Can police check your auto insurance?

Police can check your auto insurance and its validity using an electronic system connected to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

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...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: May 19, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • You must carry proof of insurance with you whenever driving
  • An office has the right to stop your car during a routine check or if they suspect something is wrong
  • If you’re stopped and fail to provide proof of your auto insurance, you will get a ticket for driving uninsured

Before getting behind the wheel, all drivers should have insurance. If you’re pulled over for a traffic offense, or for any reason, the first thing law enforcement will ask for is your driver’s license and verification of your insurance. 

While selecting car insurance, ensure you choose a policy with the minimum coverage for your state. By doing so, you ensure you’re both protected in the event of an accident and compliant with state laws.

How do officers check if your insurance is valid?

These days, police officers have real-time systems that can check if your auto insurance is valid and meets state requirements.

One of the ways to do this is by running your vehicle’s license plates. Before even checking your driver’s license, a police officer can access a web portal and check the current status of your license and car insurance by entering your license plate number.

These electronic systems have the latest information on your car insurance because of the strong communication between insurance companies and the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV. Whenever you renew your insurance policy or change any details, the new information is updated in these electronic verification systems. 

Hence, the police can rely on the information in these systems. As a result, there’s no way drivers can hand over invalid insurance documents without being caught and getting a ticket or worse.

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How can you get proof of insurance?

As soon as you purchase car insurance, the insurance company will send you proof of insurance. Every time you renew your insurance, you will receive a new card. 

We’ve provided a detailed explanation of how to get your car insurance certificate.

Most states also allow you to provide proof of insurance in electronic form. So if you’re held at a traffic stop by law enforcement, you can show a digital insurance card on your smartphone.

Also, consider downloading your insurance company’s app, if possible. Today, most companies allow you to access copies of your insurance cards online. 

Another option is to keep your insurance company’s contact number handy so that they can send the proof right away. 

Consequences of Driving Uninsured

If you don’t have car insurance and still decide to get on the road, you are very likely to face serious consequences. This is because you are putting yourself as well as others’ lives at risk.

So, what happens if you get caught driving without insurance? That depends on where you live because state laws vary, and so do the penalties for driving uninsured. 

For example, for your first offense in Alabama, you have to pay a $500 fine, could face imprisonment for up to three months, and see your license suspended (along with a $200 reinstatement of registration fee). 

In Vermont, the penalties are less severe. Drivers will have to pay a fine of between $250 and $500, and their license will be suspended until they can provide proof of financial responsibility. 

In general, if you drive without proper car insurance in many states you run a risk of:

  • Being cited for a misdemeanor and ordered a mandatory court appearance
  • Paying a fine for driving uninsured
  • Having to provide current proof of insurance before being allowed to drive again
  • Submitting an SR-22 for future insurance verification
  • Paying towing, storage, and impound fees for your vehicle 

However, if you are from New Hampshire you do not have to worry about these penalties as it is the only state where car insurance isn’t required.

The Bottom Line: Can police check your auto insurance?

Yes, the police can check your auto insurance, and you never know quite when that might happen. 

It is always best to buy auto insurance as early as you can. This won’t just reduce the chances of paying a huge fine and losing your license but also ensure you are driving responsibly.

If you don’t have active auto insurance, you will most likely get a ticket and even face some heavy penalties. 

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