License and Registration Please – And Proof of Insurance Too

By: Lorraine R. Mertell

“License and registration please” – every motor vehicle operator dreads hearing those words, typically spoken by a police officer following a traffic stop. But just having your license and the vehicle registration available is not enough. You must also be able to produce proof of financial security – insurance – to a police officer. This is true even if you have not been involved in a motor vehicle accident, but were simply stopped by an officer for a violation. Many motor vehicle operators are not aware that pursuant to the provisions of Vehicle & Traffic Law §312, proof of insurance is required at all times and must be provided to a police officer upon demand. Furthermore, inability to produce a proper and current insurance identification card is presumptive evidence that the person was operating without insurance. This violation is subject to some hefty fines and civil penalties upon conviction.

If you receive a citation for no insurance but, in fact, had the proper coverage in effect and were simply unable to produce documentation, production of the documentation to the Court will typically result in the charges being dismissed. But just producing the standard insurance card may well not be enough to satisfy the Court. You may be required to produce a letter from your insurance company (as distinguished from the insurance agent) evidencing that coverage was in effect. It is wise to retain an attorney in this situation, to ensure that the documents produced are sufficient.

Another point about motor vehicle insurance – it is essential that you notify your insurance company promptly of any change of address. If you move and do not notify the carrier of the change, the carrier will send notice to the last known address on its record if it cancels or terminates your policy for any reason. This means that a mailing sent to the address noted on the policy when issued (assuming it meets the other requirements detailed in the Insurance Law) is sufficient, unless the carrier has been notified of a change of address. The cancellation is effective even if the insured does not receive the Notice of Cancellation because he/she has moved. This may result in operation of an uninsured motor vehicle. The failure to receive a properly mailed notice is not a defense to the charge of uninsured operation.