Auto Insurance Basics

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in Texas

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The State of Texas requires that all drivers carry proof of liability insurance at least 30/60/25 in coverage, or an alternate proof of financial responsibility of a deposit or cashier’s check of at least $50,000. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, an estimated 20% of all vehicles in Texas, or 4 million cars, are not insured. If you are uninsured because you have been unable to find auto insurance in the voluntary market, you may be able to find insurance through the Texas Automobile Insurance Plan Association. Because Texas has such a huge problem with uninsured drivers, the penalties for driving without auto insurance are especially severe. TexasSure, a state-funded program, was created in June 2008 to reduce the number of uninsured vehicles. 

Insurance companies in Texas submit policy information for all their customers to TexasSure, allowing law enforcement officers to check the status of your insurance policy when you have been pulled over. If you don’t have auto insurance, or if you have forgotten your insurance card and your policy information has not been updated in TexasSure, you could be slapped with a fine of up to $1,000 plus an annual surcharge of $250 for three years, vehicle impoundment, and suspension of driving privileges for up to two years. 

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Penalties for Driving Uninsured in Texas

It’s essential to carry proof of insurance when you’re driving in Texas. Whenever you’re pulled over by a peace officer for traffic violations in Texas, you will have to present the following forms of identification: your driver’s license, a TX vehicle registration, and proof of auto insurance. If you just received a new insurance ID card and forgot to put it in your glove compartment, the peace officer could verify your insurance policy with TexasSure. Even if the peace officer is able to verify that you have an active insurance policy, you could still be slapped with a fine for failure to carry insurance. Uninsured drivers who are unable to demonstrate proof of financial responsibility could face fines between $925 and $1,750. 

Penalties for 1st Offense

For a 1st offense, you’ll have to pay fines between $175-350. That might not sound that bad, but wait for it - you’ll have to pay an annual surcharge of $250 for three years in a row. You’ll end up paying between $925-1,100 for your 1st offense, which is a hefty chunk of change.

Penalties for 2nd Offense

If you’re caught driving without insurance for the second time and subsequent occasions, the penalties will become more severe. You’ll have to pay fines between $350-1,000, and you’ll have to pay an annual surcharge of $250 for three years in a row like the first time. You’ll end up spending between $1,100-1,750. To put those fines in perspective, the average cost of car insurance in Texas for our benchmark drivers is $885. For one ticket, our study's drivers could be paying $215-865 more than some Texans are paying for their annual auto insurance premium. Additionally, the court could order your vehicle to be impounded for 180 days. If your vehicle is impounded, you can apply for its release by showing evidence of financial responsibility. If your vehicle remains impounded, you’ll have to pay a pesky impoundment fee of $15 per day—if your vehicle is impounded for 180 days, you’ll end up spending $2,700 in impoundment fees. In total you could end up spending $4,450 for second and subsequent convictions of driving without auto insurance.

Indigency Program

If you received a fine for an offense for driving without auto insurance, and you are unable to pay the annual surcharges, you could qualify for the Indigency Program. For individuals with an income at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines, their annual surcharge could be reduced to 10% of the total charge. If you fall below the poverty level, you’ll only have to pay an annual surcharge of $25. While the Indigency program will significantly lower the price of the annual surcharge, it won’t excuse you from paying the actual fine. 

Penalties for Being Uninsured in an Accident

If you are in a collision in Texas and you do not possess auto insurance, you could face fines, impoundment of your vehicle, and suspension of your driving privileges. If you are responsible for a collision that resulted in serious injuries or death, you could have to pay a fine of $4,000 and depending on the severity spend one year in jail. You will be required to file an SR-22 form for three years after the accident and your vehicle registration and license will automatically be suspended for up to two year. Additionally, you will be 100% liable for any and all physical injuries and property damage resulting from the accident that you caused.

The Different Penalties & Fines in Texas for Driving Uninsured

Fines Impoundment Driving Privilege Other
First Conviction Traffic Stop Penalties $175-350 plus an annual surcharge of $250 for three years
Second and Subsequent Conviction Traffic Stop Penalties $350-1,000 plus an annual surcharge of $250 for at least three years Vehicle can be impounded for 180 days; cannot apply for release of car without evidence of financial responsibility. Fee of $15 per day
First Conviction Traffic Collision Penalties $175-350 plus an annual surcharge of $250 for three years plus any damages for the accident you were in if you are liable Vehicle can be impounded for 180 days; cannot apply for release of car without evidence of financial responsibility. Fee of $15 per day File an SR-22 for three years after the accident and automatic suspension of vehicle registration and license for up to two years. 100% liable for other people's physical injuries and property damage for in an accident you caused
Second and Subsequent Conviction Traffic Collision Penalties $350-1,000 plus an annual surcharge of $250 for at least three years plus any damages for the accident you were in if you are liable Vehicle can be impounded for 180 days; cannot apply for release of car without evidence of financial responsibility. Fee of $15 per day Required to file a SR-22 for three years after the accident and automatic suspension of vehicle registration and license for up to two years. 100% liable for other people's physical injuries and property damage for in an accident you caused
Offense without a driver's license $2,000 Depending on severity, about 180 days in jail
Offense if you cause an accident with serious injuries or death: $4,000 maximum fine One year in jail

Appealing Your Fine

If you were pulled over without your proof of insurance, and the peace officer was unable to verify your insurance policy with TexasSure, you could still receive a fine for driving without insurance. You can try to appeal the fine by pleading not guilty to the fine in court, either in person or by mail. Once you’ve pleaded not guilty, a trial will be set by the court. If you choose to proceed to trial, you should be prepared and bring along your proof of insurance (an insurance ID card or a copy of your policy). You will have to pay for court costs, but your fine could be reduced.

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