If you’re not already knee deep in the legal world, it’s hard to know what people can and can’t do when it comes to catching criminals.
One question that you may be wondering about, since you’ve clicked on this article, is whether cops can tell if a driver has insurance just by running the plates.
The short answer? Yes, police can indeed see if you have insurance by running the plate. Here’s everything that you need to know.
Can Cops Tell If You Have Insurance By Running Plates?
As mentioned previously, yes - it is possible that law enforcement can see if you have motor insurance by checking your plates. The answer is a tiny bit more nuanced than this though, as it can depend on the state that you are driving in.
For instance, there are certain states that have made it legal for law enforcement to check if you have an insurance policy just by running your plates if you have violated the law in any way. Other states, on the other hand, may not have the technology or the system to do this.
For instance, states such as California and Texas may check your insurance, whereas another state such as Ohio doesn’t have a verification system to do this. Instead, you would need to show proof of insurance - this is part of the reason why keeping your policy on hand is so useful.
Can Police Run Your Plates on a Motorcycle or a Commercial Vehicle?
Surprisingly, the system is rather limited, as cops can’t actually check the insurance results for commercial vehicles and motorcycles. Instead, police will need to manually check whether a driver has insurance by stopping you and asking for a copy of your insurance. They will need to check if you have physical proof that you have insurance before they can issue a ticket.
Of course, you don’t need to live in fear that you will constantly be pulled over and asked about your insurance. Not having insurance is essentially a second violation, and police officers will usually only ask for insurance if you have already committed an offence. Still, it’s better to have insurance than to go without.
How To Know Your State’s Verification System
Curious about how police in your state check for insurance violations? You should try to get in touch with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles - or DMV for short.
They should tell you this kind of information so you can figure out whether your insurer will automatically transmit your information to the DMV whenever you start and end an insurance policy.
Of course, you should also clarify with your insurance company about whether your insurance is still valid. You should always make sure that you have insurance when you’re driving any kind of vehicle.
What Happens If You Don’t Have Insurance and You’re Stopped?
Driving without insurance is a risky move, but what will happen when you’re stopped? Driving without insurance is an offence, and it’s not one that a cop is likely to let slide. If you don’t have insurance you may get fined - you could be fined up to $175.
There are also other fines. For instance, you may be asked to appear in court, being cited for misdemeanor. You could be asked by the court to submit something called and SR-22 in future.
You will also have a big ugly mark on your driving record that says you have a no insurance violation. Your vehicle may also be confiscated and you will need to pay all of the relevant fees associated with that - storage, towing and impound.
Even just having the minimum insurance requirements can be enough to avoid this happening.
How Else Can Police Tell If You Have Insurance?
ALPR systems, or Automated License Plate Reader systems, are the main way that police can tell if you have insurance.
These are little cameras that are usually set up onto poles on the street - this may be a street light or a random pole. These will collect all the main data about you and your vehicle. It even flags the geolocation and the timestamp.
Normal Stopping Points
Some police will set up a stopping point and pull people over to check their registration. They will then usually check your license and your proof of insurance.
You can’t go and show them expired insurance cards - they will end up figuring it out.
Pulling People Over for Traffic Violations
They can also pull you over if you’ve violated the law, such as if you’ve run a red light or you’re speeding.
They will usually check vehicle registration, insurance and license then and there.
In short, yes - cops can tell if you have insurance by running your plates. If the cops have an ALPR system in place it will be very easy for them to tell if you have the right insurance in place.
Some states do not have this technology, in which case you will need to physically present your insurance to law enforcement for them to check.
Often it’s better to be safe rather than running the risk - it is against the law to drive without insurance, so make sure that you have some and that it’s valid at the time of driving. You don’t want a run in with the law, after all.