What Happens If You Get Pulled Over Without Registration?

In order to drive in the United States, you will need to have a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance.

In every state in America, you will need to have a legal license and a registered vehicle in order to drive safely and legally. Therefore, driving in an unregistered vehicle means that you are actually committing a crime. 

If you are ever pulled over by a police officer, then you will be asked to show your driver’s license, or some identification, your proof of insurance and your vehicle registration.

What is a vehicle registration?

In the most basic sense of the phrase, a vehicle registration is a legal document that can prove that the car, bike, truck or bus you are using is lawfully yours. The vehicle registration will prove that you have purchased the car, registered it in your name, have insurance and tax payments made.

The vehicle registration therefore establishes a link between a vehicle, the owner or primary user of the vehicle. 

Vehicle registration can also be used for taxation and crime detection purposes. For instance, if there is someone acting suspiciously within a vehicle, or is on the run, the car can be tracked down and traced to the owner with the registration. 

The vehicle registration will be managed by each state’s department of motor vehicles, or the DMV.

Both normal passenger and commercial vehicles have to be registered in order to be used legally on a public road. However, registration laws do vary in different states. 

Do I need to keep the registration with me?

In the United States, it is important that you adhere to all rules and regulations when operating a vehicle. When driving your vehicle, it is required that you have important documents with you.

These documents include a valid, up to date driver’s license, your valid car registration and proof of your insurance coverage and information. 

Will all vehicles need a registration?

In most cases, all vehicles will require a registration, however, if the vehicle is out of use or stored, and will not be driven, then it will not require a registration.

Similarly, off-road vehicles generally do not need to be registered in some states as they are not used on normal roads and often used on private property. 

In rare circumstances, the state can grant the owner a non-operating license, where they can then drive the vehicle without registration. 

What happens if you get pulled over without registration?

You can be pulled over for many a reason, whether it is for speeding, driving unsafely, or with a problem with your vehicle such as a broken tail light. Whenever you get pulled over by a police officer, you will be asked to provide your driving license, vehicle registration and insurance documents.

If you are polite, calm and respectful, then many police officers may give you the benefit of the doubt, and let you off with a warning. However, in more extreme cases, for example if you were caught speeding and you do not have your registration, the outcome may be quite different.

An officer could either give you a ticket for a violation, write you a ticket and tow your vehicle or even arrest you!

If you are written a ticket, then you will have to pay the penalty, and ensure that you renew your vehicle registration in case you get pulled over again.

In other cases, your car can be towed away if your registration is expired for extended periods of time, such as for more than six months. In this case, you will not be able to retrieve your vehicle until you have fully paid the fine and renewed your registration.

However, if you do not have any of the required legal documents if you get pulled over when driving, then you are committing a crime, and will most likely be arrested. 

In addition, driving without proof of your vehicle registration is also a moving violation. If you commit this act, then your insurance rate will also shoot up, and will continue to rise the more times you are caught doing so.

We must warn you that having proof of registration, and having a registered vehicle are two very different things. If you are driving without the correct registration paperwork, then you will in most scenarios receive a fine.

If your registration has simply expired, then the penalty that you will face will depend on the amount of time in which you are past the expiration date.

However, it is a little different if you have never registered your vehicle. If you are driving in a completely unregistered car or vehicle, then you will not only receive a hefty fine, but you can also land yourself with at least 15 days of jail time. 

Why you should keep your vehicle registration up to date

Registering your vehicle is much more vital than just filing some paperwork for the DMV. If you keep your registration and ownership documents up to date, then you will save yourself from being caught in any financial or legal trouble in the future. 

For instance, if someone steals or damages your car in any way, providing proof of registration and ownership documents can help you gain the compensation that you will need.

Similarly, if you are caught without registration, or expired tags you can face massive fines, court and even a misdemeanor. In extreme cases, and extended periods of unregistration or expired tags, you can even lose your license and driving privileges.

To avoid any hassle, make sure that you always register your vehicles with your local driving authority, such as the DMV to ensure you are driving your vehicle safely, responsibly and within the parameters of the law.


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