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Car insurance

Ticketed for not having car insurance papers or a valid licence plate?

You’ve just renewed your car insurance. It’s the day after you rolled onto the new term of coverage and you’re happily going about your day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until a police officer pulls you over that you realize you’d forgotten to stick the new ICBC decal on the licence plate. No problem, you think as you open the glove box. You’ve got your car insurance papers. Only that you find out it’s not in the car. You must have left it at home or otherwise misplaced it.

The officer issues you a ticket for driving without insurance and an additional ticket for not having a valid licence plate. Together, you’re fined $707, even though your car is insured. Unless your car is actually uninsured, you may be able to defend against these charges.

…the judge determined the drivers could not be considered uninsured just because their plates weren’t attached.

What is the defence if my car is actually insured?

There were a pair of similar situations in 2009 and 2010 heard by the same judge. In the first case, the car’s licence plate had fallen off and police ticketed the driver for not having insurance. In the second case, the driver had mistakenly put the wrong plate number on the car. And didn’t have the insurance papers with him. Both the vehicles, however, were otherwise insured.

The judge found both cases to be similar. In the latter case, the judge still found the driver guilty of not displaying the correct licence plates, a $109 fine. However, the judge determined the drivers could not be considered uninsured just because their plates weren’t attached.

Their vehicles had insurance coverage and the drivers had not done anything to invalidate that insurance.

Here’s what the judge said:

As a matter of both principle and common sense, it makes no sense that if a vehicle was driving on the highway and the number plate fell off, the insurance would at that moment cease to be effective. In my view that principle would extend to the situation where the number plate had not been attached to the vehicle in the first place. Driving on a highway without the required number plates attached is an offence. But committing that offence does not mean that the insurance policy on the vehicle is ineffective.”

What if my car insurance papers had just expired a few days ago?

In a 2007 case, a driver of a company car had relied on employer or ICBC to notify him when it was time to renew his insurance. They didn’t. As a result when he was pulled over, it was just a few days after the insurance had expired. The officer wrote him a ticket for not having valid insurance.

The driver raised the defence that he exercised due diligence to make sure his vehicle had the proper insurance. He argued that the offence of driving without insurance is a strict liability offence. This means the offence “requires the minimal mental element of negligence in order to ground a conviction,” and someone would have exercised due diligence if they took steps to follow the law.

However, the judge found relying on ICBC or an employer to tell you when to renew insurance didn’t qualify as an “active step” to remind himself of when the insurance would expire. The judge determined the driver ought to have “at least made a mental note” of the insurance expiration or made a written reminder about it.

If you have been ticketed for driving without insurance, whether it’s because you left the insurance papers at home or because you had forgotten to renew your insurance in time, consider speaking with a BC Driving Lawyer. We have been successful in disputing many different kinds of traffic tickets, and may be able to assist your case.