One of the most common and most expensive traffic tickets a driver can get is a failure to have proof of insurance while when asked by a police officer. In California, the violation is technically known as a Vehicle Code section 16028 infraction, and nearly all states have a very similar law. The typical fine for a Veh Code 16028 violation is about $1200 once court costs and “penalty assessments” are added. But there is a way to save big $$.
|The best way to save money on an auto insurance violation is to show up in court in person with proof of insurance. Even if you get it late. |
If you received one of these citations, you are probably very interested in reducing or getting out of the fine. After 12 years of handling these violations for clients, I have some good tips for saving money, and here is what you need to know.
I. The Violation is for “Not Having Proof” of Liability Insurance With You While Driving, Not for a “Lack of an Insurance Policy”.
Nearly every day I get emails from drivers stating something to the effect of:
“I have a VC16028 violation, but I had insurance at the time.!”
Well, the bad news is that having insurance is not a complete defense to the charge. If you did not show proof to the officer when he / she asked for it, you are guilty. So a trial is rarely a good idea. The better option is to talk the judge into dismissing or reducing the fine without a trial.
II. If You Had Valid Insurance at the Time of the Citation, Show Proof in Court.
The ideal way to get an insurance ticket dismissed is to appear in court with your proof of insurance (covering the date of the violation), show it to the judge, and ask for a dismissal. If you want to sound really smart, ask for the dismissal in the interests of justice under authority of Penal Code section 1385. Technically, the court does not have to accept proof of insurance in court, but almost all judges will. The best way to ask for a dismissal is to say “I just could not find the paper before the officer wrote the citation.”
To get the insurance violation dismissed correctly, you need to appear in court prior to the date listed on the bottom of the citation next to your signature. Do not wait for the court to send you anything!! They are not required to send you a courtesy notice. Go to court and ask for an “Arraignment” prior to the date on the ticket. You may have to go in at 8 am and ask for a walk in court appearance.
In most courts you cannot get an insurance violation dismissed by mail without unreasonable difficulty. The best way to do it without frustration and wasted time is to appear in court in person. At some courts, it can be done at the court clerks window, but either way, you have to go in person to get it done right.
There may be a “dismissal fee” that you have to pay in person. See California Vehicle Code section 16029(e), and VC40611 for more details on the dismissal of insurance violations.
III. If You Did Not Have Insurance at the Time of the Ticket, Get It ASAP!
But to get that minimum fine, you must appear in court and ask for it. You cannot do it by mail. The correct what to get the minimum fine on an insurance violation is to appear at the courthouse prior to the date on the traffic ticket (by your signature) and ask for an Arraignment. Once in the courtroom, and your case is called, tell the judge “I have proof of valid insurance that I got after the citation and I would like to ask the court to accept it and give me the minimum fine in accordance with CA Vehicle Code section 16029(e)(1).
By following this procedure this procedure, even if you are fully guilty, you will save yourself about $900 – which is far more than the cost of insurance. So get insurance! I recommend using the insurance link above to get a quality set of quotes for auto insurance within 2 minutes.
And aside form saving money on the fine, auto liability insurance is always worth the money (See my article on What Happens If You Get Into An Accident Without Auto Insurance.
And it never hurts to ask for a dismissal under penal code section 1385 even if you got an auto liability policy late – all they judge can say is no.
IV. If The Court Gives You a Hard Time, There May Be a Good Issue for a Trial.
In my 12 years as a defense Attorney, I have noticed that over and over again, police officers give out traffic tickets with only one violation listed – the insurance violation. But the law actually states that it is illegal for an officer to stop someone solely for the purpose of checking your insurance.
If the only violation on the traffic ticket is listed as a VC 16028, and you want a trial, your best defense if that the officer pulled you over illegally just to check your insurance.
Once in court, the officer is bound to make up a reason for the stop, such as “I saw her speeding”. But you can effectively counter this statement by simply asking the officer: “You did not note a [speeding] violation on the ticket, did you?
But whatever you do, do not ask the officer why he pulled you over (and thereby give the officer a chance to explain he gave you a warning).
Then in your final argument, tell the judge there is no reliable evidence the stop was legal. The law requires that the office observe a Vehicle Code violation prior to detaining a motorist. And if he sees a violation, and stops a car for that violation, there needs to be some documentation of that fact. The only reliable evidence is the ticket, and the officer’s writing from teh time of the stop – which mentions only a VC16028 violation. No legal justification for the stop.
One final recommendation – GO TO YOUR COURT DATE EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE INSURANCE!
If there is no way you can get auto liability insurance before the date on your citation, go to court anyway and ask for more time.
The court will almost always give you more time to fix an insurance issue. The trick to staying out of trouble is to show up on time to ask for more time.
The worst thing you can do is to blow off your court date – that will only increase the severity of the problem.
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