Driving Without Insurance
Script 193 gives general information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call the Lawyer Referral Service at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.
This script explains what may happen if you drive a motor vehicle without insurance.
Violation Ticket, Appearance Notice, or Summons
If you are charged with driving without insurance, the police will give you a traffic ticket. There are three types: a Violation Ticket, an Appearance Notice, and a Summons. Usually, police give a Violation Ticket (this script deals mainly with tickets). But if you have a bad driving record or previous driving offences, you may get an Appearance Notice or a Summons—normally within 6 months of the incident.
The ticket tells you exactly what offense you’re charged with, the penalties for it, and whether you must appear in court. For a Violation Ticket, you don’t have to appear in court – you just have to pay the fine shown on the ticket. But for an Appearance Notice and a Summons, you must go to court on the date shown on the notice or summons.
Three possible offences
Generally, if you’re unable to show your insurance document to a police officer when asked, you may be charged with any, or all, of the following three offences:
- driving without insurance
- failing to produce an insurance document (less serious)
- failing to display a decal on your license plate
The ticket the police give you will show which offences the police charged you with.
If you get a Violation Ticket
- The usual penalties
- driving without insurance: $598—consisting of a fine of $520 plus a victim surcharge of $78.
- failing to produce an insurance document: a fine of $81—consisting of a fine of $70 plus a victim surcharge of $11.
- failing to display a decal on your license plate: a fine of $109—consisting of a fine of $95 plus a victim surcharge of $14.
In all 3 cases, the fine is reduced by $25 if you pay it within 30 days. The police usually write the penalty amount on the ticket. If you go to court to fight the ticket or the amount, the fine can differ—see below for more on this. If you pay the fine on time, it should not harm your credit rating. If you don’t pay the fine, you may not be able to renew your license. You don't lose points if you drive without insurance.
- Pleading guilty
If you want to plead guilty, which means you admit you committed the offence, you can pay the fine by mail or in person. Make sure your payment reaches the court within the 30 days allowed to pay—then you pay the reduced amount explained above. Once you pay the fine, your driving record shows a conviction for the offence.
- Pleading not guilty, or fighting the amount of the fine
If you want to plead not guilty or dispute the amount of the fine, you must deliver a Notice of Dispute to the court within 30 days. You can personally deliver the notice to the court or mail it to the address shown on the ticket. Then you will get a hearing date. It could be weeks or even months until the hearing, depending on the court’s schedule.
At your hearing, the police officer who stopped you will testify (tell the court what happened). You get a chance to question the officer and then you may give your evidence (tell the court what happened). You may also call other witnesses to testify for you. The judge or justice of the peace will decide whether you’re guilty and if you are, fine you and possibly prohibit you from driving. You don’t need a lawyer to represent you at your hearing, but you can hire one.
If you go to court on the charge of driving without insurance, the court can fine you any amount from $300 to $2,000 (instead of the usual $598). Although a judge could send you to jail, it would be extremely rare and only if you had many convictions for the same offence. If you have a good driving record, tell the judge, because this may help you get a lower penalty.
- If you had insurance when stopped
If you had vehicle insurance when the police stopped you, but just didn’t have your documents with you or didn’t have a decal on your license plate, you should take both the documents and decal to court. Explain that you want to plead not guilty to the charge of driving without insurance. In most cases, if you can prove that the vehicle was insured, the charge will be withdrawn. But you’ll still have to deal with the other charges of failing to produce the insurance document and failing to display the decal. The fact that the vehicle was actually insured doesn’t matter for these charges. You’ll have to choose whether to plead guilty and pay the fine, or plead not guilty and ask for a hearing date.
- If you ignore or forget a Violation Ticket
If you ignore a ticket and don’t pay the fine or dispute the ticket within 30 days, you will be automatically convicted. But if you had planned to dispute the ticket, but could not do so (and it wasn’t your fault), you can go to the provincial court registry and apply to have your case go ahead.
If you get an Appearance Notice or a Summons
If you get an Appearance Notice or a Summons for driving without insurance, you must go to court on the date shown on the notice or summons. If you’re found guilty, the penalty is the same: a fine ranging from $300 to $2,000 and possibly jail time up to 6 months. Further, the court may prohibit you from driving for a certain time. If you don’t go to court, a warrant can be issued for your arrest.
Check the ICBC website on driver licensing and the following scripts:
- script 194, called “Traffic Tickets”.
- script 210, called “If you receive an Appearance Notice or Summons”.
- script 185, called “Insurance Benefits and Compensation for Accident Victims”.
[updated May 2018]
The above was edited by John Blois.
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