The short answer is: Yes, sometimes.
Driving without insurance, commonly known as the charge of "No Insurance" is a serious traffic offense in the State of Georgia. OCGA 40-6-10 governs the law of required insurance. And, OCGA 40-5-70 imposes mandatory license suspension in some circumstances.
OCGA 40-6-10 compels all owners of vehicles to have insurance on the vehicle. The law covers not only owners of vehicles, it also covers "any other person who knowingly operates or knowingly authorizes another to operate a motor vehicle without effective insurance on such vehicle..." OCGA 40-6-10(b).
In addition to requiring that the vehicle be insured, it requires that proof be kept in the vehice at all times ("the owner or operator of a motor vehicle for which minimum motor vehicle liability insurance coverage is required under Chapter 34 of Title 33 shall keep proof or evidence of required minimum insurance coverage in the vehicle at all times during the operation of the vehicle." OCGA 40-6-10(a)(1.2).
Basically, there are two different offenses covered by the "No Insurance" (not having insurance on the car at all) and "No proof of insurance" (not having the proof of insurance in the vehicle). This is why the charge of "No Insurance" is also known as "No Proof of Insurance."
What is the difference between "No Insurance" and "No Proof of Insurance"?
"No Insurance" can cause of license suspension, whereas "No Proof of Insurance" will result in a mere $25 fine.
What if I was driving someone else's car, and I have my own personal insurance that extends to any vehicle I drive?
The law provides a legal defense to driver's who have personal insurance, but who are driving a vehicle that does not have insurance. Under OCGA 40-6-10(b), "An operator of a motor vehicle shall not be guilty of a violation of this Code section if such operator maintains a policy of motor vehicle insurance which extends coverage to any vehicle the operator may drive. An owner or operator of a motor vehicle shall not be issued a citation by a law enforcement officer for a violation of this Code section if the sole basis for issuance of such a citation is that the law enforcement officer is unable to obtain insurance coverage information from the records of the Department of Revenue." OCGA 40-6-10(b).
What if my insurance should have been on file with the State?
These days, police generally have access to the fact of a vehicle's being insured through their computer systems. Thus, the law makes an exception to proving you have insurance in the following circumstances, "the requirement under this Code section that proof or evidence of minimum liability insurance be maintained in a motor vehicle at all times during the operation of the vehicle or produced in electronic format shall not apply to the owner or operator of any vehicle for which the records or data base of the Department of Revenue indicates that required minimum insurance coverage is currently effective." OCGA § 40-6-10(a)(3).
And, if the only reason you were given a citation is because the officer could not access your personal insurance proof through his computer system, he is not supposed to issue you a ctiation. ("An owner or operator of a motor vehicle shall not be issued a citation by a law enforcement officer for a violation of this Code section if the sole basis for issuance of such a citation is that the law enforcement officer is unable to obtain insurance coverage information from the records of the Department of Revenue." OCGA 40-6-10(b).).
What is the penalty for a violation of having "No Insurance"?
If the vehicle is being operated and does not have valid insurance at that time, the penalty is hefty indeed. "Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (7) of this subsection, any person who fails to comply with the requirements of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be subject to a fine of not less than $200.00 nor more than $1,000.00 or imprisonment for not more than 12 months, or both." OCGA § 40-6-10(a)(4).
Beyond getting possible 12 months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine, you will also face a possible license suspension. That's because OCGA 40-5-70 imposes a mandatory license suspension for a conviction of no insurance.
How is the "within five years" measured (from offense date to offense date, or from conviction date to conviction date)?
Answer: from offense to offense date. See OCGA 40-5-70(d) "For the purposes of mandatory suspension of a driver's license, license tag, and tag registration for a second or subsequent violation within a five-year period, as measured from the dates of previous arrests for which convictions were obtained to the date of the current arrest for which a conviction was obtained.."
The DDS Manual lays out in detail how the DDS will treat a conviction for No Insurance. (See below).
What is the penalty for a violation of having "No Proof of Insurance"?
These charges are where you did not have the proof of insurance in the vehicle, but you actually did have insurance on the vehicle. In these circumstances, "If the person receiving a citation under this subsection shows to the court having jurisdiction of the case that required minimum insurance coverage was in effect at the time the citation was issued, the court may impose a fine not to exceed $25.00. The court shall not in this case forward a record of the disposition of the case to the Department of Driver Services, and the driver's license of such person shall not be suspended." OCGA § 40-6-10(a)(7).
In other words, if you can prove that you actually did have insurance when you got your ticket, you can get a mere $25 fine and avoid a license suspension.