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Driving Without Valid Vehicle Registration: State Laws

All drivers should understand their state's vehicle registration requirements. Each state decides its motor vehicle registration laws. For this reason, the rules for when and how to register vehicles varies by state.

One of the most important aspects of owning a car is registering it with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If the police pull you over and you don't have valid vehicle registration, they can cite you for a traffic offense. Driving without registration is a non-moving violation that carries steep fines and other penalties.

Below, you'll find a list of vehicle registration laws for each state. You'll also find helpful links to frequently asked questions, information, and resources for vehicle registration.

The linked materials will help you learn about:

  • State-specific laws for vehicle registration
  • How to register a vehicle
  • Registration fees and timelines
  • Other related information

Penalties for Driving Without Registration

Driving an unregistered vehicle typically falls under the category of administrative offenses, or infractions. Infractions are non-criminal offenses that don't carry jail time or go on your criminal record.

The offense classification can vary depending on the jurisdiction and occurrence of the offense. Use the table below to check the specifics for your state.

Consequences for driving without valid vehicle registration typically include:

  • Fines
  • Vehicle impoundment or immobilization, like a boot or wheel clamp
  • Driver's license points (in states that use a point system)
  • Vehicle registration holds

Most auto insurance companies increase premiums as a result of driving without valid registration violations.

The penalties above pertain to driving without registration—not driving without proof of registration. If your vehicle is registered but you don't have proof of registration on you, law enforcement can still cite you. But this is a less severe offense that carries milder penalties.

Always keep your proof of registration in your vehicle or on you when driving. Display your current registration stickers on your license plates.

Driving with an expired registration is also a separate offense. This occurs if you have registered your vehicle but fail to renew your registration within the specified time frame.

Directory of State Vehicle Registration Laws and Resources

Use the list of laws and resources below for all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) to stay informed and comply with registration requirements.

Alabama

Staggered registration (AL Code 32-6-61)

Rear tags required (AL Code 32-6-51)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Alabama Department of Revenue

Alaska

Vehicles subject to registration (AK Statutes 28.10.011)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Alaska Department of Administration Division of Motor Vehicles

Arizona

Registration; violation; classification; exceptions (ARS 28-2531)

Registration; violation; civil penalties (ARS 28-2532)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Arizona Department of Transportation

Arkansas

Registration requirements -- Exception (AR Code 27-14-701)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration

California

Division 3 - Registration of Vehicles and Certificates of Title (California Vehicle Code)

Vehicle registration info and resources: California Department of Motor Vehicles

Colorado

Registration required - exemptions (CRS 42-3-103)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Colorado Department of Revenue's Division of Motor Vehicles

Connecticut

Motor vehicle registration (GSC section 14-12)

Vehicle registration info and resources: State of Connecticut official website

Delaware

Operation of unregistered vehicle (DE Code Title 21, section 2101)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles

District of Columbia

Registration; unlawful acts; penalty (DC Code section 50-1501.04)

Vehicle registration info and resources: District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles

Florida

Expiration of registration (FS 320.07)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Georgia

Valid registration required (Georgia Code 40-6-15)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Georgia Department of Revenue

Hawaii

Registration of vehicles (HRS section 286-41)

Hawaii doesn't have a statewide Department of Motor Vehicles. Instead, each county handles vehicle registration separately. Vehicle registration info and resources:

Idaho

Violations of registration provisions (ID Statutes section 49-456)

Penalties for failure to pay operating fees (ID Statutes section 49-434A)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Idaho Transportation Department [PDF]

 

Illinois

Effect of provisions (625 ILCS 5/3-401)

Vehicles subject to registration; exceptions (625 ILCS 5/3-402)

Registration (625 ILCS 5/3-801)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Illinois Secretary of State

Indiana

Motor Vehicle Registration (Indiana Motor Vehicle Code Ch. 9, Article 18)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles

Iowa

Misdemeanor to violate registration provisions (IA Code section 321.17)

Operation without registration (IA Code section 321.98)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Iowa Treasurers

Kansas

Registration of vehicles operated in this state (KS Statute 8-127)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Kansas Department of Revenue

Kentucky

Registration requirement (KRS 186.020)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Drive KY

Louisiana

Vehicle license required (LRS 32:51)

Owner to secure registration (LRS 47:501)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles

Maine

Registration required (MRS Title 29-A section 351)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles

Maryland

Registration of vehicles (MD Transp. Code section 13-401)

