THE PERILS OF NOT BEING INSURED IN NEW YORK
By: Kenneth S. Feraru, Esq.
As every licensed driver in New York knows, the State requires that all motor vehicles operated on New York streets be insured, with minimum liability limits as prescribed by law. This statute is strictly enforced. Indeed, the traffic ticket with some of the most severe consequences in New York State is Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) Section 319.1, operating without insurance.
VTL Section 319.1 VIOLATION - FINES
The charge of operating a motor vehicle without insurance is a traffic infraction, not a crime. However, as mentioned above, the penalties for violating this statute are severe. There will be a fine of not less than ONE HUNDRED FIFTY AND 00/100 ($150.00) DOLLARS, and not more than ONE THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED AND 00/100 ($1,500.00) DOLLARS. Yes, the maximum fine is ONE THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED AND 00/100 ($1,500.00) DOLLARS! In addition, there is a civil penalty, over, above and separate from any criminal penalty, in the amount of SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY AND 00/100 ($750.00) DOLLARS. It is also possible that a violator of this section could be sentenced to up to fifteen (15) days in jail, although admittedly a jail sentence for this offense is not very likely. But, the worst is yet to come! Any motorist convicted of this infraction will have his or her driver license revoked for one (1) year!
VTL Section 319.1 VIOLATION - DEFENSES
There are some defenses to this infraction. For instance, if the driver is not the registered owner of the vehicle and he or she did not know and did not have reason to know that the car was not insured, if proven, would likely result in an acquittal of the charge at trial. Nevertheless, being charged under this section is not a problem one really should have; it can turn into a real nightmare!
HOW TO AVOID a VTL Section 319.1 - VIOLATION
How does one avoid the burdens this charge could bring? The first and most obvious thing to do is always make sure any vehicle you own is insured in compliance with New York State Law. For those who can't afford insurance, sell the car. You could be in serious trouble, and have your license or registration suspended for an insurance lapse, even if you don't drive the car. If this should happen, the situation will only get worse; driving with a suspended or revoked license or registration is a crime.
COMMON VTL Section 319.1 VIOLATION SCENARIOS
Now comes a relatively common and very serious situation. Let's say Jack borrows Jill's car, a magnificent 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396. Jack gets pulled over by Police Officer Murphy for, say, speeding or some other traffic infraction. Officer Murphy places the usual order, “I'll have your license and registration, with a side of proof of insurance!”
Alright, the license is not a problem, and Jill gave Jack the registration, so that is also not a problem, but oh, that pesky insurance card! Where can it be? Unable to find the insurance card, Officer Murphy does what he gets paid to do, and writes Jack a ticket for a violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 319.1, operating a motor vehicle without insurance. The reality of the situation is that Jill has the Chevelle insured to the hilt under a large policy with State Farm Insurance Company, so both Jack and Jill are actually in compliance with the law. A letter from State Farm indicating the car was insured on the day Jack got the ticket would result in a dismissal of the no insurance ticket. (Of course, Jack is on his own for the speeding ticket, but that is a topic of conversation for another day!) However, Jack, being the nice guy that he is, does not want to bother Jill to get the letter from State Farm, so he just pays the ticket. Big mistake! Jack's license will soon be revoked, so that joy riding in Jill's SS396 with the top down (yes, it's a convertible!) will not be happening for at least one (1) year! If there is ever a next time, Jack, get the letter!
Now, let's look at a somewhat worse situation. Let's say Jill's Chevelle, for whatever reason, is, in fact, not insured. As I mentioned above, it is a defense that Jack did not know and had no reason to know that the car was not insured, but proof of that may be complicated depending on the circumstances. In that case, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is imperative! I have handled many cases like this one, getting the desired results either by trial or a negotiated plea.
By the way, It is well worth retaining legal counsel to represent you for almost all traffic tickets, especially those that carry points. In New York State, a motorist who accumulates eleven (11) or more points in any eighteen (18) month period is subject to having his or her driver license suspended. Even if you are guilty as charged, you are still entitled to a defense, negotiations, and a zealous advocate on your side, mitigating the effects of violations such as these.
If you are located anywhere in Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island; or in Nassau or Suffolk Counties or Beyond, and have more questions or have received a VTL 319.1 violation do not plea guilty. Instead give our office a call at 516-535-3333 to evaluate whether our office can help you receive a favorable outcome.