Over the years we have noticed lots and lots of serious traffic court problems start out as simple tickets for not having proof of financial responsibility while driving (auto liability insurance). These violations are known as “proof of insurance” violations, or in California, Vehicle Code section 16028(a) violations.
Believe it or not, there are people who end up in jail and losing their car to government impound because they screw up a simple proof of insurance violation. But that is not going to happen to you! Read on.
|Here is what you need to know to resolve a proof of insurance violation correctly – even if you did not have insurance at the time, or even if you missed the court date on your traffic ticket.|
In California, the “no insurance” violation is known as a violation of Vehicle Code section 16028a. Many states have a very similar law. It is a very expensive violation, often costing much more than auto insurance itself ($1200+ in some courts).
If you happen to have an accident without insurance – Disaster Awaits.
1. Understand the Vehicle Code 16028a Insurance Violation First.
The first thing you need to know is that a Vehicle Code 16028a violation is a violation for NOT HAVING PROOF of insurance with you WHEN THE COP SAID: “May I See Your Proof of Insurance?”.
Vehicle Code section 16028a is NOT a violation for NOT HAVING insurance. Get it? It’s all about the proof.
The law says exactly this:
“All drivers and all owners of a motor vehicle shall at all times … carry in the vehicle evidence of financial responsibility in effect for the vehicle.” (See Vehicle Code section 16020(a).)
“Upon the demand of a peace officer … every person who drivers a motor vehicle … shall provide evidence of financial responsibility. (Vehicle Code section 16028(a).)”
Thus, even if you had valid auto insurance at the time the officer asks for it, if you did not have the proof with you, you are in violation of the law.
Because of this, having proof of insurance later in court is not a DEFENSE to a VC16028(a) charge. But it may be PROOF OF CORRECTION, which is different than a defense. We discuss that possibility below.
One thing you need to know for sure, however, is this: PROOF OF INSURANCE IS NOT REQUIRED TO TAKE CARE OF A Vehicle Code 16028(a) violation. It may help, but it is not required.
DO NOT MISS YOUR COURT DATE BECAUSE YOU FEAR YOU NEED PROOF OF INSURANCE TO SHOW THE COURT. You are not required to show proof of insurance in court.
2. If You Had Valid Auto Insurance on the Day of the Ticket, Get It Dismissed.
Generally, a Proof of Insurance violation is a correctable violation, if the officer marks it as such on the citation. This means that if you show the court proof of insurance coverage you had at the time of the ticket, the Court should dismiss the violation.
What if you went out and bought auto insurance the same day of the incident, but after you signed the ticket? It might help, unless you get caught lying about the times. And smart judges are keenly aware of that stoner trick.
WARNING! You cannot just send the court your “proof of insurance” and expect everything to be OK. There is more to it. And there is a deadline for taking care of it on the bottom of your ticket, right next to your signature. Do not wait for the court to send you anything!
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The best way to show the court proof of correction and get your insurance violation dismissed is to go to the court in person before the date on your ticket and to ask the court for an In Person Arraignment to Show Proof of insurance and Request Dismissal. Then once dismissed, pay the dimissal fee immediately, in cash. Get a receipt, keep copies of everything.
In some courts, the court clerks office can take the proof in person, dismiss the case, and take your payment for the dismissal.
If you fail to pay the court dismissal fee, the citation will not be dismissed, and it will grow into a failure to appear case.
In other courts, you may have to personally appear in front of a judge to provide proof of insurance. You may have to tell the judge in person you have proof of correction, and ask for the dismissal.
The second best way to get an insurance violation dismissed is to call the court clerk and ask “What is the bail on this citation if I have proof of insurance on the day of the citation?”.
Then, once you know the bail amount, you can send the “bail” (dismissal fee) with the proof of insurance to the court. Get proof of the date you sent it. Send a money order. Keep copies of everything. Call the court before the court date on your citation to verify they have dismissed it. If not, go to court on the day listed on your ticket and verify dismissal in person.
