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Failure to comply with Montana’s Motor Vehicle Insurance Responsibility and Verification Act is considered a misdemeanor in the Big Sky Country state. Registered motorists who disregard the law can be punished with license and registration suspensions and heavy fines, and even imprisonment, as early as the first offense. A record of misdemeanor for insurance lapse on your driving record can result in very expensive Montana auto insurance rates later down the road.
|Type of Penalty||First Offense||Second Offense||Third Offense||Fourth and Subsequent Offenses|
|Fine||$250 to $500||$350||$500||$500|
|Possible Imprisonment||Up to 10 days, or both imprisonment and fine||Up to 6 months, or both imprisonment and fine|
|Registration Revocation||N/A||90 days||180 days||Suspended until proof of insurance submitted.|
|Driver's License Suspension||N/A||N/A||N/A||Suspended until proof of insurance submitted.|
|SR-22||Maintain SR-22 for 3 years|
Penalties for Driving Uninsured in Montana
If you want to drive on the public roads of Montana, you must comply with Montana’s financial responsibility laws. It states that whenever you register a car or drive a car, you must make sure that it is covered by a liability insurance policy, which meets the state’s minimum coverage limits of 25/50/10. You should be prepared to show proof of compliance, such as your insurance card, whenever you are on the road in case you are ever stopped by law enforcement, or involved in an accident. More importantly, you should also make sure that your insurance information is up-to-date in the Montana Insurance Verification System (MTIVS) database. Law enforcement will use this electronic tool to verify whether your insurance is current. In Montana, your electronic data supersedes your physical proof.
If you are unable to produce proof of insurance, or if your policy is electronically verified to have lapsed, you will face the following consequences:
The State of Montana charges people who violate the mandatory insurance law with fines that increase based on the number of times you've been caught. If you’re a first time offender, you can be charged between $250 and $500 in fines. If the violation is repeated within 5 years of your last conviction, you will be charged $350. For your third and subsequent offenses, the financial loss becomes steeper, at $500.
Since an insurance law violation is not considered an administrative case, you will be required to make court appearances and will need to pay a surcharge of $35 in court costs.
As in most states, a misdemeanor conviction is indictable with an imprisonment sanction in Montana. On your first and second conviction for driving uninsured, you may have to serve a 10-day sentence in jail. Repeat offenders, who are caught driving uninsured three or more times, can be ordered to serve up to a maximum of 6 months. The court can choose whether to punish you with either the fine or jail time, or both.
Driving Privileges Suspension and Revocation for No Insurance
Failing to follow the Montana mandatory insurance law will lead to the mandatory revocation of your vehicle registration. You get a pass for your first offense. This penalty is specifically for repeat offenders. The court will order the Department of Justice to suspend the vehicle registration of the uninsured car you were driving as soon as the non-compliance citation was received. Once you have paid the fines and showed acceptable proof of insurance, your vehicle registration will still be revoked for 90 days on your second offense, and 180 days on the third. You should immediately surrender your registration receipt and license plates to the Montana Motor Vehicle Division’s (MVD) office, when you receive the court’s order of suspension. During the revocation period, the Department of Justice will issue you a restricted registration receipt that allows you to use the car for daily commute to work only.
If you fail to surrender your plates and registration receipt, police officers are legally authorized to seize your plates during an investigative stop or arrest. If you willfully refuse to return your license, you will be fined up to $500 or imprisoned not more than 30 days.
If you’ve violated the insurance law 4 times or more within a 5-year span, your driver’s license will be suspended along with your registration. You must surrender your driver’s license, license plates, and registration receipt to the Department of Justice immediately upon the notice of suspension. You will not be allowed to reinstate either until you've paid the fines and obtained an acceptable proof of insurance.
Reducing Insurance Law Penalties in Montana
On the other hand, the State offers you opportunities to lessen the burden of your penalties, provided that you follow certain conditions. If, before your scheduled court appearance, you are able to submit evidence of compliance that proves that your policy was active at the time of the citation, your conviction can be dismissed. If you can satisfy judgment by submitting proof of compliance before your court appearance, your reinstatement fee can be waived. If you come back to court with a newly-purchased auto insurance policy, the suspension period of your driving privileges can be shortened.
Reinstating Driving Privileges in Montana
In Montana, you can only start the reinstatement process of your driving privileges after paying your dues and serving your suspension period. There is a $50 registration reinstatement fee and $100 license reinstatement fee, if applicable, and you must then secure a valid auto insurance policy that meets the coverage limits required by law. You must have your insurer file an SR-22 for you, which is to be maintained for 3 years. Your SR-22 will help the Motor Vehicles Financial Responsibility Division monitor your insurance compliance. Failure to maintain the SR-22 will result again lead to the suspension of your registration.
A note for fourth time offenders: the Department of Justice may evaluate your case and determine whether or not you are eligible for licensure, even after you've furnished all standard proof and satisfied judgments.
Re-applying for Auto Insurance in Montana
Insurance carriers keep a close watch on suspensions and revocations that have been logged on your driving record. These are major factors that mark you as a high-risk driver, and would give you a hard time purchasing an auto insurance policy in the voluntary market. If you find yourself being tagged a high-risk driver and being denied coverage, you should try the Montana Automobile Insurance Plan.
Montana Motor Vehicle Divisions: minimum liability insurance law
Montana Annotated Motor Vehicle Codes: penalties
Montana Annotated Motor Vehicle Codes: suspensino to continue until judgments paid and proof given