No Insurance? Think Twice Before You Drive

No Insurance? Think Twice Before You Drive

Fines and criminal charges can spiral if you're caught driving without car insurance, so you're considering not renewing to save money consider how quickly it can cost more than imagined.


As I was speaking with my wife the other day I had the occasion to explain a scenario to her that she was unaware of. After discussing it, she wondered aloud how many other people also didn’t know. This blog follows as another piece of free advice for those who may not be aware of the impact of having No Insurance.

A license to drive is a valuable and important "property right." So much so, that the law has protected it by requiring Due Process prior to taking the privilege from a person, but despite its importance, it is good to remember the license is a privilege and controlled by the DoL.

As a society we look forward to learning and obtaining a driver's license, and obtaining one is somewhat of a "rite of passage" — to freedom. It is also prerequisite to a profession for some, Commercial Drivers who require a CDL — and like a Driver's License the CDL is protected much like a right, but not to the same extent because it’s a privilege.

The use and operation of a vehicle is tied to the license such that operating a vehicle without proof of, or without actual insurance is infraction. Neither is a crime, but a civil infraction like a speeding ticket is an infraction. The operation of a motor vehicle without insurance CAN lead to jail time, but only when a person is on probation. This is not the focus of this piece, rather an explanation of how important the license is, and for or purposes here today, how important insurance is. The failure to have insurance can lead to a suspension of a driver’s license, which if operating a vehicle at the time of that status, is a crime.

If a person operates a vehicle and has no insurance, they have committed an infraction and that fine is $550.00. If a person has an accident and has no insurance it can and will quickly deteriorate into a financial spiral where driving is essential to get out of the situation but unable to do so. Here is why. When a person has no insurance, and regardless of fault, damages are paid out by the person who does have insurance, for instance the other driver. The insurance company quickly looks to the other driver for recoupment of their costs, normally insurance would cover that, but when a driver has no insurance, they are on the hook. The insurance company advises the DoL that a person is liable for whatever costs are incurred and then the DoL notifies the uncovered driver that their driver’s license is suspended until the insurance company advises that the debt is paid, or arrangements have been made to recover the loss.

Until the DoL receives what is a called a "certificate of adjudication" from the company the driver who had no insurance and owes a debt, has a suspended license, in the third degree (DWLS 3rd ). If the driver drives when in this status, a status that the DoL put them in as they are in control of the license being valid, and they are stopped for any reason, it is almost certain that the police officer will see their status is suspended, advise them that they are being arrested, and cited and released, for the crime of DWLS 3. If a person cannot get a licensed driver to get their vehicle, the vehicle is impounded and towed for retrieval.

A person now has a debt to deal with, has a pending criminal charge with a court date, a need for a criminal defense lawyer, and an impound bill. If the debt for the accident that started this cascade events is unable to be paid, the chances are a person is not financially able to rise from this mire.

When money is the root and the solution to this issue, frequently people cannot afford to NOT drive, so they "risk it" in order to drive to work and get paid and work on their financial obligations. Some drivers in DWLS are lucky and make it through driving every day and not being stopped and incurring additional criminal charges, while others are not.

In my career, I have seen one client who, in less than 1 year, accumulated 23 criminal charges of DWLS 3. Each time charged a person faces up to a $1,000.00 fine and up to 90 days of jail, and if convicted of any or each, the punishments are not merged, rather they run one after another.

In a trial for DWLS 3, the material necessary to prove the crime are easily shown because it's all based on records.

  • Was the person advised of their pending DWLS 3 status according to the records?
  • Was this notice sent to their last known address of record, according to the DoL records? (This record is every driver’s responsibility to keep current with the DoL and lack of notice because the address is incorrect is not a defense.)
  • Was the person driving a vehicle at the time of the stop by the officer, and is this time within the status of being suspended?

Driving a vehicle without insurance can quickly lead to financial hardship and perhaps ruin and can almost a quickly lead to a criminal charge, or charges, and a person winds up with a criminal record. If your insurance is coming due and you are contemplating not renewing to save money, consider how quickly it can cost more than imagined.

Every driver in Washington should also make it a habit to check your status and information with the DoL frequently, as it is the driver’s license holder’s responsibility to make sure the DoL can notify them regarding all things involving a license.

For that reason, if you are reading this, go to the DoL website, www.DOL.WA.GOV and click on their link to establish a eXpress account. This account allows you to log into your account any time and place and see what information DoL has and ensure that all your information is current.