It is illegal to register or drive an uninsured motor vehicle in Washington, D.C.
These two types of violations come with different penalties. For simply having an uninsured registered vehicle, you can be charged between $150 and $2,500 in fines. If you are caught driving uninsured, you can be fined $500, with the amount increasing 50% for every subsequent offense. Your license can also be suspended for up to 60 days for noncompliance with D.C's. insurance law.
Type of penalty
Owning an uninsured vehicle
Operating an uninsured vehicle
|First offense||Subsequent offenses||First offense||Subsequent offenses|
|$150 and an additional $7 for each day after the first 30 days from when the notice is received, up to $2,500||$500||Fine increases by 50% for every subsequent offense|
|30 days, instead of or in combination with fine||60 days, instead of or in combination with fine||30 days, instead of or in combination with fine||60 days, instead of or in combination with fine|
|$30 for failure or refusal to present insurance when requested by law enforcement||$30 for failure or refusal to present insurance when requested by law enforcement|
|3 years||3 years||3 years||3 years|
Penalties for driving uninsured in D.C.
The auto insurance requirement in the District of Columbia is liability insurance with limits of 25/50/10. D.C.'s Compulsory/No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act requires all registered motorists to be financially responsible by carrying auto insurance, whether the vehicle is on the road or not.
You are expected to have a valid insurance policy when you register your motor vehicle. You also have to maintain at least that minimum coverage for as long as your registration is active. A lapse of even a single day can lead to fines and suspensions — and, in the worst-case scenario, even imprisonment.
D.C. has a separate set of penalties for owners of uninsured vehicles and people who drive uninsured vehicles.
For operating an uninsured vehicle on public roadways
Whether you own the vehicle or not, as the operator of an uninsured vehicle at the time of the citation, you will be fined. If it is the first time you've been caught driving without insurance, the fine is $500. It will then increase by 50% for every subsequent violation, making the fine $750 for the second offense, $1,000 for the third and so on.
Failing to provide proper evidence of financial responsibility on the road may cost you your driver's license. At the court's discretion, your penalty may be a license suspension of 30 days for your first offense and 60 days for your second. This suspension may happen in place of or on top of any fines.
When a D.C. officer pulls you over for a traffic violation or investigates a car accident you are involved in, they can ask to see your proof of financial responsibility. Acceptable proof can be your actual insurance policy, an official insurance identification card issued by your carrier or a certification letter printed on the insurance company's letterhead. If you don't have any of these in your possession, you will be written a ticket for driving uninsured.
For owning an uninsured vehicle
The law mandates that every licensed insurer in D.C. notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of all policy cancellations and nonrenewals, as well as provide periodic updates about the insurance statuses of their policyholders.
If your policy was canceled or not renewed, know that you must either:
- Secure a new policy and submit the new insurance information to your local DMV
- Surrender your registration and vehicle tags to the DMV immediately
Doing one of these will keep you from having to pay penalties for being uninsured.
The DMV can also test registrations on file at random to verify insurance status.
If your coverage appears to be inactive, you will be charged a $150 civil fine. You will have 30 days to send proof to the DMV that you have valid insurance coverage. After 30 days, you will be charged $7 for every day that you remain unverified (and considered uninsured). Your total fine can accumulate up to $2,500 if you leave it unresolved.
The good news is that if you can submit current proof of insurance and prove that your car was never used during the period your insurance had lapsed, a portion of your penalties may be waived.
Reinstating your driving privileges in D.C.
As soon as you've completed your suspension, you are eligible to have your driving privileges restored. The first thing you will need to do is get an auto insurance policy that follows the mandatory D.C. minimums. You will also need to have your insurer file an SR-22 with the DMV. The SR-22 is a certificate guaranteeing that you will maintain your insurance for the next three years.
Once you've paid the $98 reinstatement fee and settled all outstanding debts on your driving record, including unpaid parking tickets, moving violation tickets and insurance lapse fines, you may reclaim your license and drive in the District of Columbia again.
D.C. has additional penalties for specific insurance-related violations you might commit during the course of your verification or conviction.
Refusal to produce proof of insurance when requested by law enforcement officials can cost you $30.
If you knowingly provide false statements regarding your insurance status, operate a vehicle during your suspension for violating D.C.'s insurance law or fail to return your registration and tags to the DMV when convicted, you will face jail time. The jail sentence is 30 days for your first offense and 90 days for your second offense.
Reapplying for auto insurance in D.C.
Accumulating violations on your driving record can cause insurance carriers to label you a high-risk driver. This can make it difficult to get approved for a policy in the mainstream market. If you've been denied car insurance, the District of Columbia Automobile Insurance Plan may be a good option. You can apply through the plan and get the valid policy you need.