A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products, including home, life, auto, and commercial, and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, mainly in the insuranc...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers Insurance CSR 4 Years

UPDATED: Oct 18, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Carrying car insurance is mandatory in most states
  • You are required to carry proof of insurance in your car at all times
  • Failure to provide proof of insurance may carry stiff fines and even a jail term

Can you go to jail for not having car insurance? This is a question that many people may wonder when driving. Perhaps you do have car insurance but you do not have proof of insurance in your vehicle. Is this a crime? Read on to find out.

Then, enter your zip code into the FREE tool above to compare car insurance rates from top companies in your area!

Is it a crime to drive without car insurance?

Some people wonder if it is a crime to not carry insurance. The short answer is yes.

It is not a felony, but it is considered a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine on the first offense. It is a state law in every state except New Hampshire and Virginia to carry car insurance. If you drive without car insurance, you are breaking the law in the mandated states.

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What will happen if I am stopped without car insurance?


If you are stopped in a routine traffic stop, the officer will ask to see your license, registration, and insurance information. Officers are required to verify that you are the owner of the car that you are driving and that you are carrying insurance on your car.

When could not having insurance results in a jail term?

If you do not have your proof of insurance papers to show that you have insurance, you may be given a citation. This amount is determined by the states but it usually carries a fee on the first offense of around $200. If you fail to pay this fine, there may be a warrant issued for your arrest.

On a second offense, the fines go up substantially and a prison term could be imposed if the judge finds this appropriate.

In most cases, the court does not want to put people in prison, but if someone shows that they are irresponsible by continually ignoring the laws on car insurance, the court may opt to sentence that person to a jail term.

It’s Up to the States

Whether or not you will go to jail for failing to carry insurance depends on the state you live in. Here is a list of the states and their respective fines that are normally imposed for failing to carry auto insurance.

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It’s Up to the Judge

Once you know what the possible fines and penalties are for failure to carry insurance, you need to realize that the final decision on whether you could go to jail or pay certain fines for this offense is ultimately up to the judge.

If you are stopped for failure to carry insurance and your case is brought before the court, the judge will decide what sentence to impose based on your state’s allowable fees and penalties.

Car Insurance Requirements by State

It is important to know what your state requires regarding auto insurance. This includes understanding the minimum liability and personal injury amounts, as well as property damage requirements. You may also want to add on some riders to ensure that you have everything you need.

How much insurance do you need?


In addition to the state requirements, you may find that having the additional medical coverage is worth the extra premium you pay each month. Medical coverage usually offers coverage that will cover extra days in the hospital or days out of work.

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Other Add-ons

There are some other add-ons that you may want to add to your insurance policy.

How much will your premiums be?

Your insurance premium rates will depend on a number of factors that insurers will use to determine your degree of risk:

  • Your age and marital status – Married people sometimes get a lower rate than single individuals. This is because the statistics show that married people have fewer accidents. By showing your proof of marital status, you may pass less than if you are single. In addition, your age has a bearing on your rates. The highest risk group is those who are age 18-25. Males in this age group pay more for insurance than females do.
  • Your driving record – Your traffic record is the single most influential factor of any other factor affecting your car insurance rates. If you keep your driving record clean, you will have the best rates possible with most companies for your age bracket.
  • The make, model, and year of your car – Some cars, such as sports cars, do cost more to insure than others. For this reason, it is the wise person who considers insurance rates when purchasing a car. But by shopping around and comparing premiums costs between the various companies, you can usually find reasonable coverage that will cover your new car, even if you opt for a sportier model.
  • How much you drive – Insurance companies consider you a higher risk if you drive more. It’s just simple math. If you drive more, you are more likely to have an accident. So keep in mind that, the longer your commute, the more the premiums will compute!
  • Whether your insurance coverage has lapsed before – If you have been driving without insurance, this will likely show up in the form of a higher premium. Remember that the risk factors are highly influential in determining your rate. If you do not carry insurance for six months or more, you are considered a very high risk. So expect your premiums to be more than if you had continuous insurance.

What if you have car insurance but no proof?


You can be cited for failure to provide proof of insurance. This is not as serious as not carrying insurance, but it can go on your record and raise your rates. So always make a point of carrying a copy of your insurance card in your glove compartment as well as in your wallet or purse.

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