Vehicles subject to registration; exceptions (MD Transp. Code section 13-402)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

Massachusetts

Operation of unregistered or improperly equipped motor vehicles (90 MGL section 9)

Vehicle registration info and resources: State of Massachusetts

Michigan

Offenses against registration (MI Vehicle Code section 257.255 to 257.259)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Michigan Department of State

Minnesota

Registration required (MN Statute 168.09)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services

Mississippi

Motor Vehicle Titles (MS Code Title 63, Ch. 21)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Mississippi Department of Revenue

Missouri

Application for registration of motor vehicles, -- penalty for failure to comply (MRS 301.020)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Missouri Department of Revenue

Montana

Registration required (MCA section 61-3-301)

Vehicle registration info and guidance: Montana Department of Justice Motor Vehicle Division

Nebraska

Registration required (R.R.S. Nebr. 60-362)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles

Nevada

Registration required for certain vehicles (NRS 482.205)

Periods of registration for vehicles; exceptions (NRS 482.206)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles

New Hampshire

Certificates of title and registration of vehicles (NH Statutes Ch. 261)

Vehicle registration info and resources: New Hampshire Department of Safety, Division of Motor Vehicles

New Jersey

Registration of automobiles and motorcycles (NJ Statutes 39:3-4)

Vehicle registration info and resources: New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission

New Mexico

Vehicles subject to registration (NMS 66-3-1)

Vehicle registration info and resources: New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division

New York

Registration of motor vehicles (NY Vehicle & Traffic Code section 401)

Vehicle registration info and resources: New York Department of Motor Vehicles

North Carolina

Owner to secure registration and certificate of title (NCGS section 20-50)

Vehicle registration info and resources: North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles

North Dakota

Violations of registration provisions (ND Code Chapter 39-04-37)

Vehicle registration info and resources: North Dakota Department of Transportation

Ohio

Vehicle Registration (ORC Chapter 4501: 1-7)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles

Oklahoma

Registration [PDF] (OK Statutes Title 47 scroll to 47-1-153)

Vehicle registration info and guidance: Service Oklahoma

Oregon

Vehicle Title and Registration (OR Vehicle Code 803.300 to 803.325 )

Vehicle registration info and resources: Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles

Pennsylvania

Registration of Vehicles: Violations and Suspensions (PA Vehicle Code, Ch. 13)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Rhode Island

Operation of motor vehicles without evidences of registration (RI Code Ch. 31-8-1)

Operation of unregistered vehicles (RI Code 31-3-1)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles

South Carolina

Vehicles required to be registered (SC Code section 56-3-110)

Vehicle registration info and resources: South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles

South Dakota

Operation of vehicle while registration is suspended (SD Laws section 32-5-101)

Application for registration (SD Laws section 32-5-2)

Vehicle registration info and resources: South Dakota Department of Revenue

Tennessee

Registration required before operation (TN Code section 55-4-101)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Tennessee Department of Revenue

Texas

Registration Required; General Rule (TX Transportation Code, Section 502.040)

Registration Period (TX Transportation Code, Section 502.044)

Title Required for Registration (TX Transportation Code, Section 502.042)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

Utah

Registration card to be exhibited (UT Code 41-1a-214)

Operating motor vehicle without license or registration (UT Code 41-12a-603)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Utah Division of Motor Vehicles

Vermont

Persons required to register (23 VSA section 301)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles

Virginia

Owner to secure registration (VA Code 46.2-600)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Washington

Certificates required to operate and sell vehicles (RCW section 46.12.520)

Registration required; penalties (RCW section 46-16A-030)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Washington State Department of Licensing

West Virginia

Registration; misdemeanor to violate provisions of article (WV Code section 17A-3-1)

Vehicle registration info and resources: West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles

Wisconsin

Penalty for operating unregistered or improperly registered vehicle (WI Code Chapter 341 section 341.04)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Wyoming

Registration required; timelines (WY Statutes Title 31-2-201)

Vehicle registration info and resources: Wyoming Department of Transportation

Vehicle Registration Traffic Violation? Get Legal Advice

If a police officer has cited you for driving without valid vehicle registration or you simply need some guidance about the laws in your state, you can consult an attorney. An experienced traffic ticket attorney can review your traffic citation, explain the laws, and advise you on the next steps.

FindLaw's Traffic Laws section provides additional resources. Use this section for information on traffic stops, traffic tickets, and how citations affect your driving record and driving privileges.

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