Operating without Insurance is the most serious (non-criminal) traffic offense in New York State. The penalties for uninsured operation of a motor vehicle include a fine of between $150 and $1500, a one year license revocation, and a civil penalty of $750. In addition, a judge is authorized to impose a jail sentence of up to 15 days.
The law deals with individuals driving their own car and with individuals driving someone else's car. For those people driving their own car, the law is simple. A person driving their own car without valid insurance is guilty of operating without insurance. Often drivers are issued this summons for failing to present proof of insurance, even though they had valid insurance in effect when they were stopped. Under this set of circumstances, all the owner/driver needs to do is get a letter from their insurance company on the insurance company's letterhead stating that the driver had valid insurance in effect on the date in question. The letter should state that the driver's insurance was policy was in effect from the date it was issued to the date of the letter, without lapse. Presenting such an original letter from the insurer (not the broker) will usually be sufficient to obtain a dismissal of an operating without insurance summons.
It is very difficult, though not impossible, to beat an uninsured operation charge if the driver is driving his/her own car and does not have valid insurance. The reason is that a person who fails to present proof of insurance in his/her own car is presumed to lack valid insurance. It then becomes incumbent upon the driver/owner to present proof of insurance to overcome this presumption. The situation is different for a driver who is driving someone else's car. For a non-owner driver, the government must prove both that the vehicle was not insured and that the driver had knowledge of this fact. While failure to present proof of insurance raises the presumption that the car was not insured, it does not raise a presumption that the driver knew the vehicle was uninsured. Unless the state can prove that the non-owner driver knew the car was not properly insured, an operating without insurance summons issued to a non-owner should be dismissed. It is critical for a non-owner driver stopped for this violation not to make any statement admitting knowledge of lack of insurance since doing so would provide the proof that the state would need for a conviction.
In light of the serious consequences for a conviction of an insurance violation, it is important to talk to an experienced lawyer if you receive an insurance summons. Please do not hesitate to contact me through this website for a free consultation.