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Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in New Jersey

— March 6, 2023

In addition to the $5,000 fine, the Motor Vehicle Commission may also impose additional annual surcharges, creating an even greater financial burden.

If you consider yourself a safe driver, then driving without insurance might seem low risk. After all, if you never get in an accident, you’ll never actually need to use your insurance policy, anyway… right? 

Not quite. 

The reality is that no one can predict the future—and even a spotless driving record doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have an accident in the future or that other drivers will be just as careful behind the wheel. 

If you do end up in an auto accident, an insurance policy can protect you from unexpected expenses. Auto insurance doesn’t just act as a financial failsafe, though. It’s also required by New Jersey state law.

New Jersey car insurance requirements 

Insurance itself can be more complicated than it looks at the outset. Consider, first of all, that every vehicle registered in the state of New Jersey is required to have three different types of insurance coverage: 

  1. Liability insurance to pay for property damage when you’re at fault in an accident
  1. Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to pay for your medical expenses after an accident, whether you’re at fault or not 
  1. Uninsured motorist coverage to protect you if you’re in an accident with someone who lacks proper insurance coverage

A lapse in even one of these types of car insurance could leave you vulnerable to substantial legal repercussions, and if you are a habitual offender, you could ultimately lose your driver’s license. 

Getting to know your insurance card 

Automobile insurance companies in New Jersey are required to issue a paper or electronic “State of New Jersey Insurance Identification Card” for every vehicle on your insurance policy.

Whether you prefer the paper or electronic version, you’re required to keep a copy of this card in your vehicle at all times—and it must be clearly identifiable with the heading “State of New Jersey Insurance Identification Card.” 

At a minimum, your auto insurance card should list:

  • Your name and current address 
  • The policy’s effective date
  • The card’s expiration date 
  • The make, model, and VIN of your vehicle
  • Your insurance company’s name 
  • The insurance company code 
  • Name and address of the insurance company (or the office or agency issuing the card)  

If the insurance card you’re carrying lacks any of the information listed above—or if the listed information is inaccurate—contact your insurance agent immediately to ensure your documentation is fully updated. 

Whether you keep your insurance card in your glovebox as a paper copy or carry an electronic copy on your mobile phone, be prepared to show it on these occasions: 

  • Before an inspection
  • Whenever you’re involved in an accident 
  • If you’re stopped for a traffic violation 
  • If you’re stopped by a police officer for a spot check

If you lose your insurance card, prioritize getting it replaced as soon as possible. If you’re accused of driving without insurance, you’ll be expected to present proof of insurance at your hearing. 

What happens if you get caught driving without insurance in NJ?

Auto insurance is as crucial to lawful driving as your license, title, and registration. From imposing fines to suspending driver’s licenses, New Jersey issues harsh penalties to drivers who shirk auto insurance requirements.

NJ Rev Stat § 39:6B-2 details potential outcomes for drivers who drive without insurance, whether intentionally or by accident.

The key takeaways of the statute are as follows: 

Penalties for the first offense

Driving without insurance is considered a traffic violation rather than a criminal offense. That said, the state doesn’t grant drivers much leeway—even for a first offense. 

Driving without insurance even once could lead to:

  • A mandatory fine of anywhere from $300 to $1,000
  • Driver’s license suspension of at least one year
  • Community service (the length of which is up to the judge’s discretion) 

A first offense won’t always lead to points being added to your driving record. However, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MCV) charges offending drivers a $250 annual surcharge for three years, adding up to a grand total of $750. 

This surcharge is separate from the mandatory fine imposed by the state, meaning that driving without insurance even once could cost you up to $1,750 in total.

Penalties for second and subsequent offenses

Handcuffs with key on a fingerprint sheet; image by Bill Oxford, via
Handcuffs with key on a fingerprint sheet; image by Bill Oxford, via

As with first offenses, New Jersey doesn’t take second and subsequent offenses lightly. 

If you’re caught driving without a license in New Jersey more than once, you may face:  

  • A mandatory jail term of 14 days 
  • 30 days of mandatory community service 
  • Driver’s license suspension of at least two years 
  • Fines up to $5,000

To reinstate your license after a two-year suspension, you’ll need to submit an application to the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles. This application may or may not be approved, depending on their judgment. 

In addition to the $5,000 fine, the Motor Vehicle Commission may also impose additional annual surcharges, creating an even greater financial burden. Finally, nine insurance points could be added to your driving record, potentially making it difficult for you to obtain affordable auto insurance in the future. 

Accused of driving without insurance? Contact An Attorney

Have you been wrongly accused of driving without insurance? Or did your insurance policy lapse and you were unaware of it? There are many circumstances under which well-meaning drivers may face accusations of driving without insurance. 

Fortunately, there are several approaches that an experienced defense attorney may take to advocate for you in this situation.

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