The “dismissal” fee is currently $25 in many courts, but check yourself by contacting the court clerk.
3. If You Did Not Have Insurance at teh Time of the Ticket, Get It Immediately.
The fine on a non corrected Proof of Insurance Violation is almost always more expensive than the insurance itself. If you get auto insurance after the date of the ticket, most judges will give you a break. And the Vehicle Code actually states that if you get auto liability insurance after the fact, you qualify for the minimum fine.
Thus, even if you get insurance later, it may save you money.
Once you get valid auto insurance after the ticket, you have to go into court in person to get anything done. Take proof of your new insurance to court in person before the date on your ticket. Ask the court clerk for an In Person Arraignment. They may give you a walk in date, they may set a date for you.
Once you are in front of the judge, here is an option: tell him/her that you took “Corrective Action”, got insurance, and just want to resolve the case. Tell the judge the date you got insurance, and that you will never let it lapse again. Ask the judge to dismiss the case “in the interests of justice (Penal Code 1385)”, or in the alternative, give you the minimum or a “suspended” fine.
See what happens.
4. If You Cannot Buy Insurance, Go To Court In Person.
You do not need auto insurance to take care of an insurance violation. You can just plead guilty without insurance and pay the fine. No Problem. No money, but no problem. Ask for a payment plan.
But that is not the best way to go about getting a good result. It is nearly always better to have valid auto liability insurance if you have to plead guilty.
Most judges will give you more time to: 1) get insurance; 2) talk to an attorney; or 3) review your rights and options for trial if you need it. Dont be afraid to ask for more time if you need it.
If you need more time, you should go in person, BEFORE THE DATE ON YOUR CITATION next to your signature. See the judge and plead not guilty if you have to, but usually the court clerk can give you a continuance of approx 30 days if you show up before your court date. The judge can certainly do it in person. No problem. No insurance, but No Problem.
Do Not ask for more time by mail. Do Not try to do it over the phone and expect everything to be ok. Keep copies of everything. Get proof you were there. Expect them to claim later that you failed to appear on time.
If you cannot get insurance 30 days after your first court appearance, give up. Stop driving. It’s not really working out for you as a driver. Take a break from cars. Try again later. You cannot drive without auto liability insurance.
5. If You Missed the Date on Your Citation, Go To Court And Ask for a Walk In Arraignment.
The deadline to present any kind of proof of correction is on the traffic citation paper the cop gave you by your signature. You must take action before that date – EVEN IF THE COURT DOES NOT SEND YOU ANYTHING. If you miss that date, you really just have to find a way to talk the judge into giving you a break. And that means you have to go in person – as soon as possible.
Go to court in person before 8 am. Ask the traffic court clerk for a walk in court appearance. Dont tell her why. Just get in there. Once in there, tell the judge you have proof of correction (or after the fact insurance) and ask for relief.
If you miss the date by one day or a short time, with some effort in person, you can get something done. If the date is long passed you may end up as one of those lost souls with a suspended drivers license, misdemeanor failure to appear charge (VC 40508a) and possible a bench warrant.
5. If You Want to Really Fight, Challenge The Illegal Stop.
Some traffic citations have only one violation listed – a proof of insurance violation under VC 16028 – without any identification of the reason for the stop. Seems to me, these citations are vulnerable at trial to a person who knows how to cross examine a police officer – and to a Motion under Penal Code section 1538.5. (Sample Self Help Suppression Motion Template)
The reason is that a stop of a vehicle by an officer for the sole purpose of verifying auto insurance is a violation of the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution which prohibits unlawful searches and seizures.
One final tip? Dont wait for the court to send you a courtesy notice. They will not send one. They dont have the money. The deadline to take care of a traffic citation is listed on the ticket itself, right next to your signature.
Questions? Leave a Comment. We hope this helps.