No insurance card means no insurance | On the beat

Mercer Island Police Officer Rob Jira answers residents’ questions.

A police officer just gave me a ticket for not having insurance. I told him I have insurance, but I just didn’t have the card with me.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have your insurance card with you, we have to assume you are uninsured.

If you are issued a traffic infraction for not having valid insurance, it now becomes your responsibility to prove to the court you had proper insurance. If you are insured and you prove it to the court, usually you will only have to pay an administrative fee instead of a $550 ticket for not having insurance.

There really isn’t a way for us to check whether you are insured or not, aside from calling your insurance company (which isn’t realistic). It is your responsibility to make sure that you can provide proof of valid liability insurance upon the request of a police officer.

If you pull up a copy of your insurance on your smart phone, just remember that a police officer might not accept that as a valid source of proof of insurance, as the origin of the website cannot be officially authenticated.

What is the difference between a robbery and a burglary?

Both are felonies and very serious. I often hear people say they were “robbed,” but they were actually burglarized. There is a big difference.

A robbery (RCW 9A.56.190) is when a person unlawfully takes personal property, against the person’s will, by immediate force, threat or violence. A burglary (RCW 9A.52.010) is when someone who has an intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein unlawfully enters or remains in a dwelling or building other than a motor vehicle.

My husband and I were having a discussion about the legality of teens drinking and driving. We have a zero tolerance (any amount) for any teen drinking and driving. What is the law around this?

I very much appreciate and support your stance on a zero tolerance policy for teens drinking and driving. Someone who is under the age of 21 can be arrested for DUI if they are driving a motor vehicle, under the influence of alcohol, and their blood alcohol content is between .02 and .08. If you are speaking to any teens about this, you can tell them this is basically a sip of alcohol. Police officers can also make their determination to arrest a minor if they refuse a breath test and are exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol (watery eyes, bloodshot eyes, flushed face, slurred speech, etc.) Minors can also be arrested and/or cited for being in physical possession of alcohol or if there is evidence to support they have consumed alcohol (MIP – minor in possession). Feel free to look at RCW 46.64.503 (DUI under 21), RCW 46.61.502 (DUI), RCW 46.61.504 (Physical Control Law) and RCW (Minor in Possession of Alcohol).

What is a citizen’s arrest?

It is when a private citizen detains an individual whom he/she sees committing a misdemeanor crime in their presence, which also constitutes a breach of peace. A citizen’s arrest can also be made for felonies as well. I found this PDF from the WA Department of Licensing that might help better explain it: personal advice to citizens is that they should never make a citizen’s arrest unless it is absolutely necessary to protect a life. Be a good witness. Get a good license plate and vehicle description, get a good detailed, physical description of the suspect, and try to remember everything you saw. Call 911 immediately and report it to the police and let us handle it.If a private citizen decides to take action and make a citizen arrest, they open themselves up to liability and other safety concerns. Since the average citizen isn’t usually well versed in arrest laws, people need to be careful that they don’t unlawfully detain someone and infringe upon their civil rights/liberties. Also, if you decide to make an arrest, be aware that the person you are thinking about detaining will probably not go quietly, and you will most likely have a physical confrontation on your hands where you may be injured.

Send questions to Officer Rob Jira at



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