Driving Without Insurance – Texas Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act § 601.191, § 601.195

Operation of a Motor Vehicle in Violation of Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Requirement

Texas law requires drivers to have car insurance. It is against the law to operate a motor vehicle without having the required insurance. Our attorneys explain charges of operating without insurance and what you can do if you receive a ticket.

What is the Texas law for operating without car insurance?

The law for operating without car insurance is Texas law § 601.191. The law prohibits operation of a motor vehicle in violation of the insurance requirement. A person who breaks the law is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Driving Without Insurance in Texas

            Offense                        Penalty                         Surcharge                     Financial 

Shows Proof                  Case Dismissed             No                                No

1st Offense                    $175-$350                    $250 for 3 years            Yes

2nd Offense                   $350-$1,000                 $250 for 3 years            Yes

What is the penalty for driving without car insurance in Texas?

Penalties for driving without car insurance in Texas are:

  • There is no penalty if the driver shows the court that they had insurance at the time of the offense
  • For a first offense, a fine ranging from $175-$350
  • For a second offense, a fine ranging from $350-$1,000 and suspension of the person’s driver’s license until the driver provides proof of responsibility
  • An annual responsibility surcharge of $250 per year for the next three years
  • A requirement to complete form SR-22 to prove financial responsibility
  • A misdemeanor conviction on your record

The court may reduce a fine for a person without a prior conviction who is unable to pay the fine because of their economic circumstances.

(See Texas laws § 601.191; § 601.231)

What can happen if you don’t comply with the Texas Safety Responsibility Act?

If you don’t comply with the Texas Safety Responsibility Act, you can be pulled over and issued a ticket. You may receive a fine. Then, you must file paperwork demonstrating financial responsibility for an accident. If you don’t comply with the requirement to demonstrate financial responsibility, you may receive an additional charge with a sentence of up to six months in jail. In addition, you may be personally liable if you cause an accident.

What is the fine for a first time offense of driving without insurance in Houston?

The fine for a first time offense of driving without insurance in Houston is $289. The Houston Municipal Courts use a schedule to set standard fines for traffic offenses. If you show proof of valid insurance at the time of the offense, the court dismisses the charges with no fine.

Can you go to jail for no insurance in Texas?

While jail is not a penalty for no insurance in Texas, you face hefty fines. You also become subject to financial responsibility laws. If you’re charged with failing to file proof of financial responsibility, then you could face jail time.

Is no insurance a moving violation in Texas?

While no insurance doesn’t result in points, the driver must pay an annual surcharge based on the conviction. The surcharge is $250 each year for three years. The surcharge is conviction-based, rather than point based as a moving violation. It applies even if the driver has no other points or infractions on their record.

How do you get a no insurance ticket dismissed?

To get a no insurance ticket dismissed, you must provide proof to the court that you had insurance at the time of driving. Alternatively, you may show proof that you fall within one of the statutory exceptions to needing insurance.

What exemptions are there in Texas car insurance laws?

The following vehicles are exempt from Texas car insurance laws:

  • Military vehicles more than 25 years old
  • Parade and exhibition vehicles that are not regularly used for transportation
  • Collector vehicles
  • Neighborhood electric vehicles
  • Golf carts

It is up to the vehicle driver to prove an exemption to the insurance requirement under Texas law § 601.052. The state does not have to disprove every affirmative defense as part of their proofs. See Arias v. State, 477 S.W.3d 925 (2015).

What happens if you’re charged with no insurance when you have insurance?

If you’re charged with no insurance when you have insurance, you can get your ticket dismissed. Under Texas law §601.193, having insurance at the time of the offense is a defense to prosecution. The court must dismiss the charge after they verify that you had valid insurance at the time of the alleged offense.

