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Delaware Confiscates Plates from Uninsured Vehicles
Delaware government tracks private insurance activity and confiscates license plates of those accused of being uninsured.

Matthew Denn
Delaware Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn held an event yesterday touting the state's use of agents who confiscate license plates belonging to anyone the commission's database says is uninsured. "I am committed to reducing the number of uninsured vehicles on the road, in part by warning the owners of those uninsured vehicles that we will take their license plates," Denn said in a prepared statement.

Last June, lawmakers enacted a provision granting insurance commission agents the authority to mail a letter to the registered owner of any vehicle the computer database believes is uninsured. Seven days later, if the owner has not proved his innocence, the agents will attempt to locate the vehicle and take its license plates. Each time, the state will collect substantial fines for the retrieval of the plates.

The state determines whether a particular vehicle is "uninsured" by monitoring the policy status of every resident. Insurance companies must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) whenever a policy lapses. The DMV must also randomly audit ten percent of the state's drivers. Anyone being red-flagged by the computer is sent a warning letter. If the owner is unable to respond within 30 days because he is on vacation or the notice is lost in the mail, he is automatically declared "uninsured" regardless of whether he carries insurance or not. The penalties for being declared uninsured include the cancellation of the motorist's registration, for which the DMV is able to collect a restoration fee of $150, plus an additional $5 dollars a day for every day after a 30-day period has elapsed.

Article Excerpt:
Delaware Code, Chapter 21, Section 2118...

(q)(1) The Division of Motor Vehicles shall annually select for verification on a random sample basis not less than 10% of vehicle registrations subject to the insurance required by this section. This verification will be made through the insurers as reflected in the Division's records.

(2) Any vehicle owner identified by the Division as a possible uninsured shall submit proof of insurance within 30 days of the Division's request for such proof, to the Division of Motor Vehicles on a form prescribed by the Division and certified by an insurer or agent.

(3) The failure of a vehicle owner to submit the required proof under this section within a 30-day period shall be prima facie evidence that the vehicle is uninsured and the owner shall be subject to the penalties as prescribed in subsections (l) and (m) of this section.

(4) With respect to any vehicle which has:

a. Had its registration suspended by the Division of Motor Vehicles pursuant to subsection (m) of this section,

b. Had transfer of custody of its license plate ordered by the Justice of the Peace Court pursuant to subsection (p) of this section, or

c. Failed to produce proof of insurance in a timely fashion pursuant to this subsection (q) of this section,

an officer of the Delaware State Police or member of the Department of Insurance's Fraud Prevention Bureau ("the Fraud Bureau") may confiscate the registration plate of that vehicle at any time absent affirmative proof that the vehicle is currently insured. Prior to any confiscation pursuant to this subsection, the registered owner of a vehicle shall receive notice at least 7 days prior to confiscation by regular and certified mail that such confiscation is to occur, and shall be provided a means to prove that the vehicle has current insurance prior to the indicated confiscation date. The Division of Motor Vehicles and the Justice of the Peace Court shall provide information to the Fraud Bureau and Delaware State Police sufficient to allow those organizations to enforce this subsection. Registration plates confiscated pursuant to this subsection shall be turned over to the Division of Motor Vehicles, which shall follow procedures established pursuant to and consistent with subsection (m) of this section for return of said plates. The Fraud Bureau shall provide its members with sufficient training to ensure safe enforcement of this subsection.

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