Few infractions raise the ire of New York lawmakers and judges more than driving without proper auto insurance. Attorney Zev Goldstein, who has over 30 years of experience in practice with NYS driver’s licenses, will show you how there are 7 ways to lose one’s driver’s license due to the lack of insurance.
Many of the suspensions mentioned below are administrative in nature, therefore one is not entitled to the full due process of the criminal court procedure, which makes fighting these consequences more difficult because of less stringent burdens of proof.
At the basic level, you must have $10,000 coverage for property damage to the other person’s automobile or property per accident, $25,000 for bodily injury and $50,000 for a death from an accident. There are some other requirements as well. These figures represent the minimum coverage for personal injury to yourself and/or your passengers, and is also known as no-fault “first party benefits”. Coverage for collision damage to your own vehicle may be a good idea but is not required by the state.
The law demands that there be valid insurance in effect every single day that the car is registered in New York State. This applies whether the car is being driven or not (there are certain exceptions for motorcycles). The coverage must be issued from a company licensed by the NYS Department of Financial Services and certified by the DMV. Out-of-State coverage is not effective for cars registered in New York. Finally, the name on the registration must match that on the insurance policy.
Rarely is anyone pulled over simply for not having insurance – how is the cop to know? But if one is pulled over for any other traffic violation, or if there is an accident, the police officer will, as a matter of course, request to see the insurance card. If you don’t have one with you or have one that is no longer current, you will be ticketed under VTL §319 for driving without insurance. In most courts, you can have this dismissed with proper proof, but that might mean a letter from your carrier, not just the card or a letter from your insurance broker, and a broker may just want to secure your business. The reason is that an insurance card, by itself, is not proof that your policy was in actually still in effect at the time of violation or accident. And this is so, despite the fact that the police officer would have accepted the card as proper proof back at the traffic stop.
What happens if you really did not have insurance? The law treats this very seriously, because when one is in an accident it is possible to cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. If there is no insurance, there is likely no one who can pay, which could leave a victim with no compensation. In some instances the state has a fund, the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVIAC) which can provide some level of relief to the victim of an uninsured driver. This is less than optimal, and therefore a number of serious consequences can affect the uninsured motorist.
1. Ticketed for no insurance and failing to produce proof of insurance to the Court, ie: a letter from the carrier that your vehicle was insured on the date of the ticket or accident.
It is important to stress that if you can’t show that you had insurance in effect, there is very little else you can do to defend yourself. The the police officer simply testifies that you were driving and did not provide proof of insurance. The burden of proof is upon the motorist to prove that insurance was in effect. If you cannot prove insurance coverage, the judge has no discretion to waive the license revocation.. Even an attorney may not be able to negotiate out of a revocation. You may be eligible for a conditional use license.
2.If you are ticketed for no insurance and receive a default conviction in the Traffic Violations Bureau (Rochester or the 5 Boroughs ) for failure to respond to the ticket – even if you really did have insurance. (Most other courts in New York State will simply suspend your license temporarily until you respond to the ticket, and will dismiss the charge of no insurance upon proper proof of coverage and payment of the suspension termination fee.)
3. If one is convicted for driving without insurance their license will be revoked for at least one year. In addition, the motorist can be fined to up to $1500, plus a civil penalty of $750 must be paid to DMV before the license can be restored.
4. A motor vehicle must be insured, as stated earlier, at all times that the vehicle is registered. If the policy is cancelled for a lapse of coverage for failure to pay premiums, both the vehicle will have its registration suspended and the registrants’ license may be suspended, until the plates are turned in or until the DMV receives proof that the car is insured. Even if the vehicle is parked in a garage and has not be driven in years, the DMV will suspend your driver’s license indefinitely until the plates are turned in, or the registration period runs its course and expires. Once a registration goes into suspension for lack of insurance coverage, the suspension is not automatically terminated once insurance coverage is reinstated. The registration suspension as well as the license suspension will not be terminated until a suspension termination fee is paid.
So say you travelled out of the country for two months. Your car is parked in your garage and you decide to cancel insurance, and you take off the plates (but do not give them in to DMV). You get home two months later and find a notice of indefinite suspension in the mail! What happened was, your insurance carrier notify the DMV of the lapse of coverage and the registration is suspended. If the cause of the lapse is not cured, DMV will also suspend your driver’s license.
5. If a vehicle was uninsured for 1-89 days and then becomes re-insured the DMV will offer the owner one of two options to rectify the suspension: One is to pay a progressive fee for each day that the vehicle was not insured. The other is to accept a suspension of the registration (by turning in the plates) for an amount of time equal to the number of days that the car was uninsured; the plates must be turned in, and the vehicle removed from the road. If the car was uninsured for more than 90 days the registration will automatically be suspended for an amount of time equal to the number of days that the car was uninsured, beginning only once you turn in the plates. Once again, the registration suspension as well as the license suspension will not be terminated until a suspension termination fee is paid.
We recently had a matter where a Grandma who paid her insurance premiums late, was arrested for the VTL §512 misdemeanor of operating while registration is suspended or revoked, because even though she reinstated her insurance, she did not get her suspension terminated with a fee or penalty. Cops have software which will check plates for suspension. Then they have probable cause to pull the vehicle over for the VTL §512 misdemeanor of operating while registration is suspended or revoked.
6. If one is involved in an accident while the car does not have proof of insurance, the driver’s license will be suspended until insurance coverage is proven. Even though the car was not their own the driver can be suspended.
7. Finally, if one is involved in an uninsured accident or has a judgment entered against them which is not fully covered by insurance, they will be personally liable on the balance of the judgment, which could be quite high, depending on the damages and/or injuries involved. Under New York law, your license will be suspended indefinitely, until the judgment is paid in full or until a payment arrangement is agreed upon. If it takes years to satisfy the judgment, the suspension will remain in effect for years.
There are cases where uninsured motorists and underinsured motorists were NEVER able to restore their licenses after an accident for this reason.
If you are caught driving the car during a suspension period, you will be charged with Driving with a Suspended Registration, or aggravated unlicensed operation, which are misdemeanors and carry fines, surcharges and possibly a jail sentence of up to 30 days. The solution? If you are planning to cancel your insurance policy for any reason, but still wish to keep the car, you must turn in the license plates and keep the car off the road – and that includes not parking it on a public street.
All in all, maintaining current auto insurance, while expensive, is a necessary part of owning a vehicle in the State of New York. There are no excuses accepted for violating this rule. If you cannot afford to obtain insurance, the only option left is to get rid of the car. If not, as this article should have made clear, the consequences are severe, and next to impossible to avoid.
If you have received a traffic ticket or suspension notice for an insurance violation, do not hesitate to call attorney Zev Goldstein, an experienced New York traffic ticket lawyer. Attorney Zev Goldstein can be reached by calling 845-356-7770, or by completing the online contact form. Mr. Goldstein offers a free initial consultation and accepts checks or credit cards as payment for services.