Virginia
, but they still require you to have proof of financial responsibility.
Liability coverage insures against damages you cause to others that you’re deemed liable for. This type of basic coverage usually includes
property damage liability
and
bodily injury
liability.
It’s also becoming more common for states to require other types of insurance coverage to meet the minimum requirements. These additional requirements usually include
uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
and/or
personal injury protection (PIP)
.
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FAQs

The
penalties for driving without insurance in California
include a $100 to $200 fine for a first offense. You’ll also be charged penalty assessment fees, which usually add another $300 or so. You may also have your vehicle impounded.
If you’re charged for a second offense, you could pay as much as $1,800 in fines and penalty assessments. If you are uninsured in an accident, you may be required to file an SR-22 for up to three years. If you are charged with another offense after the collision, you’ll have your license suspended for one year.
If you’re caught driving without insurance in
Florida
, you’ll face a $150 reinstatement fee for the first offense and an indefinite license suspension until you submit proof of insurance. However, you can avoid the reinstatement fee if you submit proof that you had insurance before the suspension date. Reinstatement fees increase for subsequent offenses.
If you get in an accident without insurance in Florida and are liable for damages, you could be on the hook for the full cost and will lose your driving privileges until it is paid. Depending on the severity of the accident, you may also be required to file an SR-22 for reinstatement. Plus, you’ll be required to purchase extra bodily injury liability coverage for your next auto insurance policy.
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