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Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in New Mexico

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The NMS 66-5-205 Mandatory Financial Responsibility Act is in place to ensure that all drivers on the roads have means to guarantee their financial responsibility in case of accidents. Violating the Act is considered a misdemeanor in New Mexico and suspension of your vehicle registration. The penalties for driving without insurance is either a $300 fine or up to 90 days of jail time; by the court’s discretion and your condition, it can even be both. What is worse is, if you fail to immediately return your license plates and vehicle registration after the suspension, that fine can increase to $1,000. Alternatively, the court may penalize you with jail time up to six months, or, again, both fines and imprisonment.

The table below illustrates the fines and penalties. Read on to find out how to reinstate your driving privileges after an insurance suspension.

Type of PenaltyDriving without InsuranceFail to Surrender License and Registration
Fine No more than $300 No more than $1,000
Imprisonment (as alternative to fine, or both) up to 90 days (as alternative to fine, or both) up to 6 months
Driving Privilege Registration suspension, or license plate confiscation at scenes of accident. Registration suspension.

When You Can’t Show Proof of Insurance in New Mexico

Liability car insurance coverage is required to drive your car in the Land of Enchantment. You will need to maintain the minimum 25/50/10 insurance amounts, and carry proof of insurance with you whenever on the road. You are mostly likely going to be required to show proof of insurance at registration, traffic stops, and most definitely at scenes of car accidents. Failure to present proof in forms of a current insurance ID card or a policy binder will mean fines and suspension. 

Proof of Insurance upon Vehicle Registration or on the Road

In New Mexico, you cannot register your car unless you provide the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) with a copy of your proof of car insurance that meets the state’s minimum required coverage. Similarly, you are expected to carry a copy of your proof of insurance whenever you drive on the road. Without the proof, law enforcement can assume that you do not have insurance at all. Such citation will mean you are guilty of a misdemeanor, and punishable by both registration suspension and a $300 fine. There is also a possibility of a 90-day jail time in place of the fine. However, if you do have valid insurance and was just temporarily without the proof, you can waive this citation as well as the registration reinstatement fee. You must provide the MVD with your proof of insurance within 15 days from the citation in order to waive the citation and the fee. 

Proof of Insurance After An Accident

Like most States, New Mexico’s traffic enforcers are authorized to request proof of insurance at the scene of an accident. Whether you’re at fault or not, as soon as the police officer finds you uninsured, he will immediately confiscate your license plates. You'll be issued a temporary operation sticker valid for 30 days, a duplicate of which will go to the MVD.

Within these 30 days, you must inform your insurance agent –- or get in touch with one if you were previously uninsured –- to update your insurance status with the department. After this period, your registration will also be suspended, with you guilty of a misdemeanor charge. Penalties include $300 fine, or a 90-day jail time, or possibly both if the court finds it necessary. 

Notice of Non-Compliance

New Mexico enforces its insurance law via an online monitoring system. This online system is called the Insurance Identification Database (IIDB). You cannot have your car’s registration renewed unless you have an active insurance record on file. This is also why you may still receive a Notice of Non-Compliance even if you have provided a hard copy of your proof of insurance. New Mexico is transitioning to rely on the database over paper proof, and you must reach out to your insurer to update your insurance status on the IIDB. Every month, the MVD asks all insurance companies to verify the status of each registered vehicle by its vehicle identification number (VIN) through this. The database then matches the status by VIN in each local motor vehicle office.

If the system identifies your car as uninsured, it will notify the MVD to send you a Notice of Non-Compliance. The notice gives you 30 days to get in touch with your insurance agent and update your insurance status with the database. If you do not do so within the time frame, your registration will be suspended, and you will be subject to as much as $300 misdemeanor penalty. 

Surrender Your License Plates and Registration after Suspension

New Mexico drivers must also be aware that it is a criminal offense to delay surrendering your license plates and/or registration after a suspension for non-compliance with the motor vehicle financial responsibility laws. The penalties for such criminal offensees are either up to $1,000 in fine or up to 6 months in jail, or possibly both. As soon as you receive the official Notice of Suspension of Registration from the MVD, you have 10 days to return your plates.

Reinstating your Driving Privileges

It takes a $30 reinstatement fee to get your registration back, and $25 to reinstate or place your vehicle license plates. On top of the fee, your agent will have to validate your active insurance information online, and you will need to pay your misdemeanor fines before the department will fully allow the reinstatement of your driving privileges.

Re-applying for Auto Insurance in New Mexico

While it is a must for all registered motorists to have auto insurance in New Mexico, your driving or claims history may pose a disadvantage when you go around shopping for an agency to cover you. Fortunately, the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Insurance Plan can help. If you have been labeled a high-risk driver by agencies in the mainstream market, this state program can aid you in obtaining the legally required car insurance coverage.

Sources:
New Mexico Motor Vehicle Code: Penalties for misdemeanor
New Mexico Motor Vehicle Code: Surrender of License and Registration
New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division: How to Reinstate Registration

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