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Driving Without Insurance In Georgia
Georgia law requires drivers to have insurance on their vehicles. Insurance helps compensate other people on your behalf if you are responsible (at-fault) for an accident. Insurance can be used to compensate others for injuries or damage to property stemming from the accident.
Georgia has specific minimum requirements for liability insurance. You must have:
- Bodily Injury Liability – At least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident, and
- Property Damage Liability – At least $25,000 per incident.
Need to know more about Georgia insurance requirements? Read more on the Georgia Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and Safety's website here.
Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-10, it is a criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle without insurance on the vehicle. You also may not knowingly allow another person to drive an uninsured vehicle. In this article, you will learn more about this code section, the consequences of a violation, and some possible defenses to this charge.
Is Driving Without Insurance a Felony or a Misdemeanor in Georgia?
Driving Without Insurance is a misdemeanor in Georgia. However, it is considered a serious misdemeanor offense. It carries a fine of $200 – $1,000 and a possible jail sentence of up to 12 months.
What are the license penalties for a No Insurance conviction in Georgia?
If you are convicted of Driving Without Insurance in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) will suspend your driver's license. The applicable Georgia law here is O.C.G.A. § 40-5-70.
After a first conviction in 5 years, DDS will suspend your license for 60 days. After 60 days, you may apply for reinstatement of your license. For reinstatement, you must supply proof that you have prepaid for a six-month minimum insurance policy. You must also pay a reinstatement fee of $210 (if paid in person) or $200 (if paid by mail).
After a second conviction in 5 years, DDS will suspend your license for 90 days. You may apply for reinstatement after 90 days. For reinstatement, you must show proof of having prepaid a six-month minimum insurance policy and maintain this policy for three (3) years.
Note that no limited permits are available if DDS suspends your license for Driving Without Insurance, even if this is your first offense.
Are there other penalties for failing to maintain insurance on my car?
Yes. Your vehicle's registration can be suspended.
The State of Georgia maintains a database called the Georgia Electronic Insurance Compliance System (GEICS). Your insurance provider provides your insurance information to GEICS. This allows the State to see the insurance status of vehicles registered in Georgia.
If a vehicle goes ten (10) consecutive days without insurance, the State will send a letter to the registered owner notifying them of their duty to reinstate insurance coverage. There is also a fine for the lapse. If the lapse fine is not paid and insurance coverage reinstated within 30 days, the vehicle's registration will be suspended.
If you receive one of these letters but you do have insurance, you should contact your insurance company immediately.
You can make sure your insurance information is correct in the State's system here.
Will my license be suspended if I pay my ticket before my court date?
Yes, paying your ticket counts as a guilty plea. A guilty plea to a No Insurance charge will result in a license suspension.
Can I plead Nolo Contendere to a Driving Without Insurance charge?
Yes, you can plead nolo contendere (no contest) to a Driving Without Insurance charge in Georgia. However, you can only do this once in 5 years. Note that the 5-year period is calculated based on violation dates, not conviction dates.
Pleading nolo will prevent your license from being suspended.
It is important to note that the court will send a record of your nolo plea to DDS. DDS just won't suspend your license, so long as you have not pled nolo to a No Insurance charge within the previous five (5) years.
Defenses to a No Insurance charge in Georgia
One obvious defense you can bring to court is that you did, in fact, have insurance when you received your ticket for a No Insurance charge. Drivers cannot be convicted of this offense if their insurance policy covers them in any vehicle they happen to be driving (even if it isn't their primary vehicle).
Another defense could be that you were unaware that the vehicle you were driving was uninsured. The Georgia Court of Appeals has held that, to sustain a conviction for a Driving Without Insurance charge, the State must prove that:
- The vehicle was uninsured, and that
- The defendant knew that the car was uninsured.
It must prove both of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. See English v. State, 261 Ga.App. 157, 582 S.E.2d 136 (2003). Of course, a defense like this depends on the circumstances of each case. A good Georgia No Insurance Lawyer knows which facts and circumstances will help your case and how to present those facts effectively to get you the best possible result.
Lying to law enforcement about whether you have insurance is also a criminal offense. If you make a false statement to law enforcement regarding your insurance status, you can be charged with a separate misdemeanor criminal offense. This offense carries a fine of $200 – $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 12 months (or both).
Note that Driving Without Insurance is a different offense than failing to carry proof of insurance.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer if you are charged with Driving Without Insurance in Georgia
If you have received a ticket for Driving Without Insurance, you should speak to a Georgia Traffic Defense Attorney immediately. The State of Georgia takes this offense very seriously. Most Georgians drive daily – for work, to take their kids to school, or for doctors' appointments. For these people, a license suspension would be devastating. But you shouldn't lose hope because there are defenses to this charge. Questions? Call me today.
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