Driving with Expired Registration in Texas

Driving in Texas as a Tourist

Texas is the second-largest state in the US by area after Alaska and occupies 695,662 square kilometers. Driving in Texas is an experience due to the large expanse of land it covers. Every form of driving terrain is present - freeway, city, and off-road, among others. Your car has to be registered in Texas, and you need to have a valid driver's license to drive a vehicle in Texas. There are few exceptions for out-of-state vehicles and drivers.

The registration of vehicles in Texas lasts 12 months, after which you must renew it to drive legally on Texas roads. When you register a car in Texas, a decal is given to you to attach to the lower end of the windscreen on the driver's side. The decal shows a number in large font ranging from 1 to 12, which describes the month your registration expires. Your vehicle's registration expires on the last day of the month written on the decal. The county's name where the car owner registered is written under the month, while the expiry year is adjacent to the month.

Exactly 90 days before the expiry of your current registration, the State of Texas sends the user a renewal notice. The notice reminds vehicle owners about their vehicle's registration and estimates the price to renew their registration. Driving in Texas with expired tags can get you fines and jail time.

What Happens When You Get Pulled Over with Expired Registration in Texas?

You have 90 days of reminder before your registration expires to renew your registration in Texas. After your registration expires, you can still drive around for five days before it becomes a crime and can get you in trouble. You will get fined if you get pulled over for driving a vehicle with expired tags. The fines for expired registration in Texas can be as high as $200. In many cases, it usually involves a court case. The court case is typically expensive and time-consuming. Not appearing in court may cause you to be arrested and your license suspended.

How Long Can One Drive on Expired Tags in Texas?

Texas gives a grace period of five days after your tag expires to drive around without fear of getting a ticket if you get pulled over. Prior to that, Texas issues a renewal notice to every registered vehicle to renew their registration 90 days before the expiry of the current registration. You will pay fines and receive a citation if you are pulled over after the grace period. A ticket given to you for expired registration or citations is legally an invite to appear in court.

Fees for Late Registration

Suppose you somehow manage to avoid being pulled over by the police while driving with an expired registration, or the car was not in use after the registration expired; when next you want to renew your registration, you must pay late registration fees. The late registration fees vary between counties. Texas has a structure for its late registration fees, and individual counties add special fees. These special fees go into road maintenance and construction.

If you are registering a vehicle months after its registration expired, you must confirm to the authorities if the police have issued anyone a citation for driving the car. Depending on the peculiarities, you may pay up to 20% of the total registration fee as a fine.

Online vehicle registrations in Texas typically last a year. When you renew your registration late, it does not change when your registration starts counting. For example, if your registration expires in March, and the following year, you delay your renewal till June, which is three months away, your renewed registration will count from March and not June. Renewal in June will only give you nine months of usage before you will need to renew it in March of the following year.

In like manner, a renewal notice is sent 90 days before your registration expires. When your notice comes in January, and you renew it, it does not start counting until March, when the previous one expires.

Renewing Your Registration During the Grace Period

When renewing your registration between the 90 days of the renewal notice and the five days after your registration expires, you can renew it in person at the county tag office, via mail, and online. To renew your registration, you need to take your safety inspection results, a valid driver's license, and roadworthiness results with you. In some counties where emissions tests are carried out, you also need to bring it along to get a renewal.

You can also renew your registration through service providers like Swift-tags. Swift-tags allow you to register and renew your vehicle's registration online through their platform from the comfort of your home. It handles the process and sends your registration in the mail. It also sends a digitized copy that you can access on the go pending the time you will get the hard copy. It sends reminders to its customers to ensure they do not become victims of late registrations.

Renewing Your Registration After the Grace Period

If you do not renew your registration until the grace period expires, there may be a clause to it when you need to renew. If you are renewing it within 90 days of its expiry, it can be done online, provided you have not received any tickets. If it is past 90 days, or you were given a citation or ticket for driving with expired tags, you will need to make the renewal in person. A ticket for expired registration is an invitation to appear in court.

Dealing with Citations

Citations or tickets are issued to traffic offenders, meaning a date at the court. There are different reasons citations can be given to drivers. Examples include driving with an expired license or registration, failure to report house address, failure to show a driver's license, operating a vehicle with one license plate or no license, driving a car with faulty pieces of equipment, and driving with unclean license plates. Some of these citations can be left after paying dismissal fees; however, cases involving expired registration and driver's license require an appearance in court.

Before appearing in court, you can take some steps to reduce the sanctions by the court. Follow these steps to get a lower sanction by the court:

  • Before your first appearance at the court, ensure to have corrected the violation, such as renewing your registration or driver's license. When appearing before the court, come with proof to that effect.
  • Pay a penalty fee while renewing your registrations and come with proof.
  • Show up in court on the day of your hearing. Come with supporting documents that show you have paid the fines and corrected the violation.
  • Get an attorney

When you appear before the court, holding the evidence that you have made things right, the Judge may let you go after paying a dismissal fee. Failure to appear in court on your day of hearing may get you a new ticket and cause you to be arrested, and your driver's license stripped away.


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