No-fault automobile insurance is required by law in Michigan. Every vehicle owner must purchase certain basic insurance coverages to drive their vehicle on public roads and highways. It is a crime to operate a vehicle without security (a.k.a. minimum automobile insurance) in the State of Michigan. Additionally, Michigan drivers must maintain proof of automobile insurance and, upon the request of a police officer, provide evidence of such minimum automobile insurance. Failure to provide this evidence will make the owner or operator of the vehicle responsible for a civil infraction.
There are two methods that proof of insurance can be satisfied:
- CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE WRITTEN ON PAPER: It is considered prima facie evidence that insurance is in force for a motor vehicle if the writing certifies that the security meets all of the minimum coverage requirements, clearly lists the expiration date, and states the names of each person and vehicle covered on the policy. MCL 257.328(2).
- CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE IN ELECTRONIC FORM: Proof of insurance can be produced electronically (e.g. on a smart phone, tablet or laptop) provided that it lists all of the information required on a paper certificate. "If a person displays an electronic copy of his or her certificate of insurance using an electronic device, the police officer shall only view the electronic copy of the certificate of insurance and shall not manipulate the electronic device to view any other information on the electronic device. A person who displays an electronic copy of his or her certificate of insurance using an electronic device as provided in this subsection shall not be presumed to have consented to a search of the electronic device. A police officer may require the person to electronically forward the electronic copy of the certificate of insurance to a specified location provided by the police officer. The police officer may then view the electronic copy of the certificate of insurance in a setting in which it is safe for the officer to verify that the information contained in the electronic copy of the certificate of insurance is valid and accurate." MCL 257.328(1).
A citation for no proof of insurance is considered a "fix-it ticket", meaning if the owner or operator can demonstrate to the district court clerk that the vehicle was actually insured at the time of police contact, then the penalties can be greatly reduced. Pursuant to MCL 257.328(3), if the owner or operator can present proof of insurance to the court before the appearance date on the citation, then ALL of the following apply:
- (a) The court shall not assess a fine or costs.
- (b) The court shall not forward an abstract of the court record to the secretary of state.
- (c) The court may assess a fee of not more than $25.00, which shall be paid to the court funding unit.
If the owner or operator does NOT cure the citation and is ultimately found responsible of a civil infraction for no proof of insurance, the court may do ANY of the following:
- The court may order the person to surrender his or her operator's or chauffeur's license unless proof that the vehicle has insurance is presented to the court. If the court requires the license to be surrendered, the court shall order the secretary of state to suspend the person's license. Upon receipt of the abstract from the court, the secretary of state shall suspend the person's license beginning with the date on which the person is determined to be responsible for the civil infraction for a period of 30 days or until proof of insurance meeting the minimum requirements is presented. A person who submits proof of insurance to the secretary of state under this subsection shall pay a service fee of $25.00 to the secretary of state. MCL 257.328(4).
- The court shall notify the secretary of state of the vehicle registration number and the year and make of the motor vehicle being operated at the time of the violation. Upon receipt, the secretary of state shall immediately enter this information in the records of the department. The secretary of state shall not renew, transfer, or replace the registration plate of the vehicle involved in the violation or allow the purchase of a new registration plate for the vehicle involved in the violation until the owner meets the requirements for minimum coverage or unless the vehicle involved in the violation is transferred or sold to a person other than the owner's spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, or child. MCL 257.328(5).
If an owner or operator of a motor vehicle knowingly produces false evidence of insurance to circumvent the requirements of this statute, then that owner or operator wcan be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000.00, or up to one year in jail, or both. MCL 257.328(6).
An owner or operator of a motor vehicle is NOT responsible for a civil infraction for no proof of insurance IF the motor vehicle was registered in a foreign state or country outside of Michigan. MCL 257.328(7).
If you or a loved one are charged with no proof of insurance or any other traffic offense and have questions, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC to get answers today.