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Can police tell if you have car insurance?

Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted...

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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. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
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UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...
  • Police in some states now have the ability to scan license plates using an in-car computer system
  • In most cases, police must have probable cause to pull you over but not carrying insurance qualifies for that criteria
  • Don’t risk huge fines, court costs, and loss of property by not having adequate insurance

One thing many drivers would like to know is whether police can tell if you have car insurance. There are many reasons why it might be important to know this.

Whatever the reason, you should know that driving without insurance, even for one day, is a misdemeanor crime and you can be fined anywhere from $200-$500 for a first offense, depending on your state regulations for driving without insurance.

To find out what your state minimums are regarding first offenses, click here.

Once you know the state fines, it should inspire you to make sure that you don’t let your insurance lapse. You’ll never know if police have run your tags to find out if you’re carrying the proper amount of insurance until you’re pulled over.

To find cheap insurance that meets your state’s requirements, enter your zip code above!

How Technology has Changed Things

In the past, police would have to call your car insurance company to see if you were covered by insurance. It was a long process by which police would pull over someone they wanted to check, then come up and ask for your car registration and driver’s license, and call your insurer if they suspected that your insurance was expired.

But now, with new computer systems that are installed in most modern police cars, all they have to do is to enter your license plate number to find out whether or not you’re insured.

Reasonable Cause and Your Auto Insurance

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Fox News reported that Michigan State Police now have access to this technology in their police vehicles, and they can run a person’s plate at will.

However, to pull someone over for a routine traffic stop, police must have what is known as reasonable cause.

Reasonable cause, (also known as probable cause), is a reason that justifies an officer’s suspicion that someone is doing something wrong.

So, in the case of insurance, if the driver is acting in any way that breaks any other laws, weaving, or driving too fast or slow, the police officer could pull them over for a traffic stop. Then they could run their plates and check it with their computer equipment to check to see if the driver has insurance.

If it is discovered that they do not have insurance, the driver could be cited for whatever traffic violation they were pulled over for, in addition to failure to carry insurance.

No Special Permission Needed to Run Plates

Officers may also run license plates at will if they have reason to believe you are not carrying insurance, even without probable cause. This is because, in most states, they do not have to have this criterion to check to see if your insurance if valid.

Police may occasionally run license plates to see if drivers are carrying insurance. Then if it comes back that you are not, they have probable cause to pull you over.

States Toughening up on Car Insurance Regulations

With so many accidents happening every day on the U.S. highways, more states are clamping down on drivers who refuse to drive without insurance.

This article from Times Free Press illustrates that there is a minimum $300 fine in the state of Tennessee for being caught without the state minimum insurance. The article argues that you may be able to get out of the fine. However, that is up to the judge and it usually not worth the risk of not carrying insurance.

Car Insurance Costs

Though there are specific rules and protocols that officers must follow to pull drivers over or investigate insurance issues, if you are in a state that features the new technologies, you are more likely to be pulled over for a check on your insurance.

More states are adding these features all of the time, and it won’t be long until all states have the technology to check this on the road without pulling you over.

The solution to not having to worry about police checking your insurance is to make sure you are covered at all times.

Why keep your insurance up-to-date?

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There are several reasons you should make sure your insurance is current.

First of all, it’s the state law in most states to carry minimum liability and bodily injury, as well as property damage insurance. This is because you would have to pay out of your own pocket for damages and injuries if you did not carry this insurance.

Secondly, if you are hit by an underinsured or uninsured motorist, you may pay out-of-pocket expenses for an accident that was not your fault. Having uninsured and underinsured insurance guarantees that your damages are paid for even if the other person does not carry proper coverage.

Finally, carrying appropriate insurance protects your investment. You spent a lot of money on your vehicle. Perhaps you have even made upgrades or are still making payments on your vehicle. You don’t want to lose all of that in one accident just because you failed to keep insurance.

Having proper insurance to cover your investment and protect yourself from loss is the best way to make sure you will not suffer financial distress from an accident.

Shop and compare policies

Instead of trying to figure out if police can scan your license plates to see if you have insurance, do the responsible thing and get car insurance if you do not current have any. It will avoid the possibility of exorbitant fines, decrease your anxiety levels, and give you the assurance that you are taken care of if something happens.

Always be honest with your insurer and update them on any changes in your status.

If you are searching for car insurance that works with your budget, enter your zip code below to compare rates from multiple companies!

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