Like most other states, Arizona requires its drivers to have a minimum amount of auto insurance pursuant to the Financial Responsibility Law. If you have a vehicle registered in Arizona and want to operate it, then you must carry the following minimum amount of insurance:
- Bodily Injury Liability Coverage: $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident; and
- Property Damage Liability Coverage: $10,000.
Alternatively, if you do not want to purchase auto insurance, you have the option of self-insurance. To ensure yourself, you must purchase a bond in the minimum amount of $40,000. When you register your vehicle, you must provide proof at the DMV of either your (1) auto insurance; or (2) self-insured bond. You cannot legally drive with registration and without the minimum insurance coverage.
Upon request of a law enforcement officer, you must provide proof of financial responsibility, and if you fail to do so, there are consequences. Arizona has some of the strictest penalties for driving without insurance. The penalties vary according to the circumstances.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
If a law enforcement officer stops you while you are driving and requests that you verify proof of auto insurance or self-insurance and you are unable to do so at that time, it will result in a traffic citation and additional penalties. If, before your court date, you are able to prove that you did indeed have insurance and still have the proper amount of minimum insurance, then you may be able to have the citation dismissed and will not be penalized further.
For all citations, you can anticipate three specific penalties: (1) a fine of at least $500; (2) driving privileges suspended; and (3) an SR-22 requirement for 2 years. To note, the court can attach additional fees and penalties regardless if it was your first or fifth offense.
|First Offense||$500||3-month suspension: driver's license, registration and license plate.||SR-22 certificate for two years.|
|Second Offense||$750||6-month suspension: driver's license, registration and license plate.||SR-22 certificate for two years.|
|Third and Subsequent Offenses||$1,000||1-year suspension: driver's license, registration and license plate.||SR-22 certificate for two years.|
SR-22 insurance is also known as a Certificate of Financial Responsibility. It is not a type of automobile insurance but proof that a driver has acquired and maintains the minimum required amount of automobile insurance. The SR-22 form is mandated by the state of Arizona. If you are required to have an SR-22 form, then you must first purchase an automobile insurance policy. Once you purchase the insurance, the insurance carrier will file the SR-22 certificate with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Three important points to consider with regard to SR-22:
- High risk. Because you are required to obtain an SR-22 certificate, many insurance carriers deem this fact as cause to view you as a high risk. As a high risk, your premiums are likely to be higher. It is wise to shop and compared prices.
- State to state. If you are required to have an SR-22 certificate in Arizona, but you move to another state, you are still required to fulfill the SR-22 requirement. You will need to make sure the liability limits in the new state meet the minimum required in Arizona.
- Insurance cancellation. If your policy lapses or is canceled, the insurance carrier is legally obligated to inform the DMV. As a consequence, you could have your driver's license, registration and license plate suspended again.
Reducing or Eliminating the Fine
Most people who try to get away with driving in Arizona without auto insurance do it because they do not want to pay the premiums. Though the economy is getting better, people are still faced with financial hardships throughout the U.S., but particularly in Arizona. The poverty rate in Mohave County is over 19 percent, and in Kingman, it's over 20 percent (in Arizona, the average poverty rate is over 17 percent). Every dollar matters. Unfortunately, in this case, if you go without auto insurance and are caught doing so and convicted for it, the fine alone can be more costly than what it would have cost you initially to purchase an auto insurance policy.
There may be a way, though limited, to reduce or eliminate the fine. If it is your first offense within the last three years, you may be able to plead to reduce or waive the fine (and possibly all the penalties attached to a first offense conviction of driving without insurance). At a minimum you should try to demonstrate at least one of the following:
- No traffic convictions. It would be good to show that you either have no previous convictions for driving without insurance in the last two years, or not more than one violation record on your driving record within the past three years; and
- Auto Insurance. You should go ahead and purchase at least a six-month auto insurance policy in accordance with the minimum liability requirements for Arizona.
If the fine is waived by the court, it can also waive the remaining penalties. However, if your driving privileges (driver's license, registration, and license plate) have already been affected (suspended), then you will have to have them reinstated at your own cost, which is usually $35.00 total. You should contact an experienced attorney to help you negotiate the plea for a reduction or elimination of the fine and the penalties attached to the fine.
Other Reasons to Avoid Driving Without Insurance
Auto insurance can be expensive, there is no doubt about it. Saving a little money in the short-term, however, could have long-term consequences. In addition to the above-penalties, there are other reasons why you should want to avoid driving without auto insurance in Arizona.
- Car accidents. If you are in a car accident, especially if you are the at-fault driver, then even a minor car accident can have serious financial consequences. You will be accountable for repair bills, medical bills, and other liability costs.
- Premiums. Your auto insurance history factors into the price of auto insurance premium you will pay on a monthly, bi-annually or annually basis. If there are any gaps in previous insurance history, it will drive up the cost of your premium.
- License plates & tabs. It is virtually impossible in the state of Arizona to acquire new or renew license plates and registration tags if you do not have current auto insurance. If you want to drive your vehicle on the road without the threat of law enforcement stopping you due to your outdated plates and/or tags, then you need insurance. Remember: As soon as your auto insurance policy is canceled, the carrier is required to inform the DMV, and the DMV will come looking for you.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you have been cited for driving without auto insurance, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to see what your legal options are. If you want the charge or driving without auto insurance reduced or dismissed altogether, you need to contact the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp today. Time is of the essence to get your case settled before the DMV takes action on your driving privileges.