What Is the Penalty for Driving Without Insurance in Ohio?

By Ralph Heibutzki

Ohio began requiring drivers to carry insurance in 1995. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles imposes various civil penalties and sanctions to ensure that drivers comply. Initial consequences start with a two-year license suspension and surrender of vehicle registrations and plates. Penalties grow progressively stiffer for repeat violations, depending on the offense.

Coverage Requirements

Section 4509.101 of the Ohio Revised Code outlines expectations for liability insurance coverage, which it bases on a "25/50/25" standard. You must carry at least $25,000 in coverage for killing or injuring one person -- or damaging another car -- and $50,000 for crashes involving two or more people.

Initial Penalties

Loss of plates, registration and driving privileges isn't the only risk that uninsured drivers take. The BMV also imposes a $150 reinstatement fee that increases to $650 for third and subsequent offenses, according to its website. You also have to file proof of coverage over a 3 to 5 year period. You must fulfill all the suspension conditions, --like paying reinstatement fees -- to get your license back.

Limited Driving Privileges

A local court may grant limited driving privileges in second and third non-compliance suspensions. However, you must file proof of insurance and pay your reinstatement fee first. A 15 and 30 day waiting period also is required for second and third suspensions, respectively. The court bases its ruling on your circumstances and driving record.

Not Showing Proof After an Accident

Additional penalties apply for uninsured drivers who get into accidents. If damages exceed $400, you must file a BMV Crash Report and submit, no matter who's at fault. On reviewing the form, the BMV may impose a two-year security suspension against uninsured drivers or car owners. The suspension remains in force until all damages are paid, or a judgment shows you weren't at fault. The BMV also may impose an indefinite suspension until you settle the judgment.

Random Verification

The BMV may request proof of coverage any time through its Random Verification program. You must respond in 21 days, or the BMV will suspend your license, followed by the impounding -- and destruction -- of plates and registration. However, you won't lose privileges for a first offense if you pay the reinstatement fee and submit an SR-22 insurance certificate. You also must buy new plates and registrations. Drivers who disagree with the BMV's action can request an administrative hearing.

Repeat Violations

Ohio reserves its harshest sanctions for drivers who keep flouting the law. Violating a suspension means vehicle immobilization and a 30 to 60 day seizure of license plates. For third and subsequent offenses, the state forfeits vehicles and imposes a five-year registration ban.

Alternative Coverage

Residents may offer alternative types of coverage to satisfy Ohio law. One option is a $30,000 surety bond from an insurance company, or a government bond deposited for the same amount with the Ohio State Treasurer. However, the latter option requires the BMV's approval. If you own real estate equity of $60,000 or more, you can get a bond from the BMV itself. Self-insurance certificates are also available to individuals and companies with fleets of 26 or more vehicles.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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