Don’t pay fines for fighting? You could lose your driver’s licence
Vancouver City Council is considering whether to withhold the renewal of vehicle insurance and driver’s licences from people who do not pay fines for fighting in the entertainment district. A motion put forward at a meeting last week noted The City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) have “no certainty” that fines issued for fighting in places such as Granville Street will be collected.
“There is general knowledge among people who receive fines for “fighting” under By-Law 2849 section 69.A, that ramifications are minimal,” the motion added. “And are not on the same scale as tickets or fines issued under the Motor Vehicle Act.”
It also stated that the cost involved in collecting fines may result in a greater cost to the city than revenue the fine would generate.
To tackle this problem, the council will consult with the VPD and BC government to require people to pay fines for fighting or similar offences before they can renew or purchase insurance from ICBC, renew their driver’s licence and renew their BC Identification.
Can the council do this?
Yes, in theory. It may come as a surprise but your driver’s licence could be withheld for not paying a fine for something totally unrelated to driving. In fact, there are a number of third-party organizations that use ICBC’d jurisdiction over licencing and insurance to coerce people into paying outstanding debts.
It goes to show that ICBC wields tremendous power. If it wants, it can prevent you from renewing your licence. It can also refuse to issue first-time licences and stop you from renewing your insurance.
Last year, the Resort Municipality of Whistler appealed to the BC government for permission to use ICBC’s licensing and insurance powers so it can collect outstanding parking tickets.
As noted in the Vancouver City Council motion, the ramifications for not paying fines issued under the Motor Vehicle Act are serious. Failure to pay violation ticket fines can result in the loss of your licence. Often the best course of action is to challenge the ticket to try to have it overturned.
You cannot negotiate this kind of debt with ICBC, however, it is possible to ask for a lesser fine or negotiate a payment plan in court. It is recommended you hire a lawyer for the best chance of success.
Fines resulting from a motor vehicle-related Criminal Code convictions must also be paid in full in order to renew a driver’s licence, provided drivers are not already subject to other prohibitions.
It’s not just outstanding driving-related fines that can prevent you from renewing your driver’s licence. The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program has the power to stop people who owe outstanding child maintenance from renewing their driver’s licence. Last year, The BC government introduced a bill, called the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, that which would extend these powers to cancel the driver’s licences of people who fall behind on their child or spousal support payments with immediate effect.
TransLink can also prevent people from renewing or obtaining driver’s licences or vehicle insurance if they fail to pay fines for infractions on public transport, such as entering a fare paid zone without paying.
Why is it that ICBC’s licencing and insurance powers are so sought after? It all comes down to leverage. A lot of smaller councils and public bodies are virtually powerless to collect fines. But when you threaten to take away driving privileges, suddenly people will pay up. Is this a necessary measure to uphold law and order or an abuse of power? We’ll let you decide.