Defenses to No Insurance/No Proof of Insurance

Defenses to driving without insurance and no proof of insurance include:

  • The driver had valid insurance at the time of the offense ( 601.193)
  • The motor vehicle is in the person’s possession only for repair. The person with possession of the vehicle does not own the vehicle ( 601.194)
  • The vehicle is not subject to insurance requirements
  • An owner of 25 or more vehicles chooses to self-insure
  • Law enforcement did not have a valid reason to stop the vehicle

Texas law 601.195 – Operating a Motor Vehicle in Violation of Requirement to Establish Financial Responsibility

When a driver is required to establish financial responsibility, they must file Form SR-22. The form verifies that the driver is compliant with insurance requirements. Texas law § 601.195 creates penalties for drivers who operate without providing proof when required.

A violation of Texas law § 601.195 occurs when a driver:

  • Is required to provide proof of financial responsibility
  • Fails to provide it
  • Owns a vehicle
  • Operates it on a highway or permits someone else to operate it

Penalties for a violation of § 601.195 include:

  • A misdemeanor conviction
  • Fines of up to $500
  • Up to 6 months jail

The court has discretion to determine the sentence up to the maximum penalties.

Texas law § 601.195 and § 601.191 are two separate and distinct laws – § 601.195 prohibits driving without having insurance, while § 601.195 penalizes not filing proof of financial responsibility when it’s required. To fight a ticket for not having insurance, it’s important to understand the difference between the two charges, and understand the different elements and penalties associated with each charge.

Form SR-22 Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate

The state will suspend the license of a driver who has two or more convictions for failing to have insurance. To maintain their license, the driver must file proof of insurance with the Texas Department of Public Safety for two years. Form SR-22, Proof of Financial Responsibility, verifies proof of insurance.

Can the police pull you over for no insurance in Texas?

Yes, the police can pull you over for no insurance in Texas, if they have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that you do not have insurance. Texas courts and U.S. courts have clarified that the police can use a database to verify whether a driver has insurance. If database records are reasonably reliable, law enforcement may rely on it to have reasonable suspicion for a stop.

See: United States v. Broca-Martinez, 855 F.3d 675 (5th Cir. 2017), Ellis v. Texas, 02-16-00309-CR (2017)

Texas Car Insurance Laws in General

Texas law § 601.053 states that, as a condition of driving, a driver must exhibit proof of required insurance when asked by law enforcement. Each driver must carry state-required minimums for property damage and personal injury that result from an accident. Alternatively, they may meet the requirement in another way, like self-insurance. There are some exemptions in the law for certain classes of vehicles.

A person who does not present proof of insurance when asked may face a violation of § 601.191. If they had insurance and just didn’t have proof to show the law enforcement officer, the ticket gets dismissed when they show proof to the court. If they did not have insurance, the offense is a misdemeanor. The driver faces a fine, an annual financial surcharge and an enhanced fine for a second or subsequent offense.

When an offender is convicted of a § 601.191 violation, they become subject to financial responsibility laws. Then, the driver must document that they have the required insurance. This proof is a condition of continuing to operate a motor vehicle. If the person drives without having provided proof, they face penalties under Texas law § 601.195. Penalties may include jail time.

Driving without insurance is not the only way that a person may become subject to the Texas financial responsibility proof requirement. There are several offenses that trigger the requirement including drunk driving.

What happens if you drive without insurance and you’re in an accident?

If you drive without insurance and you’re in an accident, you are personally liable for the damages that you cause. A victim can collect compensation from your personal assets including bank accounts and personal property. In addition, you face receiving a ticket for no insurance.

Attorney for Driving Without Insurance Charges

If you’re charged with driving without insurance, you have the right to assistance from a licensed attorney. Charges of driving without insurance are complex. You face fines, a conviction on your record and additional penalties. In addition, you face personal liability in the event of an accident.

At Kubosh Law, we’re here to help. With more than 50 years of combined experience and thousands of satisfied clients, you can put your trust in us to create a solid defense strategy. Call (713) 322-7410 or message us to get started.

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